By Paryn Neer
I remember floating on the lake on my surfboard thinking about the little creature growing inside me. I knew he was a boy before the science told me. The idea that I would have a son was so strange, so new, but also familiar—like something I’d always known to be true. I stroked myself across the water, under a brilliant blue sky, and wondered at the baby I would grow and birth and at the boy and man out in the world who came from me.
My son. Who would he be? How could I help him be a kind, confident, thoughtful, caring being? Was there something I could do, some piece of knowledge I could discover, that would be key in raising a son who would become a good man? Probably not. But I promised myself that day on my surfboard, when my belly was still flat and the idea of creating a human was still new, that I would try to raise a boy who would go and do good in the world, who would think of others, who would know that women were his equals, who would be compassionate, who would put his clothes in the hamper.
A friend once said to me in talking about raising her son that she was adamant she was not going to send another helpless man into the world. So, she taught him to do laundry, dishes, and to clean the house. She kept him home from school to make Christmas cookies with her. Her endeavor to raise a son who could hop the fence of gender roles got me thinking about what roles we assign to men and women. Long before I knew that I was going to have to play in this particular game myself, I wondered how much influence a parent could have on a boy or a girl to push back against what society deems right and appropriate.
And now I have real skin in the game. So far, I have a sweet boy who is funny and kind, loving and thoughtful. I am being prepped by friends, the internet, and strangers to prepare for when this changes. Apparently, the odds are heavy that my sweet boy will become a surly teenager and then a man who will not confide in his mother. I am told he will become a mystery to me, that he will not cry or talk about his feelings, and that he will deflect me when I try to look inside him.
This may be true whether one raises a boy or a girl—that our children grow away from us is just naturally what happens. So for now, while I still have a small sweet boy, I will cherish every smile, every tear, every tantrum, and every laugh. I will make sure he knows how loved he is while also guiding him to notice and care for others and the world around him. I will soak up the amazing beauty of this one little male creature in my care whose light and love shines so brightly that it blinds me. To my son I will always say, Shine on.
Paryn lives in the Pacific Northwest, surrounded by her husband, children, and a menagerie of animals. When she is not working one of her two full-time jobs, she hides in the bathroom to write.