I’ve written frequently about my fears about raising a Black boy in America. I read somewhere that there is nothing quite so loathsome as an 8 year old Black boy. They travel in packs, they get into stuff, and they’re no longer considered as “cute” and “harmless” as they previously may have been before they reached the milestone of making it to the third grade. I don’t know about other races, but you have to be careful about how you raise Black sons. Raise them too soft, and the streets will be them. Raise them to be too tough, and the cops will get them. Fortunately, I had a solution in mind; one that would solve everything!
When I found out I was pregnant with Stone, I already had an idea of the sort of young man I wanted to raise. He would be handsome (of course), well mannered, considerate, sensitive and intelligent. I would clothe him in argyle and dress shoes, and teach him to observe the natural world and draw conclusions from it. I would raise the proverbial Renaissance Man. And Stone is certainly all these things – but I have recently discovered that when I was making my list of attributes to be assigned to my brewing baby boy, I forgot to add “brave”.
You see, to my horror, I have realized that my son is an unmitigated wuss.
For the last three years I have delighted in his early morning nuzzles and squeals (yes – squeals) of delight whenever we rode over abandoned train tracks somewhere in the city, but never in my wildest dreams did I considered that all that exuberance was masking something more sinister. It took a lizard to unearth the direful reality I am about to tell you about.
Two days ago, I was sitting on the couch enjoying one of the few moments of silence that infrequently descend upon our house when Stone burst through the front door. He had been outside riding his bike and was agitated by something.
“Mommy!” he screeched. “I saw a lizard!”
“Yeah…a lizard,” Liya echoed.
Well, I was thrilled. Lizards aren’t very common in this part of Georgia. Perhaps some had migrated up from Florida. This was wonderful news! We have lizards everywhere in Ghana, bobbing their heads up and down and doing “push-ups”. This was another part of our childhoods past and present that we could share!
“You did!” I exclaimed. “Well that’s wonderful!”
Stone looked at me quizzically.
“It scared me, Mommy!”
I pshaw-ed his statement and told him not to be silly.
“Lizards aren’t scary, boy,” I laughed.
That’s when he burst into tears. When I had the audacity to display shock, he began to shake uncontrollably, repeating again and again how scary the lizard was. Well what was I to do? His 2 year old sister was mocking him and my words were going over his head. I pulled him close and hugged him.
“It’s ok, Stone,” I soothed.
This only made him cry harder. Perhaps I was taking the wrong approach in coddling him? I released my grip and held him away from me.
“It’s ok!” I said, putting a little bit more bass in my voice. “You can’t be scared of lizards.”
“But I’m scared!” he wailed in objection.
The more I told him he couldn’t be, the more he insisted he was. This was becoming alarming. I did the only thing I knew to do to calm him down. I gave him a fistful of crackers and turned on a DVD – hating every moment that I was medicating him with food and cartoons. An hour later he declared he was ready to go back outside.
I relayed the incidents to my husband, who was equally unsettled. Marshall has always loved the outdoors, and has spent countless hours ambling about in the woods as a kid. The news that his son – Marshall Grant’s son! – was afraid of a lizard was therefore just as bad as Dale Earnhardt’s offspring declaring trepidation and horror at the sight of motor oil.
“You can’t be scared of lizards, boy!” he said, repeating what I had already told Stone earlier. “You’re a boy. Boys like dirt, bugs and reptiles.”
He grabbed his son and began to rough house with him. Stone wriggled away with a high pitched “no!”
I suddenly saw into his future, and I didn’t like what I saw. Stone has spent the last 4 years predominantly in the company of women. He has three sisters and his mother. His father comes home at 6 pm, sees him for 2 hours, and then he goes off to bed. His Pre-K teacher will most likely be a woman, as well be the director of his pre-k center and all the other people in authority who run the facility. In fact, all of his teachers up until fourth or fifth grade will most likely be female. He will only know female authority and most likely will not know how to handle a man’s heavy handedness and domineering nature in class. Oh heavens. He may even burst into tears the first time his male physics teacher booms: “No sir, Mr. Grant!” when works an equation incorrectly. And then what will his classmates think of my argyle clad, clean shaven prince?
My poor son!
I have wanted to put Stone in a sport since he turned 2, but I always came up with some excuse.
He wasn’t potty trained. No one could understand what he was saying. It conflicted with everyone else’s schedule.
The truth is, I don’t want some other little boy knocking my son around because his mammy didn’t have sense enough to teach him to keep his mitts to himself! One can’t (or shouldn’t) go around hitting other people’s kids because they injured your own. And so I kept my son safe at home, watched Barbie and Veggie Tales DVDs, rushing to his side every time he skinned his knee.
Now he’s afraid of lizards. And spiders. And bees.
I can raise wonderful girls, but this boy thing is proving a lot tougher than I previously imaged. Surely I’m not the only parent to have this concern? Here’s a question for you dads: What would you do in this situation…or am I fretting over nothing? Did you grow up “sensitive” and turn out alright in the end? Discuss, discuss!