“Big boys don’t cry!” my child cried out randomly as I was drying him off after his bath tonight.

“Who told you that?” I asked, taken aback.  ”Who said that?”

“Ms. ___________” he answered.

“Well,” I said, helping him to pull his shirt over his head.  ”If she ever says that again, you tell Ms. __________ that your mommy says it’s ok to cry, even for big boys.”

I think he was a little surprised at the vehemence of my response.

Raising a boy is so confusing.  I don’t know what it’s like to be a boy or a man.  I have been told by authority figures, as a girl, teen, and woman, that wasn’t ok to cry.  Yet I don’t imagine this teacher is saying the same thing to the little girls, at least not as often as she’s saying it to the boys.

Despite my own no-tears conditioning, I do cry.  Not all the time, but when I have a cry, I have a good cry, and I move something through and out.  

My son doesn’t often see me cry, because I tend to let myself fall apart in the quiet moments of the night, or in the car on my way to work.

I need him to know that his tears are permitted, and encouraged if they need to flow.  While I would of course prefer his laughter, his joy, I need him to know that it’s ok to feel.  I want him not to fear the darkness.

We talk about emotions a lot in our house.  I always try to get him to talk about what he is feeling, to identify and to speak from that place.  I also try to work with my own emotions, feeling them, letting them flow, letting them be what they are without shame.  It’s as much a practice for me as it is for him.

Sometimes I am a bit afraid of his aggression.  He talks about fighting a lot.  He plays light-sabers with his dad and likes the violent movies he shows him.  I love Star Wars but I wonder if it is too violent for his delicate little psyche.  I so see my need to protect him from the Dark Side.  In the end, it is a losing battle. I’m better off teaching him to use the Force.

I try to provide a counterbalance by disallowing the violent toys, by refusing to show the violent movies, by checking out books from the library with tame themes.  Maisy and her animal friends.  Silly books.  Fun books.  I want to cultivate that childlike innocence in him.  At three, I’m not yet ready for him to move past it.  I’m trying to stem the tide, I know.

But why am I afraid of “the fight?”  I actually value fighting: I want my son to fight.  Not to fight others or hurt others, of course.  But to fight for what he believes in, for his ideals.  Perhaps I need to reframe his interest in fighting.  We don’t fight for the sake of fighting- we fight for something, something that matters to us. 

Raising a boy is confusing.  I have written about this before, in regards to toilet learning.  

I’m raising myself along with him.  Making it up as I go along, trying to have a grand mission statement:

Raising a boy to be a conscious man, best as I can…

But in the end, all I can do is raise myself to be a conscious girl, to learn much from my son about what it means to be human, to remember the childish things I have forgotten.  

Baby boy, it’s ok to cry.