When I found out I was pregnant with my younger son, I remember being told by quite a few people how lucky I was to have two sons, “Because boys are easier to raise than girls.” I was reminded that as a mother of boys, you don’t ever have to stay up wondering if your son is out getting his reputation ruined. You don’t have to worry about your son getting pregnant. You don’t have to worry about your son being assaulted by his date.
At the time, I vaguely understood that there wasn’t something quite right about the logic of these statements. Yes, it was biologically true that I would never have to worry about either of my sons getting pregnant, but somehow, it didn’t make sense why that would cause me to worry any less about them.
The news coming out of Steubenville, Ohio put into stark relief for me the reasons why I felt it wasn’t such a walk in the park to raise sons as opposed to daughters. Hearing the facts about how a teenage girl was violated by a group of teenage boys reminded me that as a mother of sons, I have a real responsibility to raise conscientious, compassionate, respectable young men who understand that just because they can do something, doesn’t mean they should.
As the mother of sons, I likely don’t have to worry about my sons being drugged or raped by a date, but I do have to worry about whether I’ve made sure that they both understand what true consent is and what being a responsible, honorable male means. In a world filled with less-than-honorable male celebrities and athletes being touted as role models, at times it feels like an uphill battle to ingrain in my boys what is truly “manly” and what is empty (and harmful) bravado.
As the mother of sons, I don’t have to worry about my sons coming home pregnant. But I do have to worry about them being irresponsible and getting a girlfriend or date pregnant before either is ready to become a parent. I have to worry about the societal and peer pressure that they are likely to face in their teens to have sex, even if they are not ready.
As the mother of sons, I still have to worry. And I still have to work hard to raise them right. Because my sons inhabit a world populated with other people’s daughters. And those daughters shouldn’t have to worry about the kind of boys they will meet at a high school party – they should just be able to enjoy their youth.