I want my son to be a good man.
It’s not just that I want him to learn to be a hard worker. I do want that. And I want him to be someone who stands up for himself. I want him to be somebody who protects and provides for the people who depend on him.
But that’s not all I want.
I want him to know that strong isn’t all he has to be. He isn’t planning to be a Viking or a professional wrestler. He wants to be an engineer or a paleontologist or, some days, an engineer who builds robot dinosaurs.
And yet I am blessed with an 11-year-old boy who looks at least 14, and a big 14 at that. Because he has always stood about four or five inches taller than the other kids in his class and looked like he may have been left back a few years, I have spent years cautioning him about how he interacts with others.
“Don’t play rough,” I tell him, even when the other kids are.
I spent all of his kindergarten year waiting for a phone call about him accidentally hurting one of the two tiny, doll-like tomboys in his class who wanted to roughhouse with the boys, playing soccer or tag with the all-in attitude of future Olympians. My son, meanwhile, plays with the enthusiasm of a St. Bernard who thinks he is a lap dog.
I want him to learn these lessons young because I know far too soon, he will be in high school and then in college.
I need him to know that what is fun and games to him may have crossed a line for someone else. I need him to know that whether he is on a date with a girl he likes or hanging out with friends, there are always boundaries that have to be respected.
I need him to know that because one day I won’t be there to remind him to be gentle, to wait to see if someone wants to play, to not push just because he wants to do something.
I need that because I have sat with a date rape victim who held her own hands for comfort because she couldn’t let someone else touch her, and I have talked to a young man charged with a crime he honestly didn’t understand being a crime.
I need my son to know there are boundaries because I have sat at the kitchen table with Jim and Evelyn Piazza while they told me about the ragged, empty place left in their lives when their son Tim died because his fraternity “brothers” put him through an alcoholic obstacle course and waited 12 hours to call for help after he sustained fatal injuries.
Gillette’s “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be” video has sparked polar opposite reactions. You love it or you hate it. There is little in between.
I can understand both sides. I have known good men and not-so-good men and a number who barely deserve to be called men at all.
I don’t want to offend good men by shaming all men, but just like all lives matter, I believe all people can be better.
But in the end, I’m one mom. I have one kid. I have one short window to make one man the best he can be, and hopefully have him pass it on to his own children or even just those robot dinosaurs. So I give him the advice I want him to take through his whole life.
Be gentle. Listen to what other people want. Pay attention to what they need. Don’t play rough. And please, please, be a good man.
Lori Falce is the Tribune-Review Community Engagement Editor.
You can contact Lori at [email protected]