Friday, April 02, 2004

A Mother of Sons

Ever since we found out Bagel was going to be a boy, a change has come over me. I'm going to be the mother of sons, plural. You wouldn't think, in our gender-neutral culture, that it would make a difference whether I were the mother of sons, daughters, or some combination. But it really does.

As a mother of sons, I have to face the possibility that my sons will eventually serve their country in the military. I don't want to be like my parents were, mildly disdainful of the proposition that their sons would stoop so low instead of going to college like everyone knows a good boy should. (I wish they'd let my brother enlist in the Marines; the Marines would've given him the reality smack he so desperately needed.) I want my sons to know that if they choose to serve, they will be honored for their choice, for there is no higher calling than to give one's life for liberty. To act on a willingness to give one's life for liberty has got to be the next highest calling.

As a mother of sons, I must teach my boys to honor women and to treat them with respect. This is so difficult in an environment where women parade themselves around, advertising publicly what no decent man would ever dream of buying, and giving out so many free samples that there isn't any merchandise left to profit from. I have to admit I'd given much more thought to teaching my daughter to respect herself than I had about teaching my sons to respect women.

And as a mother of sons, I must teach my sons about duty. There are things that only a man can do. Only a man can be a father. My husband will be the primary teacher here, but I must be careful not to send a mixed message to my boys. I must always do my duty too, so that they don't look down on me as someone who doesn't have to go the extra mile when they do.

Duty. Honor. Country. It may sound trite or be easily dismissed as a slogan, but as a concept it has worked for thousands of years to raise generations of boys into men.