Dear Son

Before I knew if I was having a boy or a girl, I had resigned myself to two truths: I would either need to raise a strong, independent and loving woman or a strong, independent and loving man. Both would need to know self-worth and how to be a good person. But, the differences between having a boy and girl are stark. I would need to teach a girl about things like her period, how to hold her car keys like a weapon when walking alone…and how to avoid walking alone, whenever possible.

To me, having a boy meant teaching him to respect women, and how to be a good man, in general. When I found out I was, in fact, having a boy — and now — as I watch him grow, I think about more specific things from a mother and woman’s point of view.

So, here are some, and please — feel free to add yours in the comments, because I know I can’t cover everything here.

If you would never talk to me a certain way (and believe me — you won’t), don’t talk to her like that.

Ask a girl no one is dancing with to dance. That was your mom once. If anyone makes fun of you for it, that’s okay. You’ve just made a very nice memory for someone and that lasts MUCH longer than a few elbow nudges and jokes.

Don’t let her walk alone — especially mad — down a street, especially at night. Even if you think she’s being ridiculous. Do NOT let her go.

Don’t play with her heart. Be clear about how you feel and what you want. You don’t have the right to make up anyone else’s mind but your own.

Stand up for others who can’t stand up for themselves. Shut your dumb buddies up once in a while. The good ones will look up to you for it.

When it’s her ‘time of the month’ — that means she’s menstruating and yes, PMS is real — be extra patient, compassionate and kind. Let some things she says go and don’t take them personally. Do nice things for her. Go buy her feminine products and whatever she wants when she asks. Get bonus points for doing it without her asking. Basically, do what daddy does. Mommy taught him that.

It’s okay for her to have male friends, and for you to have female friends. It’s a big world, and we can all learn from each other. Insecurity is a very unattractive quality in anyone.

Open doors. Hold doors. All kinds of doors. For everyone, really but especially for her.

“No” means no. “I don’t know” also means no. Anything but ‘yes’ is no, so stop immediately and show respect with your actions and words.

Those are my tops, I think. Can’t wait to see what you all add.