Since I published my first post on intimate parenting last week, I’ve had a few opportunities to discuss my perspectives on Facebook. Usually with white, male, non-parents who presented almost universally as angry, offended, confused, or completely dismissive of what I have to say. Given that they are largely the product of a society determined to annihilate their ability to have authentic feelings or experience true intimacy with other humans, I’m not surprised by their upset and and disconnect. Their simmering rage and thinly-veiled hostility.
When I first began looking at gender issues, I believed that violence was a by-product of boyhood socialization. But after listening more closely to men and their families, I have come to believe that violence IS boyhood socialization. The way we “turn boys into men” is through injury: We sever them from their mothers, research tells us, far too early. We pull them away from their own expressiveness, from their feelings, from sensitivity to others. The very phrase “Be a man” means suck it up and keep going. Disconnection is not fallout from traditional masculinity. Disconnection IS masculinity.
–The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love by bell hooks
I’ve heard from angry white males who have no way to go back in time and reclaim what was stolen from them during childhood. Men stuck making the hard choice between looking at, acknowledging, believing, and then healing from their wounds—or maintaining their blind eye and forgetting it ever happened. A choice many people, perhaps even you, are intimately familiar with. The choice to continue believing that brutalizing children in the name of socializing them is a perfectly acceptable way to do business. The choice to continue believing that healthy intimacy with little boys will render them far too pussified for accepted masculine standards.
And so, in this context of choosing to heal from patriarchal-induced wounds and why one would ever want to take on arduous, terrifying work like that, I’m going to talk about some of the motivations and lived experiences that directly affect my choice to parent my son intimately. Because I certainly didn’t start from the premise that parenting was a divine calling, or that each of us possess a resonant field inside our bodies that seeks loving connection with other people, or that small bodies and feelings should be respected with the utmost care.
I am, after all, a child of patriarchy, too.
To love boys rightly we must value their inner lives enough to construct worlds, both private and public, where their right to wholeness can be consistently celebrated and affirmed, where their need to love and be loved can be fulfilled. –The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love
I never wanted kids, believing they were a horrid idea for numerous reasons. For starters, I had received wounds from my family of origin and didn’t want to perpetuate their warped worldview by foisting it on another human who had no choice in the matter. I also had many of the same complaints regarding children being uncivilized in public spaces that I’ve heard from the angry white males. Add to that, I worked in a children’s retail store where I daily had to deal with both unruly children and their clueless, checked-out parents. I basically loathed having to interact with them. But it was a small town and the only job I could find given my high school diploma education.
My no-kids stance persisted through the 15 years of my first marriage, where we were far too busy clubbing/partying and experimenting with polyamory to consider them a reasonable or desirable addition. THANK THE GODS. And then my marriage came to an end; I was 34 years old, barely knew who I was as a person, and had no idea what I was going to do with myself. Turns out it was an excellent time to start weekly psychotherapy.
Over many years of therapy, I came to understand that I hated children because I hated their perceived wholeness; that is, I resented the pieces of myself that had been sacrificed on the altar of fitting in, complying, and being a good girl. My abilities to intuitively trust, feel, and love had been disowned as a result of sexual abuse, emotional enmeshment, codependency, and being routinely shamed or manipulated by the adults in my life. Because that’s how we get civilized adults who mind their manners, acquiesce, and wait their turn to speak: we compress and “polish” them, conveniently forgetting how much it hurts to be rubbed that hard. How we eventually abandon parts of ourselves because of it.
It is now clear to me that our society hates children as much if not more than women. They are the most vulnerable among us, and we routinely enact violence upon them in the name of discipline, socialization, or because we are so sunk in our own re-stimulated childhood shame that we can’t protect them from our feelings. There has to be a better way. A way that doesn’t rely on abuse, shame, coercion, and fear. Because it’s crippling every single one of us, but our collective commitment to denial has us acting like we’re walking just fine.
Through my counseling, embodiment, and meditative work both solo with a therapist and in community with peers, I’ve come to understand how important authentic intimacy is to humans. How cultivating the ability to FEEL our feelings realistically and fluidly in the moment might be the most revolutionary, powerful work we take on. How it heals us; has healed me. I now know what it is to be seen, heard, and valued by other people who genuinely care about my well being. I know that this experience has helped me reclaim my identity and intuition.
I want my son to experience that from the start, for it to never be absent from his world. As a result, I reject the premise that in order to be accepted in our society a boy child must be circumcised, emotionally abandoned, shamed, and dominated. Because no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it, and detached disembodiment is a real problem. A problem I’m so committed to calling out and eradicating that I will suffer the personal discomfort of being judged and potentially ostracized by people who want to call me names, to laugh at the silly hippie lady, to discredit and minimize the power of love and intimacy.
I will continue to resist and contradict patriarchy’s violent, dogmatic lessons by choosing to parent him this way. Because I’ll be fucking goddamned if I stand by quietly and breed yet another misogynistic, entitled, white person without a second thought as to the sustainability of that choice. I believe our survival depends on our collective awakening to and rejection of violence. I believe that we must breed love and respect to survive; I really don’t see any other way out of this hemorrhaging empire we’ve constructed. I think we’ve hated ourselves long enough.
Mothers who ally themselves with patriarchy cannot love their sons rightly, for there will always come a moment when patriarchy will ask them to sacrifice their sons. –The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love