I’m the mommy of two boys. I’d love to have a girl, but I’m a bit afraid to give it a try because I’m not sure how to raise a girl. Malagasy women and girls face many challenges, and I’m not sure I’m equipped to teach a girl what to do in order to succeed, or just to survive.
I’m a woman now, but have been a girl too and I know that it’s not easy. I learned this at a very young age while I observed what happened at home. My father (may his soul rest in peace now) had a serious addiction to alcohol, and he used to beat my mother – a lot. My younger brother and I witnessed many fights and abuse. These scenes are printed in my mind forever, though I pretend I’ve forgotten them.
My father drank because he was not happy with his life. He was a skilled musician – he played classical guitar and traverse flute like a god – but he never shined as a recognized virtuoso. He didn’t make much money, and Mom had to work very hard to support our household. I think Dad didn’t like this. He felt emasculated. He felt miserable. Instead of trying to overcome his problems, he drank in order to forget them and took out his anger on my mom.
Violence is such a mystery to me. I was 10 when my parents divorced, and I already knew many things children shouldn’t have to know. My dad died two years after that. He most likely died while drunk. Someone got him to hospital where, because he was unconscious, he couldn’t tell the doctors that he was diabetic. They used inadequate medicines and he died. We only found out the day after. I went to see him at the hospital and when I stared into the empty bed where he was supposed to be, the nurse just told me “The guy who was there died this morning,” without any other comment. Well, okay… Something broke inside of me.
I will not share more details, because I want to spare my mom and my brother. But I will say that the three of us are all survivors of addiction – a silent war millions of people suffer around the world, every day. We all found different ways to overcome it. For me it is hard work and activism, with a particular focus on promoting and defending women’s rights. Adversity shapes our personality in ways we don’t expect. All we have to do is to find enough strength in our hardship in order to rise again.
Now, back to my boys. I would like to find a way to teach them how to respect girls and to grow up to be gentlemen, but I’m not sure I am getting it right. My mind is full of doubt. I’m not self-confident. Motherhood is an amazing, yet terrifying, adventure. Am I a good model for them? Should I tell them this horrible story of growing up affected by addiction, so that they can understand what I mean? How do we raise good boys and girls? I don’t have the answers but expect some from you, fellow mothers….
It feels good to share my story, sad though it may be. Writing is like therapy for me. Girls deserve better and everyone must do their part in order to improve the situation. Silence is not a solution. We have to stand against injustice at every opportunity. Whatever your fight is, and whoever you are, I m standing with you to say RESIST, HOLD ON, better days are ahead!
A couple of weeks ago, shortly before Toronto schools let out for the summer, my ten-year-old son talked to me about an older boy who was bothering him in the school yard. This kid was trying to take his basketball and saying things like, “You’re such a woman.”
We helped my son through that situation, and the last few days of the school year passed uneventfully. That incident didn’t stop bothering me, though. With all of the gains we like to think we have made when it comes to gender equality, we still live in a world where boys use the word “woman” as an insult.
What message does that send to any girls who happen to be standing around listening? How are they supposed to feel about themselves and their roles in society?
What message does it send to boys like my son? How can I raise him to be respectful toward women when the attitude that men are superior is already present in elementary school?
This morning, something else happened that concerned me. My son and I were part of a cluster of parents and kids waiting for their summer school bus to show up. The adults were chatting and drinking coffee; the kids were playing hopscotch and kicking soccer balls around. It was all fun and games, until a little boy ran up behind a little girl and bonked her lightly on the head.
Now, the little boy was just goofing around, but the little girl was very upset. She ran up to her mother and told her about the mean boy bonking her on the head. Another parent standing nearby said, “Oh, that just means he likes you!”
This may seem harmless to many people, but it really isn’t. It plants the seed in our kids – boys and girls – that abuse is an acceptable demonstration of affection. It teaches girls that in order to be liked, they have to put up with people treating them badly. It teaches boys that they can be jerks and get away with it.
As parents of young kids, we often try to avoid thinking of our kids eventually dating. But the reality is that eventually, our kids will date.
And they way they will treat their boyfriends or girlfriends – and the way they will expect to be treated in return – will be based on the interpersonal skills they are learning now, at the ages of eight, nine and ten.
