My son’s inheritance - Heetal Dattani

Authored by Heetal Dattani, Co-Founder, Nine Yards Communications Consultancy

Someone told me today, that September 28th is National Son’s Day. We clearly live in a world where every day of the year is neatly slotted into some celebration or the other (by marketers or by very persistent enthusiasts of life). But for today, I decided to park my cynicism aside and go with the spirit of celebrating everything. It got me thinking of all the beautiful things there are to celebrate, about being the mother of a little boy.

I have to admit that as a mum of a little girl, I assumed that my second would be a girl too. It certainly would have been most convenient. The butterfly pink cot could be unpacked again, the pretty frocks that were still in mint condition could be passed on to number two, the books, the toys…everything was waiting to be used again. But if only life worked according to plan. Once he was born though, all those doubts flew away. And I hurtled happily into a true adventure… from navigating the intricacies of projectile pee to coming to terms with how such a tiny person can eat so much. From feeling that crushing love and wondering how your heart can beat outside your body, to trying desperately to calm those racing heart beats while chasing the brat as he climbed everything remotely climbable.

Like most mums, I have beautiful memories of my boy crossing his milestones effortlessly. He seemed to hurtle over them like a practiced long jumper. But the really talk worthy moments, the ones I choose to celebrate are not the ones of learning. They are the ones of unlearning. Unlearning together with my boy, how not to walk the expected path - The path that generations before us have walked. The path of conditioning. Conditioning has taught us that boys sleep better in blue cots. We unlearned that, when my son drifted off peacefully to dreamland each night, in the pink cot he inherited from his older sister. And no, in spite of my mum insisting that I was scarring my boy, we learnt that the pink and white rattle, walls, bibs and blankets will not shake his future masculinity. We unlearned that boys need to choose between being strong and being feminine. My little one is a sensitive, perceptive little fellow who picks flowers for his mum and is not ashamed to say that he loves me. All this while coming home with skinned knees and football stained clothes every day. We unlearned that being soft and gentle makes him a girl. We unlearned that he needs to act brave when he’s hurting. Instead, we learnt that needing a big hug or a good cry goes beyond every gender.

I remember the day my son and I stopped to marvel at a particularly beautiful sunset – golden and glorious as it sank into a purple sea. As we sat side by side on the sand, I noticed that his usual incessant chatter had stopped. And as he gaped at the streaks of colour in the sky, his wide eyes were glistening and he shyly smiled at me and said, it’s so pretty that I feel like crying. And that’s the day I learned that the best thing about my boy is how beautifully and bravely he embraces his emotions. And if there’s one thing that I will make sure I teach him; it is to never feel compromised or vulnerable because of them.

As he grows, the patriarchy will expect him to be in control, inexpressive and stoic. But my son will always know that he is free to feel every emotion – and that none of them are wrong. It is not a weakness to feel and express love, joy or happiness. My son will learn that it is truly beautiful and liberating to express himself – both the good bits and the bad bits. And that it doesn’t make him less man when he is moved to tears by beauty. It is in fact, a declaration of strength. He will learn that expressing oneself is not a feminine trait. It is an imperative human trait.

My son will also undoubtedly learn as he grows that it is a privilege to be a man in this world of ours, where policy makers and law makers still play an active role in deciding how women should live their lives. But he will learn to use his privilege wisely. He will see first-hand through the strong women around him that the impetus to overturn the patriarchy rests as much on his shoulders as it does on his sister’s. He learns that his gender buys him zero brownie points in our home. And hopefully, he will reflect the same attitude when he walks through the world as a man. He will learn every skill that is taught to his sister – be it a sport, art, cooking or cleaning. His sister rolls her eyes about being told to clean her room, as will he. But no hall pass will be given to him because of his gender. He will learn that respect, trust, honesty and reward are all genderless, and can’t be inherited. To earn any of these, he will need to work as hard as anyone else. There will be no silver platters served by the keepers of the patriarchy as he grows up. So that when he’s out into the world, as a man contributing to society, he advocates a more equal world.

 And one day, thanks to him and many more little boys living an equal life today, our children will inherit that beautiful, equal world in the not so distant tomorrow.   

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and does not necessarily subscribe to it.


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