Is raising a man as easy as it seems?
They say parenting gets easier as children get older, but I can honestly say that the job of a parent becomes more challenging as your children become of adolescent age and go through a transition when starting secondary school.
When I reminisce, I can actually admit to myself that the nappy changing, tantrums, sleepless nights, potty training, bottle feeding, teething, teaching my sons how to walk and talk were just a touch of reality. The real work started when they had their own personalities, went to school, created their own social lives, which as the parent I'm still constantly running around trying to give them the best in life.
Financially and physically raising two boys is hard, but I get by because I work hard and invest my time into projects which help provide extra income for my family. I don't intend to sugar coat being a single parent, because it does have its disadvantages. Everything is on you, even when you're unwell. No matter how angry you feel, or tired you are, you have to put those feelings aside for the sake of your children. You can't take out what you're going through on them, because it's not their fault.
There are good and bad days with everything, but what I try to avoid displaying are my weaknesses in front of my sons, because I want them to be strong. I want them to grow into men who know how to handle their emotions well. I want them to know their role with dignity. I want them to be able to know how to keep it together to protect their own families in the future. As women, we are emotional, we cry when things go wrong. But most of all we look for that person to protect us and show us that things will be ok. I want my boys to have those outstanding qualities within them.
Being a parent is a challenge. It's tiring, time consuming and costly. But what parent wouldn't do the best they could for their children? After all, becoming a parent is a blessing. Not everyone is fortunate.
The fact that I'm raising two boys alone has not been the easiest of jobs, whilst holding down a part time job, writing, speaking at events and building two of my own businesses. But, considering it has been full of more ups than downs, I'm sure it will be very rewarding in years to come.
What many people fail to realise, is that whilst I may be a superwoman surviving, I too feel the hardship that both parents in a 2.4 family may feel. It's double work and sometimes it means sacrificing my own needs. I have a limited social life, where many a time I don't get to see my own friends. I try my best to plan in 'me time' because everyone needs time to relax, but it's not always possible. On many occasions, I've found myself worrying about the pressures of life, especially when bills need paying, but I just have to smile. Smile, because my children are blessed to have me. They are happy, healthy and they want for nothing.
I’ve never been one to say that children don't need their fathers, because realistically, I believe all children do. But what they don't need is a father who is unable to be a good role model and who consistently lets them down. Children need support, love, structure and a stable environment and when these can't be met, I don't judge any woman for making the stand to do it alone. I actually reached that point a few years ago and I have no regrets. I did what was best for my children at the time. What I do not agree with is when single mothers brag about being able to do the job alone and not needing a man in their children’s lives. No woman in her right mind should want to be a single mother, but as we all know, circumstances change situations and sometimes it's out of our control.
I wish both my boys had their dads involved in their lives, but when you have been disrespected over and over again, made to feel that you're in a competition to raise that child and the child has been made numerous promises that have been broken, you resort to walking away to avoid all the stress. No child should be in the middle of emotional turmoil between their parents. A mother and father should be able to work together and look out for the best interests of that child.
As a single mother, I put myself under so much unnecessary pressure when it comes to raising my children, because I'm trying my best to make my children want more than just being on the streets. I involve them in extra curricular activities just to avoid the stereotyping that boys being raised by single mothers always fail, especially those who are from afro caribbean backgrounds. You hear it all the time, "He doesn’t have a dad, so that’s why he behaves the way he does." I find it sad, because as a mother who does put a lot of time and effort into both her sons, I hope that the love I give, will be enough to let my boys see how important it is to make me proud.
Yes, I wish things had been different with the fathers of my sons, but all I can do, is keep going, no matter how much I just want to run away and cry sometimes. I have to keep reminding myself that the struggle will not be forever. It's ok to have a breaking point, because at the end of the day I'm only human. When you have no alternative, how can you not try to fill the fathers shoes?
When I wrote my first book, Players Vs the Unconventional Woman, it made me analyse all the negative males I encountered on my journey in life. I was able to recognise the players that I allowed to manipulate me, whilst I had lost my self-worth. It made me know exactly how I wanted to raise my sons and how to avoid them being like the men I once knew.