We live in a society where, in spite of enormous progress when it comes to gender equality, women are still routinely discriminated against. We are told what we have to look like in order to be considered beautiful. We are blamed for injustices that are committed against us, like rape or domestic violence. We are paid less than men in equivalent positions, and even though so many of us work outside the home, we still bear the brunt of household responsibilities.
As the mother of sons, I feel a responsibility to do my part to turn the tide. As they navigate their school years, I want my boys to treat the girls they encounter with respect. I want them to speak out against injustices that they see, and to stand up for girls who find themselves in difficult situations. The school yard incidents that I have seen are the reason we have a problem. I want my sons to be a part of the solution.
Are you the parent of boys or girls? How do you teach them about gender equality and fairness?
This is an original post to World Moms Network by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit: Jonathan Rhodes. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
Kirsten Doyle was born in South Africa. After completing university, she drifted for a while and finally washed up in Canada in 2000. She is Mom to two boys who have reached the stage of eating everything in sight (but still remaining skinny).
Kirsten was a computer programmer for a while before migrating into I.T. project management. Eventually she tossed in the corporate life entirely in order to be a self-employed writer and editor. She is now living her best life writing about mental health and addictions, and posting videos to two YouTube channels.
When Kirsten is not wrestling with her kids or writing up a storm, she can be seen on Toronto's streets putting many miles onto her running shoes. Every year, she runs a half-marathon to benefit children with autism, inspired by her older son who lives life on the autism spectrum.
Final piece of information: Kirsten is lucky enough to be married to the funniest guy in the world.
Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Be sure to check out her YouTube channels at My Gen X Life and Word Salad With Coffee!
“Please join us in the 2016 #Heartfulness Meditation Conference in the USA. If you are a World Moms Network contributor, or reader, or fan, please contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a free pass.”
Our Senior Editor, Purnima Ramakrishnan in India recently interviewed Dr. Veronique Nicolai for World Moms Blog.
Purnima Ramakrishnan: Are your children practicing Heartfulness meditation?
Dr. Veronique Nicolai: Yes. Our daughter started a little less than a year ago. She has seen us meditating since she was born. She said she was waiting for her to be old enough to start. We have always shared whatever we learned or discovered with Heartfulness with them. But I always told her that what I could share was nothing compared to what I am experiencing and she could know about meditation only when she was going to try it herself.
So, now that my daughter meditates, she comes out of her meditation with her eyes shining and says – “Wow!” I am happy that she started her own wonderful inner journey.
A child practicing Heartfulness Relaxation
PR: What are the health benefits you have observed in your child(ren) after they have started Heartfulness meditation?
VN: I have not only seen my daughter, but also other youth starting meditation early, and it has been amazing to see how strong it makes them. Children look incredibly happier; it shows on their face, they keep this brightness in their eyes. They are whole, authentic and balanced. And what is more important, this attitude is supported by the meditation practice, so it stays with them even when they fly out of the nest.
I used to worry about how my children were going to manage in the ‘outside world’ and I would have been easily over protective. But with them meditating and keeping their heart compass intact, I am very confident that they will help other youth find their balance too.
PR: What about the other holistic benefits for children to try Heartfulness Relaxation?
VN: I will give you a very practical example of how my son uses the Heartfulness relaxation. He is very sensitive and movies or stories can impress him. Sometimes he says he feels heavy and not able to fall asleep. So we do the relaxation together. I hold his feet in my hands and guide him into relaxation. And it helps like magic!
A child relaxing before going to sleep, relaxing before their exams or revisions, relaxing at these crucial times, helps him/her in the long run, in his life. It gives composure and they perform better. For some time, I did not even know they were doing it at school and enjoying it.
Such relaxed states of mind, helps us bring into this world, a balanced, content, happy breed of humanity who loves peace. We have a better generation ahead of us, which is not just holistic benefits for children, it is a holistic world, filled with compassion and peace.
PR: Please share a few things about Heartfulness Meditation which children and mothers should know for effective practising.
VN: To have balanced children, you have to have balanced parents. So the onus is first on us – parents. You can relaxation techniques for your younger kids whenever there is a stress, or to help in a difficult moment. But I would definitely recommend using it as a routine to go to sleep, everyday. It helps the child to enter sleep in relaxed manner and will ensure a quality sleep.
