Last Wednesday, we celebrated International Men’s Day (IMD). Yeah, that’s actually a thing. On November 19 every year, citizens of the world come together and reflect upon the contributions of men to society. I, for one, am not opposed to a day set aside for men. All jokes aside, and recent events notwithstanding, without the good men who continually model the best characteristics of manhood, life would be hellish. Much as we might want to believe that sperm and a bank account are all a woman needs, that is not the case.
This year, the IMD theme was ‘Working Together for Men and Boys’. As the mother of a girl-child, I support any initiative to raise boys into responsible men. I do so because I intend to raise a responsible woman. The child is lucky to have me for a Mum, if I do say so myself, because I have never been a paragon of virtue, so she will have a good bit of leeway to make a few dubious choices. Dubious choices are important. A few missteps along the way are part of the journey. But there are a few things that a woman should always strive for.
My high school principal used to remind us whenever she got the chance that we went to school alone and would leave alone. She said that to encourage us to focus on our goals without being influenced by what our peers were doing or not doing. In many ways, high school is a metaphor for life. We are individuals first and foremost, surrounded by people, but at the end of the day alone. While I would lay down my own life for the child, she has her own life to live and she owes it to herself, well, to be herself.
Nothing is more attractive than a woman who carries herself with dignity. If you don’t take pride in yourself and your choices few others will. You don’t have to do things that anyone else agrees with. But you must stand by your decisions and follow through with confidence and grace. No one can strip you of your dignity because it is something that you carry around on the inside.
I Googled it and these are the synonyms that came up: Compassion, brotherly love, fraternity, fellow feeling, philanthropy, kindness, consideration and understanding, sympathy, tolerance, leniency, mercy, tenderness, benevolence, charity, goodness, magnanimity and generosity.
So yeah, we’re celebrating men but I would add sisterly love and maternity. Beyond that, need I say more? It is important to be good to people, not because they will be good to you too but because it is the right way to live.
If anyone will not work, neither let him eat. It’s scriptural. Sometimes you have to roll up your sleeves, get down in the trenches and work hard, and other times you put on your thinking cap and work smart. I’ve heard people say that if you find something you love doing; you’ll never work another day in your life. That’s an ideal I’m still ‘working’ towards.
Sense of agency
My sister painted this horrifying scenario: Two children in the playground. One has a cold. Mucus is making a sticky trail down one of her nostrils. With one hand she’s wipes it away. With the other she pops chewing gum into her mouth and begins to chew it with relish, blowing air bubbles and stretching it out with her finger like a string. The other child is disease free. An innocent bystander. “You want some?” The child with a cold says to the other one. “Yah!” says the other one. And the chewing gum is transferred from one mouth to the other, carrying all those lovely, cold-causing germs with it. In the movies, the reel would have gone into slow motion, with the mother running towards her child screaming, “Nooooooo….!” As a mother, your first instinct will always be to protect your children from anything and anyone that would harm them. But as they grow, you have to allow them a sense of self-agency. Every woman needs to be in control of her own life, to influence their own thoughts and behaviour. You don’t get that way by being protected from everything, at every turn.
A Higher Power
It would be a travesty to go through life without believing in something greater than yourself. That’s my considered opinion. Even a mother can fail her child but I choose to believe that God is perfect. And that he is everywhere, at all times, which gives me immense relief because I can rest assured that when I can’t be there for my girl, He is.