10 Things I Want my Sons To Know

It was my 20 week scan which ended my thoughts of all things pink.

Despite the fact that pregnancy no. 2 had been completely different to my first (which had got me wondering, as you do), when the sonographer pressed the ultrasound in to my belly, there was no mistaking it – confirmation that I was having a baby boy.

Another baby boy.

So I was only going to have boys.

That afternoon, I walked wistfully down the Barbie aisle in the toy section at the local shop and said a silent goodbye to the daughter I’d never have. Dreams of hair plaiting and fairy wings replaced by a sudden realisation that it was going to be just me, and a house full of testosterone. This would be a whole new way of life that I needed to map out in front of me. I’m a girl. What the hell do I know about raising boys?

When I thought about it though, having had an older brother, I was actually more of a tomboy than I remembered. I hated pink (still do), didn’t play with dolls, and still can’t stand wearing any sort of heels. I know how to climb trees, and to kick a football. I played with cars, went to the football every week, wore my brother’s old clothes and I know the rules to every sport that my dad used to watch (pretty much all sports, then). And, once I re-embraced my tomboy side, I realised that life with boys was going to be great.

I do worry though.

Parents of girls tell me that boys are easier, because they’re not emotional like girls. But I don’t agree.

My brother, for a start, has a beautiful, sensitive soul, and my oldest boy seems to have a similar temperament.

It worries me that boys are told that showing emotion is a weakness. And don’t get me started on their notion of invincibility and willingness to jump off sheer cliff faces just for the hell of it.

So, with all of this in mind, I’ve done a lot of thinking about how I can raise my boys to be good men, and I have come up with ten nuggets of wisdom that I wish to impart on my boys as they grow up:

  1. Be yourself. Of course, you’ll find friends with shared interests, but don’t change to be something that you’re not. You’ll take a while to figure out who you are, but that’s okay.
  2. If you find a sport, or a hobby, that you really enjoy – stick at it. Your life will be more fulfilling if you do something you enjoy.
  3. Being academic isn’t everything – if you want to be a builder, go for it. I’d love to have somebody practical around who can fix up the house!
  4. Keep talking to us. Talking to your parents will become excruciating (and there will be plenty of things I don’t want to know about!). But, if something is worrying you, or getting you down, you need to tell us. Don’t be too proud to reach out and ask for help.
  5. Don’t be completely fearless. You’re not invincible, no matter how much you think you are. Please listen to that small voice in your head that stops you from going too far, or putting yourself in danger.  Boys will be boys, I know, but you can have fun without ending up in an A&E department, or worse still, not being here at all.
  6. Stand up tall and hold your head up high – you will ooze confidence. You should inherit your dad’s height, so use it to your advantage!
  7. Find a role model – it could be a sports coach perhaps, or a family friend. Listen to what he has to say. And learn from him.
  8. Travel. Learn from other cultures. Get to know your family. You have an entire family history on the other side of the world that I want you to know about.
  9. Talk about girls in a respectful manner. I get that guys talk about girls, and that the language they use can sometimes be pretty derogatory. Don’t be that guy who talks about girls like that. The nice guys ALWAYS get the girl in the end, believe me.
  10. Fall in love. I don’t care who you fall in love with, as long as that person treats you well and loves you back. You might have a broken heart along the way, but believe me, if you do all of the above, you’ll be a catch.

Oh, and I just remembered one more thing –

  1. Remember my birthday AND Mother’s Day. You can never spoil your mother enough!

Yesterday I shed tears for a man I did not know.

Yesterday I shed tears for a man I did not know.

I shed tears hearing Michael Clarke talking about Phillip Hughes’ passion for cricket, cattle and country.

I shed tears as I watched footage of Phillip Hughes, ruing a young life cut way too short.

But most of all, I shed tears for Phillip Hughes’ father, Greg. I watched the agony on his face as he carried his own son’s coffin on his shoulder. In that moment, as a mother, I could almost feel his pain.

The phrase ‘parent’s worst nightmare’ is often used flippantly – just today, I’ve seen a story about an app called Kick On (which allows users to find their nearest party) being described as ‘a parent’s worst nightmare’.

And yet, here, etched on Phillip Hughes’ father’s face, was the definitive proof that burying your own child is your worst nightmare. It was possibly the most heart-wrenching image of despair that I have ever seen.

I suspected the press would use this image on their front pages today. In the Courier Mail’s case, at least, I was right (I haven’t seen the other newspapers).

I’ve seen comments online criticising the outpouring of grief for Phillip Hughes – it reads along the lines of ‘yes, it’s sad, but you don’t know him. How can you cry about it?’ And this has got me thinking – why did I shed tears over the death of a young man I never knew?

I think it is a straightforward answer.

In part, it is because Phillip Hughes’ death was particularly shocking. Not just for the sheer incredulity that an object as innocuous as a cricket ball could instantly wipe out the life of a healthy young athlete. But because it was a death that happened on a cricket pitch, in a game that was caught on camera. We watched it happen. Yes, he was resuscitated on the pitch, but the reality is that he died on that pitch.

We don’t witness people dying very often – we may be witness to the final hours of a terminally ill relative, perhaps, but we rarely witness a death that happens so suddenly.

In the past I have heard from people who witnessed the comedian Tommy Cooper’s heart attack on stage in 1984. They say that they have never forgotten it. Social media now means that Phillip Hughes’ death has been widely viewed, and as such, will never be forgotten. It will serve as a constant reminder of the fragility of life.

Despite its absolute certainty, we don’t like to talk about death in our society. Its trauma goes unspoken, because it is a painful subject to broach. With Phillip Hughes’ death, we have not been able to look the other way. We have had to confront the trauma head on, which I think in part explains why we, as a nation, have been so affected by it.

The other reason I shed tears watching the funeral is pretty simple. Empathy. It’s human nature to be empathetic to others when you witness their suffering.

We know that the lives of Phillip Hughes’ family has been shattered in to a thousand pieces, and it will never feel whole again. To bear witness to his parents going through the one thing you dread the most is understandably upsetting to see.

I always remember a colleague telling me that his mother still set a place at the Christmas table for his brother, who had died a few years previously from an aggressive form of cancer.  She set the place and always wept. When questioned as to why she did this when it continued to make her so upset, she replied that she wanted to do it. She wanted to feel the pain of her son no longer being there, because, if she could still feel the pain of missing him, it meant that he wasn’t gone completely.

As a mother of two boys, I know that losing one of them would be the worst thing that could ever happen to me. So it is for this reason that I shed tears for Phillip Hughes’ family, and all the other families where there is a child missing at the Christmas dinner table this year.