In celebration of International Men’s Day on 19 November, our writer, a young woman, writes this letter to her future son to let him know the kind of man she hopes he’ll be.
As I’m writing this to you at age 21, I realise how idealistic, naive, and unrealistic I might sound. However, I hope that if and when I do finally meet you, this letter will serve as a reminder for all the hopes and dreams I had for the both of us when things were simpler.
I wish I could say with certainty that parenting will come easily to me; like the chic mothers I see pushing their baby in a stroller with a latte in hand, the mothers who dress their babies in 100 per cent cotton clothes and make organic pureé from scratch, the mothers who know every parenting tip at the back of their minds and won’t break a sweat when their baby is colicky and crying up a storm.
Frankly speaking, I’m terrified. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to match up to the numerous suggestions of what a mother should do, and who she should be.
I expect that day-to-day life as a parent won’t be as dream-like as that, with me feeling overwhelmed, frazzled and stressed more than I can imagine. On the flipside, I also know that I will feel immense joy, happiness, and protectiveness that will be unparalleled to anything I’ve ever experienced thus far.
To be completely truthful, I have an unnatural aversion to the thought of raising a son. I understand the inner workings of the female mind much more clearly, and I never had male siblings to shed some insight on the growing years of boys. However, this fear won’t stop me. I would like to think of myself as the sort of mother who’d go out of her way to understand what she doesn’t, to try even harder to ensure that what’s unnatural to her eventually feels natural.
In me you will have a loving, warm, and welcoming place where you feel safe to express your needs, wants, hope, dreams, and fears. So here are five things I hope you’ll always remember, no matter where you are on the journey of life.
#1 I’ll always be here for you
I want you to know that as your mother, I will always embody a safe space for you. For there is no guilt, shame, or embarrassment between parent and child. On some days, it may feel especially difficult to open up to those around you. However, I will always try my best to shield you from the prying, judgmental eyes of others. Be it your achievements or failures, moments of pride or shame, your mother will always be a source of comfort. And that’s a promise.
#2 Dig deep and discover yourself
I firmly believe that a good childhood is a cornerstone of how one lives their life – be it their experiences, outlooks, or decisions they make. By providing you with the acceptance that only mothers can give, I hope that you find it within yourself to grow and explore your interests, to dig deep and question who you truly are, what you hope to accomplish, and how you can help others in the process.
As one of my favourite authors, Haruki Murakami, said in an interview, “If you don’t know what you love, you are lost.” The only person who’s going to experience life with you from start to end is well, you. You may not like yourself all the time, but I can only hope that you will be able to strike a balance between your mind and soul that’ll allow you find a sense of who you are, and embrace that.
#3 Be kind, Be even kinder
I’ve always said, “I’d rather a kind child than a smart one”, and I still stand by it. Intelligence is but the first step in certain opportunities life has to offer. Kindness, and sincerity, on the other hand, will ensure that you achieve a certain quality of life in the long-term. Be sincere in whatever you do – people appreciate hard work more than you’d think. And always, always be kind. You never know when you’re the only help in someone else’s need. Remember: a person’s character is judged best by how he treats people who can do nothing for him.
#4 Respect women
I want to raise you into a man who values respect: towards your superiors, your peers, and most importantly, towards women. We live in a society in which equality is still something we fight for. Treat your female friends, your sisters (if any), and your future partners the way you want your mother to be treated. Remember that another person’s physical weakness is never an excuse for you to take advantage of it.
Acknowledge the accomplishments of your female peers. They have overcome much more than you can imagine in getting to the same place as you have. Help them out as an ally. Never condescend. Instead, demonstrate that you understand the hardships they go through and that you’re aware and appreciative of the privilege you’ve not earned. Women for centuries have gone through the pain of stigma you’ll never experience, and even though society has made progress, we still have a long way to go.
I was fortunate to have lived with my great-grandmother towards the end of her long life. She was always full of love and joy, happy to cook and welcome guests — even at age 90. She raised 10 children; married off when she was just a teen to someone she’d never met. Her life was not about her – it was about taking care of everyone else’s needs.
Seen as far less worthy and important than her male counterparts, she had to serve her husband and children under the abuse of her in-laws. Still, she persevered. After her husband passed on, she single-handedly fed her 10 children and over 10 more grandchildren by selling rambutans plucked off trees in the backyard. She is one the strongest women I’ve ever known. I hope that throughout your life, you will come to know equally strong women and learn from them.
#5 Never stop learning
I hope that you never lose your sense of wonder. Child-like wonder often, unfortunately, gives way to adult cynicism. Question everything, read widely. Don’t take “I don’t know” for an answer, not even from me. With knowledge comes the wisdom to navigate everyday life. Read everything: philosophy, different religious texts, fiction, biographies. From Ancient texts like the Odyssey to philosophers such as Alain de Botton to Japanese fiction by Haruki Murakami to biographies on joy written by Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, and Douglas Carlton Abrams.
Read for knowledge, read for entertainment, read to understand how others view the world. Do all of that, and then adapt whatever you’ve learnt into your own interpretation of everything that’s around you. There is no one else who can help define your life except you. The world is your oyster and there is never a time to stop learning.
Above all, I look forward to the day we meet, to the memories we will share, and the life that we’ll experience together.
With all my love,
Your Future Mum
Feature image: Alex Pasarelu
Header image: Peignault Laurent