I asked my mother-in-law how she raised such a great son

I don’t usually like to give advice if I don’t have a dog in the fight. When the Chicago Public School teachers were on strike a few years ago, it irritated me seeing parents who had their kids in private school, like, “solidarity!” Right, solidarity, bro. Your kids aren’t even in CPS. Having a student enrolled, my opinion was more nuanced. But that’s in the past! No need to get in our  . . . hot tub time machine when there’s plenty to discuss in 2014. Like how to raise a son.

SCREECH. Oh wait. I don’t have a son. My three kids are all girls and I’m done like a Thanksgiving turkey. Dear Jenna, have a seat.

You want to know who is the expert on raising a son though? My mother-in-law. She and I have differing opinions on coo coo clocks (her: they are fun! me: they coo-coo) and I try to be a sport about her underwear regifts, but one thing we agree on to the hilt is how rad her son is.

Sure, you say, I’m biased. He’s my husband. Of course I think he’s the best guy out there or I wouldn’t have married him. Allow me to present an objective case: Right now, he volunteered to take two of the kids to a birthday party so I could blog. He plays Scrabble. He lets me pick the movie. He never yells. He picks up after himself. He works hard, loves the kids, sorts the mail and thinks I’m skinny. Bwahahahaha! He’s officially (I’m sure I could get this signed by a notary) the least angry guy on Earth.

So how did my mother-in-law do it? I asked her one day and her answer surprised me. She said she never told my husband to “man up”.

It’s amazing how pervasive the “man-up” and “be a man” sentiment is in American culture. I’ve had several mom friends tell me they “man-up” their sons as young as 6 months old. They answer their sons’ cries later, they tell them to toughen up. I imagine if someone tells you to swallow your emotions all the time, you’d become hostile, bitter and at the very least, unable to express how you feel when it’s required of you, like in a relationship. HMMMMM, I wonder why Madonna had to write a song called Express Yourself? Maybe because of all the man-up parenting.

So I’m making a request of all the parents of boys out there. For the sake of my daughters who will be married to them one day, please, let your sons cry when they are sad. Let them wear pink if it suits them. Let them dance. Let them snuggle in your bed until they are five and let them tell you how much they love you.

One day, my girls are going to want a break on a weekend morning. They’re going to want to play Scrabble and watch winning movies after the Oscars and not trip over shoes. They’re going to gain ten pounds (or twenty) and want to be told they’re still beautiful.

Don’t man-up your sons. Me? I’ll raise my girls to treasure them.



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