A fleeting lunchtime encounter with a little hooligan has made me think differently about raising my son.
Today I got wolf-whistled by an eight-year-old boy. I am a 41-year-old mother of a two year old son.
Striding out from work for a ridiculously late lunch grab, two boys were mucking about as I passed them and I could sense they were up for mischief. I was just waiting for something as I paced up the hill. One of them wolf-whistled. A third was slouching over the balcony of his medium-rise apartment.
“Excuse me!” he yelled. I looked up. “My friend’s got a crush on you.” I turned around to see the mouthy one simulating something very lewd, and screaming up the road my way, “You’re sexy.”
I did all I could to eek out a “Show some respect!” before I continued to lunch.
But God, I was seething. I wanted to find his mother and whip her around the head with a copy of “Raising Boys”. I wanted to head back down the hill and smartly sit him down and unload just how inappropriate and unhealthy and before-time his behaviour was.
I wanted to find out if he knew what he was really saying. Where he got it from. If he knew what it ‘meant’.
I got to the ATM and I starting getting pretty upset. Like cry-ey, and that is just not me. This is Ms Level-Headed, calm in a crisis, Captain Unflappable. I even blithered my way through deciding on the sushi-e or sushi-deluxe pack for my lunch order (and that’s never a difficult decision).
The crux of it all, I think, was this: ‘What if my son behaved like that?” As a conscious parent, if that sort of dirt were to come out my son’s mouth, I’d be rendered speechless. Be hopelessly disappointed. Whilst I’m not holding myself up to an uber mother, and I am so not deluded that my son will be a perfect human all of the time, I have clear ideas about how to guide my son into gentleman-hood (for want of a less anachronistic term). Respectful dude-dom, maybe?
Whilst I don’t have any knowledge of the boy’s history, family circumstance, personality traits, I can’t help but wonder how we get the right message to and/or motivate parents who don’t seek out knowledge, or don’t think to, and are happy to rely on instinct and wing it, or who simply don’t care about how to raise beautiful, modern men; starting with Lesson 1.0 - “How not to speak to girls and women”.
I walked back along the same route, hoping to find him again. Of course they’d disappeared. I still wanted to give him an earful. Actually, more of a gentle, quiet word. Even if it was just something for him to think about, momentarily.
So, how do we raise respectful men?