Both times I gave birth (to wonderful, amazing, perfect boys), I felt acutely aware of my responsibility to raise them to be men who respect women, appreciate their privilege and know how to wash/clean/cook/and otherwise take care of themselves and their family.
I love my sons. But I also realize that as white, middle class, American males, they have access to a world that gives them significant advantages.
My method has so far been pretty straight-forward. I try to make them work hard for what they want, I insist they do a lot of chores around the house, I show them I’m strong—physically and otherwise—and point it out to them so they understand that women can do anything they want, and I also point out how frequently their dad cleans, cooks, and shops (which he does, often).
They’re still little cavemen, and this is (obviously) a long-term project. But all in all I think they’re getting the message—as much as they can in our little bubble of a world known as “Boulder, Colorado.”
Which is why I was at a complete loss of what to do this morning when Henry, my oldest, succumbed entirely to the phenomenon known as the “Man Cold.”
For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, just take a minute and a half and watch the video clip above. Or let me explain:
Henry came down with a nasty stomach bug Friday night and spent most of the night puking. Saturday was devoted to lounging on the couch, watching movies and trying to keep ginger ale and saltines down—heaven for a sick kid.
Today he was much better, but he still wanted movies and ginger ale, so, after chasing his brother up and down the stairs, doing sommersaults off the couch, and trying to do a headstand, he dove onto the couch, pulled a blanket up to his eyes and began to moan.
And whine. And then beg.
Was he about to throw up? Quite possibly, he assured me….unless.
Unless I hustled to fetch the ipad (he actually said that) and make him better.
Because somehow Wild Kratts has healing powers.
When I didn’t obey and instead went back to the kitchen to make breakfast, he whimpered and moaned some more. Only when his little brother came bounding through the room carrying Henry’s favorite matchbox car did he leap from the couch and claim his toy and then got talked into another game of chase.
Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe Henry wasn’t suffering from the “man cold” syndrome. Maybe he just is clever and manipulative and wanted to get another day of screen time.
But still. Lying on the couch feigning helplessness had the opposite effect of what I can only assume he intended. Had it been a true emergency or had he seemed seriously in need of cuddles and assurance, I would have been there for him in a heart beat. But this helpless, self-pitying act? No, thanks. I told Henry he could earn a movie by helping me clean the kitchen, and damned if he didn’t hop to.
Which, in the end, is a good thing. I hope.