The hours of sleep before midnight are most important as deep sleep happens then. Deep sleep is crucial for growing children; it is then that the body heals, fights against infection and inflammation and when the growth hormone is produced.
We do not insist enough on the importance of a good night’s sleep in a growing child. It is even truer for teenagers!
The Heartfulness relaxation will teach in a natural way the child to listen to his heart, because the Heartfulness relaxation takes the child to the heart. And that is where the greatest values lie, and it will shape the child’s destiny.
Part – 1 of Dr. veronique Nicolai’s interview is published here.
World Moms Network has teamed up with the Heartfulness Institute as a media partner for their meditation conferences, the next one is at NJPAC. This interview post is part of the conference promotional, by Senior Editor, Purnima Ramakrishnan in India.
Purnima Ramakrishnan is an UNCA award winning journalist and the recipient of the fellowship in Journalism by International Reporting Project, John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Her International reports from Brazil are found here .
She is also the recipient of the BlogHer '13 International Activist Scholarship Award .
She is a Senior Editor at World Moms Blog who writes passionately about social and other causes in India. Her parental journey is documented both here at World Moms Blog and also at her personal Blog, The Alchemist's Blog. She can be reached through this page .
She also contributes to Huffington Post .
Purnima was once a tech-savvy gal who lived in the corporate world of sleek vehicles and their electronics. She has a Master's degree in Electronics Engineering, but after working for 6 years as a Design Engineer, she decided to quit it all to become a Stay-At-Home-Mom to be with her son!
This smart mom was born and raised in India, and she has moved to live in coastal India with her husband, who is a physician, and her son who is in primary grade school.
She is a practitioner and trainer of Heartfulness Meditation.
Over a sumptuous dinner with my girlfriends last weekend, we naturally got talking about our children. One of us had just enrolled for an eight-week programme specifically for ‘Mothers with Sons’.
For a cost of about $150 USD, with learning taking place once a week (Saturdays) for two hours, the course teaches how to raise our sons into fine young gentlemen. This is a good idea, if you ask me, because there is something about the crop of young men that we are increasingly seeing in Kenyan society today –men who are not as ambitious or focused as their fathers were, and men who would rather take the back seat as women take up the role of being the heads of the home.
In Africa, and I believe the much of the rest of the world, it is traditionally men who take up the leadership of the home. However, we are nowadays seeing more and more female-headed households.
This is due to a myriad of reasons, one of them being the fact that some men are just not willing to take up that kind of responsibility. This leads to the question: how were these men raised as boys? Weren’t our core values of hard work, discipline, consistency and responsibility instilled in them by their parents? This, I suppose, forms the rationale of such a programme that my friends and I were discussing last weekend.
The majority of moms who attend the programme are urban moms – career women who have enviable corporate or NGO jobs or run their own businesses. They are in their thirties to mid-forties, with their children mostly below the age of 12 years. These are women who receive updates from Baby Center and other informative parenting sites on how best to raise children. They attend First Aid courses and other related programmes about parenting. Some of these programmes are church-based, while others are sponsored by brands that seek out these types of moms and their children. Keen on learning different things about raising their children, you’ll find many urban moms today engrossed in courses and informative material about how to best raise their children.
But as my friends and I asked ourselves over dinner – do we pass on all we learn to the people who are helping us raise our children, specifically our housekeepers and nannies? In Kenya, most middle and upper-income families employ housekeepers and nannies to help with the domestic chores and take care of the children. They are the ones who actually spend a significant amount of time with the children during the day.
With all the demands of today’s modern woman – challenging jobs that require them to leave their homes at the crack of dawn and return at about 9pm – after spending hours in the traffic jam, or checking on their small business after work, or attending their Masters’ degree programme in the evening, attending a business meeting, or even having cocktails with the girls. By the time these modern women get home, the children are already asleep. On Saturdays, these women are busy running errands or attending weddings or baby showers/bridal showers, parenting classes and other such engagements and once again, return home late in the evening. Sunday is the only day where they get to spend time with their children.
So six days per week, it is essentially the nannies who are ‘raising’ their children. Nannies actually spend more time with their children than the moms do. So my girlfriends and I wondered, do these moms then pass on the information that they learn in their expensive courses, parenting newsletters and websites to the nannies? If the nannies are the ones spending the most time with the children, should we not focus on giving them the wealth of information we seek out about raising children? We didn’t get an answer, but I hope we will sometime.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by World Mom, Maryanne Waweru-Wanyama of Kenya of Mummy Tales.
