Photo: Jaime Primak Sullivan/Facebook
Raising boys in this day and age is HARD. How do we keep our sweet, loving little boys from becoming macho men who see emotion as weak and women as objects?
Well, there’s no one easy answer for that. But it all starts with careful love and discipline as well as modeling healthy emotions and relationships. The notion that boys have to “be a man” or “man up” instead of expressing fear, sadness, or hurt does not help our sons in ANY way—and Jaime Primak Sullivan, the self-proclaimed “Meanest Mom Ever” has a few things to say about that after a stranger accused her of “babying” her son when he was injured in a basketball game.
Sullivan’s 8-year-old, Max, was hit hard in the face with a basketball during a game, and Sullivan rushed to his aid upon seeing that he was so upset he wasn’t breathing properly. She described the incident on her Facebook page. (Please keep in mind when reading: HE’S EIGHT.)
Last Saturday my 8 year old son Max was playing in his school basketball game. Somewhere is the shuffle he was hit in the face with the ball. I saw it happen like it was slow motion. I saw his eyes widen and then squint from the pain – he looked around trying to focus. I knew he was looking for me. “Max got hit in the face”, I said to my husband as I instinctively jumped up from the bleachers. In that moment, I saw Max start to run around the court in my direction as the silent cry began. He couldn’t catch his breath. My feet couldn’t move fast enough. As soon as we connected, I got down on one knee. “Catch your breath buddy.” He tilted his head back. “Max, breath. It’s okay.” He finally took a breath, and I wrapped my arms around him as he cried into my shoulder.
That was when Sullivan heard a voice behind her utter a hurtful critique:
“You need to stop babying that kid.”
Sullivan kept her cool, focused on her son, and got him back to his team’s bench. But, as she returned to her seat in the bleachers, she says, her hands were shaking with rage. The stranger’s comment stung, not just as a criticism, but because she believes it demonstrates an attitude that is hurtful to young boys. She says:
This notion that boys can never hurt, that they can never feel, is so damaging to them long term. The belief that any signs or gestures of affection will somehow decrease their manhood – this pressure to always “man up” follows them into adulthood where they struggle to fully experience the broad scope of love and affection. The only emotion they healthily learn to express is happiness then we wonder why they are always chasing it.
They’re taught that sadness is weakness, that talking about their fears or short comings makes them less than. They don’t mourn properly. The struggle to grieve. They’re afraid to cry. It all spills into the way they husband and father and I hate it.
Love is a verb. It is something you do. It is not the same as babying, coddling or spoiling. It is something my son deserves. I will always love him when he is hurting and my prayer for him is that he is alway open to receiving love so he can love in return and keep that cycle going.
As the mom of two sons, I have to agree with Sullivan that it is GREAT to teach our boys that there is an absolutely appropriate time, place, and way to express sadness, hurt, etc. I have seen my own dad cry quite a few times — in fact he’s the parent I am most like emotionally. He’s a great man, father, and leader and his ability to express his feelings appropriately is certainly part of that. Why would I not want my sons to be emotionally healthy? There’s absolutely a place for toughness, too, but it can coexist alongside ALL of our emotions. It does NOT replace them.
I don’t think it’s any accident that the Bible shows us Jesus expressing sadness and weeping over his friend Lazarus’ death, of being so anguished before his death that he cried out to God to help him in the Garden of Gethsemane, telling his disciples that “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death;” (Matthew 26:38). If Christ can show us that there is a place for grief, sadness, anguish, why should we not teach our sons the same?
It’s my aim to raise up godly sons who treat others as they want to be treated—and if that makes them more “soft” than “tough”—I’m totally okay with that. Are you?