When my daughter asked me some searching questions about International Women’s Day I was inspired to write her a letter of lessons.
While November 19th is International Men’s Day, I’m not expecting to be bombarded with questions from my son. He’s 12 and currently much more interested in his new-found secondary school freedom and his phone. I also don’t feel this day is as widely acknowledged as its sister day of recognition. Regardless, in the interest of equality, here is my letter to my son this International Men’s Day.
My darling Maxwell,
You are a boy looking forward to manhood. You’ve moved on from being a primary school kid and I see you enjoying all the friends and experiences this new phase of life is presenting to you. I’m so proud of how you welcome adventure.
I’m also proud of how you embrace change and challenge. As a mixed-heritage male you’ll encounter challenges that me and your dad haven’t seen or felt. We’re doing everything we can to ensure you have role models and people around you that have walked that path, so you never feel alone.
As you continue to seek adventure and rise to challenges, I’d like you to remember some key things that apply at all stages of life, no matter what is thrown at you:
1. You are loved, and you are valued. You will hear, feel and infer otherwise from certain sectors of society. There still exist stereotypes about boys like you, despite the work being done to dismantle them. Do your part to undo the ignorance and pre-conceptions that are levied at you. The truth is that we love you, we value you, you have something special to give and you get to choose the unique difference you will make in this world.
2. Show love. Don’t be afraid to wear your heart on your sleeve. When you feel love in your heart and soul for someone or something, let it show. Let it bring you all that it has to offer. Give yourself fully and receive with an open heart.
3. Look after yourself – body, mind and spirit. You only have one body to see you through your life. Look after it; take care with what you put into it, what activities you do with it and what you allow it to absorb. Choose to spend time with people and doing activities that nourish you.
4. Be kind, help others. Treat others how you wish to be treated. It’s simple and it means so much.
5. Being ‘strong’ means allowing emotion, being vulnerable and showing how you feel. In a society that perpetuates the myth that ‘strong’ means you do not show emotion or vulnerability, I want you to know there is real strength in being honest, being yourself and respecting the display of emotion.
6. You can be sporty AND academic. The two qualities are not mutually exclusive. You can love your sports and find time for your books. You can be good at both; you don’t have to choose or neglect one in favour of the other. As your grandad always says, “Knowledge is power. Once it’s in here *points at head* no one can take it away.”
7. Your best is good enough. If you know in your heart you’ve done your best, whether at school or somewhere else, that is enough. Don’t define yourself by the outcome. Your effort, perseverance and attitude are what defines you.
8. Speak up, use your voice, and don’t be afraid to be wrong. Your voice is the most powerful thing you have, use it for good; use it to make yourself heard and know when to listen too. Use your voice to speak your truth. When you speak up you invite conversation and debate; this helps you to learn and broaden your experience and your knowledge. It also tells people who you are. Stand up and speak out, especially on things that really matter to you.
9. It’s ok to say no. No is a complete sentence. If something doesn’t sound or feel right, it won’t be. Say no without apology. And when you hear ‘No’, listen to it and respect its meaning.
10. You have a choice. Even when it might feel like you don’t, you always do. Make the choice that feels right in your gut. Then learn from the outcome and use that to help you shape what happens next.
11. You can make a difference. Just being yourself will make that difference. Your perspective is unique. Share your gifts and your talents with honesty and integrity and you will make a positive impact in the world.
12. Be a role model. Be the change. Remember that whatever you do, you will be inspiring somebody somewhere, close to home or further afield. As you grow older be very clear about who you are and what you stand for. Own that, and shine.
You have the world at your feet my darling boy, leave your unique mark on it.
All my love,