That was my 4 year old last night. I may have slightly bewildered him with my tearful response, but I honestly couldn’t have been happier or more proud of him at that moment.
Later, I got to thinking. I honestly cannot remember the last time I felt that way about myself. Not that I hate myself – I’m just as great and just as flawed as most people in the universe – but that sheer joy of being who I was created to be? It’s been a while, if it ever existed at all.
As a mum, I worry. I worry that somewhere down the line, my kind, smart, beautiful boy is going to come across something that’s going to rob him of that joy. Someone who will tell him he’s not a real boy, because boys don’t like cuddles and kisses and gentleness. Someone who will make him feel inferior for his compassion, or who will pressure him to do things he doesn’t want to do, because that’s what the cool kids do.
Or maybe it won’t be one of his peers. Maybe he’ll read the Sun one day, and decide that real masculinity is all about ogling boobs and watching football. Or he’ll watch a movie and come away with the idea that he needs to sleep with any woman who’ll have him, just because that’s what men do. Or he’ll read a magazine, and he’ll decide if he’s not tall with a six pack, he’s just not worthy.
I don’t know what the answer is. I can tell my son until I’m blue in the face how wonderful he is, but I suspect at some point he’s going to stop believing me. And all I can do is keep loving him until he begins to see the truth again. It’s all any of us can do, but I find it so hard to live in a world where gender norms are so deeply ingrained that it’s inevitable that someone at some point will tell him he’s not enough.
I pray that when it does happen, he has the skills to recognise it for the lie it is. I pray he’ll be able to recognise himself as a truly loved and cherished son of the King, full of worth and value. But I also pray for a day in which I don’t have to worry. That we recognise people for who they are, rather than what they do or how they spend their time. When we truly believe that each person has value.
I am so glad that my son is happy being who he is. I just hope and pray for all the sons and daughters, that we learn to be happy with them and rejoice in the infinitely complex and wonderful people they are.