Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Advice to a Son/Boy

I don't know shit about being a woman. I don't pretend to. In fact, the more I interact with the fairer sex, the less I understand. My male brain is diametrically unable to fathom or understand their impulses, just as women typically cannot understand what drives me. This is not a bad thing. If both sides understood everything, where would be the fun?

We are the product of the obstacles we have faced.

Not the victories. Not the losses. We are the product of how we respond to failure and hardship.

We are the product of the mountains we have sought to climb. We are the product of the failures and our choice to pick ourselves up.

3 pieces of advice given to me as a child stand out in my mind as supremely formative:

I came home from school one day. I told my dad about how I "had done my best. I tried really, really hard, dad. I lost the baseball game."
He looked at me. In an even voice devoid of malice or disappointment, stated matter-of-factly: "Tryin' ain't doin' son."

I was at a park with my dad. I was learning to ride a bike. I fell down like 20 times. My knees were cut. My elbow was cut. I finally wiped out so bad on asphalt that nearly all of the skin on my right knee was cut off. I wanted him to carry me to the car.

He looked at me, picked up my bike, and said, "Stand up. Walk to the fuckin' car. Stop crying. Crying is for girls."

The first time I got in a fight at school (of many b/c I was small for my age), I came home. I got a referral at school and was suspended. My mom chastised me. She left the room.
My dad looked at me in a quiet voice and asked, "did you win?"
"No. He was a lot bigger than me."
"That doesn't matter. Did you hit him back?"
"Yeah. As much as I could."
"Did you cry and wait for him to stop or did you fight until the teacher broke it up?"
"I kept hitting him until the teacher grabbed us."
"Good. That's what matters."
These are things few mothers will do for their son. I do know some boys, however, with mothers who are tough if not tougher than a father. Reading about Sugar Ray Robinson's mother comes to mind.

These examples may seem callous. They may seem heartless. They are investing into the confidence of the boy. The boy must learn to rise and rise again. The boy must learn that he can depend upon only himself. I may be outgunned. I may get the worst of it but I fear no man. I'll fight until the lights go out. Call it crazy. Call it stupid but once it starts I will keep coming and coming and coming. I feal no fear for my physical well being when I step into the ring. I fear losing and what it represents. That is all.

And it's thanks to my dad.


  1. This post brings to mind a conversation I had with my son when he had gotten in a fight at school. He had instigated the fight, the teacher had told me, by telling the other boy he was stupid and lazy. The boy then punched my son. My son then proceeded to beat the hell out of the boy until it was broken up. They were both suspended due to the zero tolerence rule. When we left the school my son asked how much trouble he was going to be in. I weighed my answer carefully. Asked him a simple question, "Why did you bait him?" His response was that this was the boy who had repeatedly been giving him crap and he was sick of it, but I had always told him he wasn't allowed to throw the first punch. I ccouldn't help but smile, my son was right, the boy clearly wasn't very smart. "You're suspended from school. That is your punishment." He had followed my rules, outwitted his opponent and taken up for himself. This s what a young man must do sometimes. Even as a pacifist female, I realize this to be the case. Plus, I rather enjoyed seeing the other kids dad look of somewhat horrified shck that his badass athlete got his ass beat down by the school's spelling bee champ. ;)

  2. we sleep at night b/c of men willing to commit violence on our behalf.