A letter to my son on his 4th birthday – how can we raise boys to be kind and happy feminists?

A letter to my son on his 4th birthday – how can we raise boys to be kind and happy feminists?

A taxi driver once told me that the bond between a Mother and her son is really quite special.  Lots of other people told me this too, but the way he said it really stuck with me.  When I met you for the first time, you looked exactly like your big sister.  I was slightly high on morphine and kept calling you ‘she’.  As we got through the whirlwind of the first couple of days, the drugs started to ease off and we had many a quiet moment together.  I held you and took time to get to know that little face.  I softly sang to you, encouraging you to sleep and have your milk.  It was a magical time.  I was shattered and physically drained but the happiness I felt inside made up for that.

Raising boys to be kind - feminist lads

Just like that you turn 4 today, my St Andrew’s Day boy.  We had your name for years, despite your lovely Gran encouraging me to think of other options.  She never quite got over Prince Charles leaving Diana.  You are not a Charles though.  You are a Charlie.  When I first looked at you, I didn’t think you suited the name.  But as the months rolled in, there could not have been a better name.  You have the cheekiest smile I know.

Raising boys to be kind - feminist lads

Raising boys to be kind - feminist lads Raising boys to be kind - feminist lads

Raising a boy in the world we live in has its challenges.  I have an amazing support network who have taught me so much.  You have taught me so much too.  I want you to remember a few things when you are old enough to read this.

Can men be feminists?

My Dad aka Grandad asked me recently if I was a feminist.  I have always found that word a little intense due to the associations.  The stereotypes make me think of girls with shaved heads, who refuse to wear pink that are always putting down men.  That is wrong.  Stereotypes are wrong.  Putting down any gender is wrong.  I know plenty of amazing women who call themselves feminists and all they are interested in is equality.  I am in that camp.  I love men.  I love boys and son, I love you in incredible amounts. Your face will always be my happy place, even when you drive me crazy when you constantly jump on my head and all I want is to chill with you, just like when you were a baby in hospital.

The basic definition of what it is to be a feminist is as follows:

‘to define, establish, and achieve political, economic, personal, and social equality of sexes. This includes seeking to establish educational and professional opportunities for women that are equal to those for men.’

Who wouldn’t want to be a feminist in that case?  I know you love all the girls in your life and I hope you continue to have their back.

Raising boys to be kind - feminist lads

Female drivers 

Female drivers get a lot of stick.  I often hear the expression ‘I knew it, female driver’.  This is wrong.  The fact is that there are amazing female drivers and amazing male drivers.  There are often some that are not so good.  Some days it could be due to the fact they are lost, stressed, very tired, have screaming kids in the back.  Some days we simply should not drive, no matter what our gender is.  Please never use this term my sweet boy, you are so much better than that.

Jojo Fraser = Raising boys to be kind - feminist lads

Stereotypes 

You currently have a pink dolls house in your bedroom.  You love playing with it.  You are a caring lad and a great team player and I hope you keep these traits.  You love to play ‘Daddy and baby’ with me right now, stroking my hair and feeding me pretend milk.  If you ever get the chance to be a Dad, I pray I am there with you to help as Granny Jojo.  Men can do as much as women when it comes to raising kids.  Change nappies, cook, iron shirts, do whatever you need to do to help keep things afloat.  It will be tough at times and having kids can put a huge strain on your relationship.  Communication is key, as is team work.  Sometimes you and whoever you decide to settle down with will both need help.  Please accept it.  Outsource some stuff, if you can afford it pay for a cleaner or other thing you struggle to find the time for.  If family offer to help, accept it.  Keep talking.  Some days and weeks will feel like a marathon.  Know that this is normal.  Remember you are not invincible, even if you think you are.  If you push it too much, your body will start to shut down and you will get colds and bugs.  This is your bodies way of telling you to slow down.

Jojo Fraser = Raising boys to be kind - feminist lads

Cry 

Boys and men need to cry as much as girls and women.  If you need to cry, please never feel any shame about this.  It’s called being human.  Tears are for all genders.

Independence 

They say the bond between a Mother and son is crazy strong.  I agree, as is the bond I have with your sister.  She is naturally more independent at the moment but that may change.  It can be so tempting to smother you sometimes as you are so cute, but I need to be strict with myself.  I am raising you to be independent and more importantly kind and empathetic.  To make your own choices.  To follow a path you want to follow, not one you think that you should.  I will love you no matter what you do.  But I will be so much happier if you judge others less, live more and pick love.  I hope you choose to sing and dance like nobody is watching.  I hope you choose to respect men and women.

Pampering 

Pampering isn’t just for us gals.  Book that spa day, take a hot bath with nice oils, get lost in a good book.  Be kind to yourself.  Meditate, pray, enjoy food.  Show yourself love.  Do exercise that you enjoy, don’t lift weights just to look a certain way.  Mash it up, never stop having fun with exercise.  You can do whatever you want to do.  Our bodies and minds are incredible.

Jojo Fraser = Raising boys to be kind - feminist lads Jojo Fraser = Raising boys to be kind - feminist lads

Stay you

It’s so much better to embrace the things that make you weird.  Normal is incredibly dull, especially a fake kind of normal.

Masculine Values

These can be toxic.  Ignore popular expressions such as ‘big boys don’t cry’ and ‘man up’.    There is a huge difference between playing the victim for too long when it’s time to choose to make a change vs bottling things up before you explode and do some serious damage.  Hang with people who get you.  Spend time with people who embrace you for the way you are.  Check in on your friends if they don’t seem themselves.  Hug.  Men give amazing hugs and should do it more.  Sometimes a high five doesn’t cut it.

Read

Read more, it opens up our minds.  Being closed minded leads to a limited life.

Listen more

Listening also allows us to open up our minds.  I mean listening as a councillor would and letting people really talk, really share without offering advice.

Creativity

Use any lessons and pain and turn it into beautiful art.  For me that is writing, speaking gigs and music.  For you it may be painting.  You love to paint right now.  I am going to frame one of your paintings soon and put it above my desk.  It’s worth more to me than any Picasso because you made it for me.  It’s a merge of my two favourite colours – pink and blue.

Jojo Fraser = Raising boys to be kind - feminist lads

Trolls 

Don’t be one.  Don’t follow the crowds either.  Speak up for what is right.  Always.  Trolls and bullies are simply trying to deflect from their own issues and put this onto other people.  Trolls need love more than anyone but sometimes you can’t save everyone, even if you want to.  At the end of the day, it’s their choice.

Social media 

From trolls to social media, the best piece of advice I can give you is this:  A – Likes do not define you as a person and B – never compare yourself to others.  I repeat NEVER compare yourself to others – especially when it comes to online as there are a lot of performances going on.

Mental health

I hope you never take your mental health for granted.  Mental health is everything.  It’s not purely something that is a fad right now and cool to talk about.  We need more voices, more leaders, more action.  If we were to consider our mental health and shape the world around this, incredible things would happen.  Your mojo is everything.  To quote the final chapter of my first book, which is dedicated to Grandad Arthur:

‘My wish is that you choose to live.  You choose to swim.  You choose to tell the negative thoughts in that sweet head of yours to shut it.  Because my friend (on in this case my beautiful son), it’s time you found your full mojo.

My next book shall be dedicated to you.  I love you Charlie bear.

Mummy Jojo x

Jojo Fraser = Raising boys to be kind - feminist lads

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