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Monday, September 27, 2010

Creating a World of Joyful Hearts

On Sunday night, a friend and I sat by the banks of the Patuxent River, drinking red wine and watching the sky bloom into rosy, amber perfection before settling into darkness.

We had one of those conversations that you wish you could put in your pocket--witty, thoughtful, and reflective.

She was discussing the world she wanted for her daughters, and it made me think about the world I want my sons to give her daughters, and in turn, her daughters to give my sons.

In other words, it made me think: How do I raise men who treasure, value, and respect women?

Redefine Strength
Masculine strength is traditionally viewed through the prism of power and physicality. Don't get me wrong---there is nothing wrong with being physically strong. Yet, I try to teach my boys to recognize and admire strength in all its forms.

There is strength in speaking the truth, in proclaiming that it is not okay to use "fag" or "retard" as a pejorative.

There is strength in listening. Instead of thinking of what you're going to say next, be fully present and engaged in conversation.

There is strength in humility. Don't be afraid to admit that you need help, or you do not understand, or if you are afraid. Nothing builds a connection more quickly than simply acknowledging that we are all souls, and we are all on this journey together.

Recognize Our Light
Because we are all souls, we must live lives worthy of that light.

This means love should never hurt. We do not hurt our loved ones with words, our hands, or our bodies. We must never allow contempt to enter a relationship. Yes, people disagree. Yes, there may be anger. But never, ever allow those dark moments to extinguish another light.

This means that we are not better than anybody else. Talk to the waitress, the custodian, and the substitute teacher like you would talk to your grandmother. Say "please" and "thank you." Hold the door open for people, and pick up litter on the side of the road. Give blood. Buy a stranger a cup of coffee.

After all, that's somebody's baby.

Put Your Feet in the Moment
You only get one life. Embrace the miracle of life, fatherhood, friendship, and love.

Embrace the grace which comes from life's stumbles.

Seek the joy in a full moon, a cherry blossom, or a perfect line drive.

And, please. in the midst of all this...call your mother.

This post was written in support of a non-profit called The Joyful Heart Foundation, which was founded in 2004 by Mariska Hargitay, who plays Detective Olivia Benson on “Law & Order: SVU.”  Mariska started getting fan mail from rape survivors and was moved to create a foundation to help heal the victims of crimes dramatized on her show.  Joyful Heart’s initial and primary mission is to help victims of sexual assault mend their minds, bodies and spirits and reclaim their lives.

Today, the foundation is also at the forefront of an effort to end a disheartening backlog of tens of thousands of rape kits in labs across the country, a backlog that contributes to a rapist’s 80 percent chance of getting away with his crime.  The backlog and its detrimental effects will be the topic of an SVU episode on Wednesday, September 29th.




Please click here to read other writers' vision for their children's futures in support of this cause.

33 comments:

Unknown Mami said...

I think you will also inspire your sons to value women because you are a phenomenal woman.

Thank you for being such a phenomenally supportive friend these past couple of weeks. I've truly appreciated your kindness.

adrienzgirl said...

Your strength and your wholeness as a person never cease to astound me. If we all could and would strive to impart these things into our children, both boys and girls, what a wonderful future it would be.

Amazing post Nancy!

Snuggle Wasteland said...

I know that your boys will grow to be amazing men who will, in turn, raise amazing children of their own.

Michelle Pixie said...

I think you are raising amazing people who will be an inspiration to so many during their life simply because of the incredible mother they are blessed with. Beautiful post!

MiMi said...

I will have to print this one off, lady. Very good post.

From Tracie said...

I think your redefinition of strength is beautiful and perfect. Your boys will be incredible men, husbands, and fathers one day...in no small part due to their incredible mother who took the time to parent them intentionally, with love.

As a mother of a daughter...I hope there are a lot of sons out there with mother's like you!!

Daffy said...

I too will be printing this post and adding it the journal I keep for my daughter. While I often sit and reflect and wish and forward think of all that I hope her heart will be, I find myself more times than not paralyzed by the enormity of my hopes for her and the responsibility that comes with being her mother. My command of the English language and even the ability to reign in my own heartfelt thoughts always leaves me wanting, however you've done such a beautiful job here....

From Tracie was spot on with her comment. Your boys will grow to be amazing men! They will shine with your amazing light!

