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Raising boys and respecting women

As a child, I wanted to grow up and plan a big fancy wedding with a ruffly white dress, then have two little girls and name them Veronica and Samantha. As one of two girls in a family of four, this is all I knew. My middle-class childhood wasn’t indulgent in any way, but it was happy and secure. My sister and I knew our parents loved us more than anything. Both my mom and dad worked multiple jobs to give us opportunities and experiences we couldn’t have otherwise had. I’m forever appreciative of that, and I 100 percent credit them for nurturing and encouraging my adventurous spirit. 

Ironically, when I became a mother, I had two little boys, not two little girls. I remember finding out I was carrying a male and thinking, “I don’t know anything about little boys.” It felt terrifying.

I love books and learning, so when I feel unsure or unclear of something, I consult resources. Days after finding out my baby was XY instead of XX, I purchased a book called The Wonder of Boys by Michael Gurian. I don’t remember a lot of details from the book other than boys are tribal by nature and that boys benefit from having multiple positive male mentors including family members, coaches, teachers, etc. Even though I can’t recall a ton of specifics, I do remember the book being very helpful at the time and encouraging me. It bolstered my ability to raise a boy. 

Almost 10 years later, I’ve been raising two boys for close to a decade. I’ve learned a lot from doing, seeing, reading, watching, learning and conversing. I love being the mom of boys and knowing that I’m raising future men and that I have an influence over what kind of men they will become one day. 

This entire Kavanaugh debacle has been obnoxious, embarrassing and exhausting. When I think about it in any way, from any angle, all I hear is yelling. Kavanagh yelling, Lindsey Graham yelling, Trump yelling, women yelling, advocacy groups yelling. I believe it’s important to speak one’s mind and to exercise freedom of speech, but whew, there’s been a lot of yelling over the past several weeks. 

I have my own opinions about the situation. It’s been frustrating and disappointing on a number of levels. Kindness, compassion and understanding were shoved somewhere far away. These are the characteristics that mean the most to me, so it’s all been hard to watch. 

Unfortunately, I feel like the case created somewhat of a women vs. men battleground which I didn’t like at all. There are millions of men who listen, hear and respect women. I felt bad for the good men out there. 

But this isn’t a column about the Kavanaugh case; this is a column about raising boys, the future men of this country. I see how my boys look at me. They look up with wide eyes and listening ears. They believe in me and are proud that I’m their mommy. They get excited over my work accomplishments and trust me to help them solve any and all problems. 

And I do the same toward them. Even though they are 9 and 6, they are smart as can be and teach me new things every day. My oldest son has a brilliant mind for facts and instructs me on everything from science to history to aviation. My youngest son is a super savvy problem solver and a forever optimist. No issue is impossible to figure out. The three of us make a solid team. 

I want them to grow up believing that everyone is equal, that life isn’t about gender or race or sexual orientation. Life is about the type of person you are, treating others kindly and using your talents and skills to create a better world. 

A couple weeks ago, the boys and I ate lunch in downtown Asheville. We had a break between soccer games to we dined at a place on Biltmore Avenue in the heart of downtown. The 10th annual Blue Ridge Pride festival was happening. This is an event that supports the LGBTQ community. Everyone was wearing rainbow colors, carrying rainbow flags and even had their pets dressed in rainbow attire. Establishments were decorated in rainbows and festival-goers of all ages were frolicking and smiling. 

The boys had a lot of questions and I answered them with frankness, honesty, and on a level they could understand. At the end of the conversation, my 6-year old said, “I think it’s pretty cool to see rainbows and smiles everywhere.” His innocence was overwhelming. 

Some days it feels like the world is anything but rainbows and smiles. Nevertheless, I’m going to do everything I can so my boys are raised as men who are aware but also kind and compassionate. And on the heels of the Kavanaugh case, I’m especially determined to raise boys who honor women and appreciate them for all they have to offer this universe.

(Susanna Barbee is a writer, editor and marketing specialist for Mountain South Media, The Smoky Mountain News and Smoky Mountain Living magazine. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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