I was 17 and I was pregnant, which is never ideal. There was no celebration, no baby shower, no gender reveal party. Just harsh whispers, nasty comments, and two families at war.
But what if he became the perpetrator?
My son is very much a stereotypical 15-year-old boy.
He loves sports, hanging out with a big group of his friends, and playing Xbox.
When I was his age, I spent a lot of time with ‘the footy boys.’ I saw how they behaved, how they talked about girls, and how they treated girls. It was just accepted and normal. ‘Boys will be boys’ was still very much alive and thriving.
So I was justifiably concerned when my son joined the local footy club. I was worried that he would fall into the pack and adopt their mentality. It wasn’t so long ago that I had been a part of that world, so I couldn’t imagine that it had changed much at all.
As his mother, I needed to assess the situation and do what I could to support those important peer relationships, but still make sure he remained respectful and kind. It was a hard thing for me to comprehend, because in my experience the two ideals were mutually exclusive.
Unfortunately, I still don’t have a simple solution, but remaining educated on gendered issues and always including him in those conversations is what’s working for us for now.
We have talks about girls at school, the way other boys treat girls, and how important it is to be respectful. Sometimes it’s difficult and sometimes it’s embarrassing. Sometimes we even get it wrong. But we never stop communicating. The line is always open.
He has proudly told me stories about how he has defended girls at school, and once he even risked getting himself in trouble by sneaking* a girl into our house at 5am because she needed a safe place to stay. (*I use the word sneaking but he told me about it as soon as I woke up in the morning.)
When things like that happen, I am proud to know that my son might be different than the other boys, and that he is brave enough to know and do what is right. To be an effective bystander and ally.
I am still learning to be a mother, and am not even close to perfect, but by continuing to communicate with my son, intuitively dealing with issues as they arise, and making sure we have an open space for respect and understanding on both sides, I truly and deeply hope that my son will never play the starring role in a fellow woman’s story.