Grimmgirl said...

Moving comments and a great cause. Nice job. Tonight I shared with my son that he has a 29 year old cousin who will be sentenced this week to 13 to 20 years for stabbing someone in a bar fight. We talked about the kinds of poor decisions this man may have made to end up in this position. I remember the day this man was BORN, his life so full of promise, yet over the years I saw that his parents did not instill in him any of the qualities you mention. Even the best kids need guidance all along the way!

countryfriedmama said...

As the mother of two daughters, your mention of this question makes me hopeful for the future: "How do I raise men who treasure, value, and respect women?"

Thanks for your help in spreading the word about Joyful Heart.

The Empress said...

You think like I do, and work hard to change things for my boys, like I do.

Loved this post.

Maggie May said...

with our two sons we have thought a lot about this too, even before their sister was born. great post.

LB said...

Girl, you are too awesome to NOT have great kids. Are you kidding??? Beautiful post!

noisycolorfullively said...

Beautiful.

I've written comments on your last few posts. Many of them funny comments, if I do say so myself. All of them encouraging. For some reason, blogger has it out for me and my wordpress id. In fact, there is a huge chance this comment will never get published either. Humph.

Anyway, I'm a loyal reader and I love what you write! Don't ever stop, please :)

TKW said...

This is lovely. I wish all mothers would teach their sons the lessons your outline here. Strength comes in forms both bold and quiet. You are doing a brilliant job, mama.

Joey @ Big Teeth and Clouds said...

This is a beautiful post. I tried hard to think of something for this prompt and couldn't do it. I hope your young men inspire the rest of the world to do these things as well.

Sonya said...

I agree with all the posts! you are an amazing woman for sure and your sons are going to be wonderful because of you..there needs to be more women/Moms out there like you.

Ash said...

"After all, that's somebody's baby."

So simple, yet changes perspective so profoundly.

On a personal note, thank you for teaching that "retard" isn't acceptable. Blows me away how many adults do not grasp that concept.

The Blogging Goddess said...

BRAVO!! That is wonderful!!

An Imperfect Momma said...

That was beautiful. Thank you for sharing. And I feel the same way with my son. I pray that he learns those things constantly

Brian Miller said...

nice. some great thoughts n raising boys to men...i have two boys of my own and try to instill much the same in them...

Salt said...

Such a great post...your boys are going to grow up to be such gentlemen. And the world certainly needs more of them.

only a movie said...

Amen. Just beautiful.

StarTraci said...

You are raising men, not overgrown boys. You are raising men that I would be proud to know. You are raising men that will make the world better -- in their homes with their families and out in the world.

justlikethenumber.com said...

As a mother of a son and a daughter, I treasure these words. Wonderfully written, and something I'm sure to revisit.

sara said...

love doesn't hurt...what a lovely thing to teach your boys.

Coby said...

Beautiful, and amen.

bluecottonmemory said...

Yes! Call your mother!!! As a mother of sons, raising boys to men - you said it perfectly!!! Strength is not all about physicality! We are not better than anybody else, but maybe today they are stronger and can lift someone up, so that one day when they cannot lift themselves up, someone will return the favor. The heritage for kindness is long-lasting, like a never-emptying tank of gas. But selfish-ness won't get you a mile to where you want to go.

From one mom of sons to another - great post!!!!

Crystal Escobar said...

Oh wow! I just came across your blog, and I absolutely LOVE it! You're such a great writer, and extremely inspirational!!!

Crystal Escobar said...

oh, and by the way, I'm following your blog now :)

Quirkyloon said...

Well good luck with the don't say fag or retarded thingy.

I keep telling my 13 yr old. He just rolls his eyes at me. But I won't stop! So hopefully it will sink in.

Please don't hate me because my son is HUMAN and makes bad choices. *smile*

I appreciate your great wisdom!

Organic Motherhood with Cool Whip said...

What a beautiful post. And such an important cause to raise awareness for. Your boys are going to be such enlightened souls because they are growing up with an amazing mother like you.

Marla said...

Great foundation, great post and great line...call your mother.

Love this.

Kim said...

I was cruising through your archives and fell in love with this post. I'm raising two boys as well - younger than yours and I think about my responsibility to raise good, sensitive caring men all the time.