I aim to teach my boys to have respect for women, a respect which will one day help them to build their own relationships. By encouraging them to study hard with my guidance and my achievements, I want them to see that anything is possible. I want them to have goals and to strive for whatever it is they want from life. Whenever they are naughty, I discipline them by taking away the things they love. I want them to understand the consequences of wrongdoing and that includes having children they cannot provide for. I want them to learn that success means making sacrifices. I cannot force them to go down the right path, because as they get older they must make their own decisions. I just hope that through seeing the hardship I had to go as a single mum and not having their fathers around makes them more determined to give what they didn’t have back to their own children. There has been a repeated pattern as regards to me not having my father in my life, so it has made me more determined for my boys not to feel the way I did. That is why I surround them with the good male role models in my family.
When raising our sons, there are many things which contribute to how we raise them. Is it what we learn from our parents? Do they observe how we learn? Do our sons see us persevere through hard times, resolve issues, show strength, work ethic, kindness and most of all our love? In that will they learn a lesson, some of the most important lessons, where they learn to be good people?
How does a boy learn to be a man in the absence of a father? Must they seek out a father figure, become a father, or does being a good person outweigh being a good man or woman?
My aim in this blog is to talk about raising young men, as this is what I'm learning on a daily basis as a mother to two beautiful sons.
As women, we can guide our boys, we can show them certain aspects of life, but we can't teach them how to be men. As much as I hoped the job would be easy, it really isn’t. I never really questioned how difficult it would be, when I decided to have children with the men I hoped would have shared my sons' journeys. Whilst I say that they haven't been around as much as they should have been, I can only imagine how they feel when they hear that their sons are doing well without their input. What is important now, is that I continue to have the support of male members in my family, who represent positive role models to help me get my boys through life.
I don’t think until you are alone, that you experience the hardship of holding a family together. I never realised as a woman, how hard life would be for my boys in society. Times have changed since I was growing up and today children have so much more to prove.
We have to teach our sons to love themselves, to value who they are, to know that they are everything and more. We have to remind them that knowledge is power and being a statistic is not the way forward. We have to set examples for our sons in order for them to see good. Hence, why I try my best to surround my boys with positivity. If they don’t set goals, what reason would they want to achieve? We constantly have to show our sons the right path in the hope they take the right direction. What is really important, is that we set boundaries so that they don't over step the mark, but most of all make sure good communication is in place, to the point they respect and trust us.
Growing up in the 80's/90's was so much easier in regards to opportunities, studying and finding a job. Everything today seems unfamiliar, so I feel like I am learning with my sons. The fear challenge I am experiencing is due the unknown unfamiliar territory? So will each year, milestone, bring the same level of accepting the past, whilst facing the unknown present? The changing face of society makes us realise that we do not have all the answers for our children and we cannot explain all that takes place in society today. But is that what makes the absence of an explanation the challenge? Would the task be one filled with less unknowns if the boys were growing up in the era of our own youth, where we knew what to expect?
In fact, growing up for boys in today's world is very hard. Not only are they surrounded by lots of negativity, hate crime, racism, they are also in danger of being targeted by gangs and everything else that comes with being in one.
When your children are babies they are under your wing to protect 24/7. But once they reach adolescent years, you find that you can only protect them so much. They are not in view all the time and it's very scary, because every parent wants and hopes that their children are safe and not involved in anything illegal. I pray every day that my sons will continue to live their lives without being in fear. Fear to walk down the road without being attacked. Fear that society has made them believe that they can't do better and achieve higher.
All I can say is, reality hit me very hard, when my oldest son went through the transition of starting secondary school and he was unfortunate to experience the hardship of bullying, and adapting to the big change. We don't realise how much our children depend on us whilst growing up. Having to now face new faces, even more responsibility and use organisation skills they never knew existed isn't easy, but they have to learn in order to become men.
From bullies to detentions for the simplest of things, disturbing a lesson by calling out because they are so eager to ask questions, it has made me ask myself this question, would things have been different if my son had his father involved in his life on a regular basis?
Boys can go down the wrong path even when they have a good man around. But what a father can give to his son is his presence, knowledge and love. That is more important than anything else. What does it mean to be a man? A man can show a upcoming man, how to be a man through his example. The role of the father is to be a positive role model for his son and help him to adopt a healthy gender identity as well as a better awareness of his feelings and emotions, because a father is a man a child should look up to.