Maryanne Waweru-Wanyama, a mother of two boys, writes for a living. She lives in Nairobi, Kenya with her family. Maryanne, a Christian who is passionate about telling stories, hopes blogging will be a good way for her to engage in her foremost passion as she spreads the message of hope and faith through her own experiences and those of other women, children, mums and dads. She can be found at Mummy Tales.
When meditation became the big thing last year, just like yoga in the 1970s, my editor at Taiwan’s Commonwealth Parenting Magazine wanted me to write a piece about meditating with children. So I interviewed Jeff Zlotnik of Meditation Initiative for this assignment. He told me that kids can begin to practice meditation at the age of five, starting with a two minute session.
“Seriously? Does that really work?”
“Yes.” He then explained to me, while scientific evidence shows that human brains benefit from meditation sessions longer than 40 minutes, it is almost impossible to ask a 5-year-old to sit and meditate for that long. A two minute session is appropriate for a 5-year-old, and “even a short session like that helps relief stress and calm kids down.” (more…)
The other day I went to my teenage son’s soccer tournament, and because his game was delayed, I watched a girls’ match finish on the other field. Actually, thanks to the British history in Abu Dhabi, I should say that I went to the “football fixture,” watched the girls play “on the other pitch,” and then at the end of the day took my son to the sports store so he could buy a new pair of “boots” (not cleats). Who knew when we moved here five years ago that one of the ways we would adapt is learning to speak a different version of our native tongue?
As I watched the girls’ match, two girls maneuvered the ball across the pitch, their teammates shrieking encouragement. One girl—a headscarf covering her hair, and leggings under her athletic shorts—passed the ball to her teammate, whose long ponytail was streaked light blue. They brought the ball down the pitch—passed left, passed right—and then Ponytail shot for the goal. The ball bounced off a goal post, looked like it was going to go wide, and then sank into the back of the net past the goalie’s outstretched hands.
“Nice shot,” murmured my son. “Really good pass, too.” Neither of us knew the girls who were playing, but his comment made me happy nevertheless. As the mother of sons, I collect “girl power” moments like this one to remind my sons that they do not have the market cornered on sports excellence. Now that he’d seen for himself, I wouldn’t have to risk being Tiresome Mom by pointing out that those were girls playing pretty kick-ass football.
It’s easy to see in this little episode a lesson about hijab not being the symbol of oppression that so many non-Muslims are quick to assume it is. This girl left her opponents in the dust as she raced down the field, and she pounded her thighs in elation when the ball went into the net. Her war whoop as she ran to the sidelines to celebrate with her teammates would be recognized anywhere as the screech of a happy athlete.
But that’s not really the point. The point has to do with the fact that my fifteen-year-old son didn’t notice the headscarf or the leggings—or the blue ponytail, for that matter—he noticed the football. He noticed what the girls were doing, not what they looked like. As my son moves closer to manhood, a process that seems to be unfolding faster and faster despite my attempts to keep him “my boy” as long as I can, I wonder if my feminist politics have rubbed off: will he become a man who sees what women can do rather than how they look or what they’re wearing?
Isn’t that the question we ask ourselves as our children—those firm little packages of flesh that seemed at one point soldered to our hips—move out into the world: we want to know if our lessons have sunk in, if they’ve been listening even as they seem glued to the Snapchat world in their phones. Does my darling son talk about girls as “hotties” when he’s with his buddies; does he chime in when the conversation turns to which girl has the best body and why?
I don’t know. All I can know is that the other day, what he saw was two people playing great football.
Who knows. Maybe if enough children grow up appreciating what people can do, rather than what they look like or what they do (or don’t) wear on their heads, the world might become a more level playing field pitch.
How do you create awareness about gender equality for your children?
After twenty-plus years in Manhattan, Deborah Quinn and her family moved to Abu Dhabi (in the United Arab Emirates), where she spends a great deal of time driving her sons back and forth to soccer practice. She writes about travel, politics, feminism, education, and the absurdities of living in a place where temperatures regularly go above 110F.
Deborah can also be found on her blog, Mannahattamamma.