As a mother of sons, it's always in the back of my mind: Am I raising respectful boys who won't grow up to be sexist jerks?! I know that's a pretty heady way to start a letter, but it matters -- especially in this day and age. We've had some casual discussions regarding girls -- how to treat them, speak to them, and defer to them when necessary -- and the importance of being a compassionate friend. Even though our conversations are pretty basic at this age, you've shown that you are ready and moving in the right direction. And while not a perfect path, it's definitely headed toward GENTLEMAN.
After seeing the movie "Coco", I shared with you that your best friend Thomas cried at the end (his Mommy told me while we were chatting at school one morning). Not wanting to make your friend feel embarrassed or divulge secrets between mommies, you told me about your confession the next day: "I didn't want Thomas to feel bad, so I just shared with him that I cried. And then I guess he felt comfortable enough to say he did too." My jaw dropped after hearing about this premeditated empathy! You actually thought through the best way to make your friend feel comfortable. While you're probably not even aware of it Cash, you are this little soul helping break down the stigma that boys aren't supposed to cry -- growing up with the understanding that boys not only CAN and DO cry, but should feel safe sharing this with each other. However, you still won't admit (or have conveniently forgotten) that you liked the fairy tale movie "FROZEN" when it first came out. So we're still working. :)
Your digital watch apparently comes in two colors: green and pink. Since gender marketing is so deep-rooted in our culture, I wasn't surprised when you said girls get the pink color, like your friend Romy. "But what if a girl wants a green one Cash? Would that be okay? And if a boy wanted a pink one?" You said it would be okay and to my relief seemed to mean it. Like the time you said you were going to write a letter to Mrs. Claus, "because nobody really talks about her and how much work she does at Christmas time." Or the promise you made when we were walking behind a group of loud, aggressive teenage boys cursing and rough-housing one of their female friends: "I'm not going to be like that when I'm a teenager Mommy!" as if you knew just what I was thinking. Like I said ... it's always in the back of my mind.
When I picked you up from Eli's birthday party, his mom asked if you were usually so quiet and well-mannered. Apparently you didn't wrestle around with the other boys and when I stop and think about it, you've always been friends with the quieter boys in school. Four boys would be on your party invite list: Eli, Jamison, Anthony and Thomas. "You know why Mommy? Because it would be very 'OHM'." "OHM?!! What does that mean?" I asked. "You know Mommy, like peaceful."
The other night you asked me questions about going off to college. Not because it's something exciting for you in the future, but because your anxiety about having to live away from home, away from your family, away from me is already swilling about in your mind. You love spending time with your family so much that the only reassurance was when I said you could just go to college here in New York City (even though you likely won't) and still live at home. My quintessential New Yorker projecting light-years ahead could finally rest his mind and get some sleep when he knew he'd never have to leave!
It makes me grin when you tell me that you are one of the few who don't say "bad words" like "Shut Up", "Dumb", and "Poopy Butt" in school. Or when you tell me it's okay that boys wear pink and take ballet classes and ask questions about what life is like for "nerds". I smile as I watch you run back to put the Ziplock bag you dropped on the subway steps into the nearest trash can -- being "ecologically smart" you call it -- and I'm especially touched to learn you planted a sunflower at school "because it's yellow -- Mommy's favorite color." The ways in which you have learned to say sorry when you've hurt someone, especially a close friend, are such a tender part of your expanding empathy and continued search to define yourself. Living life with your heart on your sleeve is something you've done from the beginning Cash and helps ease that gripping question of mine.
The truth is, Yes! You are growing in the right direction. And as you move through these early years chock full of growing pains, I want you to remember one thing son. That I'll be walking beside you when the road gets bumpy and pieces of your broken heart need picking up along the way.
I love you Cash.
Always & forever,