After four daughters, I had a son, and contemplated the enormity of raising a boy. My friend wrote some Bible verses for me in a card and one stood out: In Genesis 4 Eve says: “I have borne a man with the help of the Lord.” A man?
I have thought about this throughout his childhood, as well as those of his three brothers. Some may say that gender does not matter, that we raise them the same, as people with integrity. I agree with that premise in regards to raising confident, intelligent, loving children regardless of gender. But there simply are differences in individuals, and in order to prepare our children for the world they live in we need to prepare, teach and enculturate them realistically. We may do these things differently from family to family, but we do so ideally with the best of intentions, with love and caring of not only them but of the world.
When my oldest daughter married a wonderful young man I asked his advice. What did his Mom do so obviously well? He thought about it and replied, “You know, I don’t think anything, except love me. I always knew she was there for me, and that was important as I navigated the tough things growing up.”
Loving has never been hard for me, especially for my children; yet life is so very hard on them these days.
We teach our boys to consider good examples of men. Is a great man one who makes profound societal changes, who has statues erected in his honor? Is his behavior impeccable, does he invent history-changing devices, amass great wealth, or become known the world over?
Most often not. So what truly defines him? What is the essence of him, what causes the best to come forth from him?
Some would answer that it is his character, but even that is fueled by something deeper. His world view? His philosophical precepts? His religion? Many things are important, yet the “greatest is love,” Jesus said. Buddha taught that peace was the goal, but peace can only exist in its purest form in love–certainly not in anger, hatred, selfishness or divisiveness. The latter is tragically so prevalent in the world our children see.
And so I think of my father and my husband’s father as I teach my boys. A great man loves what is true. He loves his family, he loves others–he even loves his enemy when it comes right down to it. He is afraid at times, yet relies on an inner wellspring of peace, and a love of what is right. He has continence– that is, self-control. If he fights it is truly a last resort, and it is not out of hatred, but for whom he protects and loves. He will make mistakes, and he may remain unknown, without great impact, or statues, or inventions or wealth or fame, but he has integrity and love of fellow man. He helps those in need and offers kind smiles.
I teach them that though our effect on the world may seem imperceptible, like a ripple in the vast water, we persevere in love. We put one courageous foot in front of the other, because each ripple will combine with others to become waves that have power to move the earth.