Raising Male Chauvanist Pigs

Copyright © 1997 by CarolAnn Jarnagin

This story appeared in the May, 1997 issue of M.E.N. Magazine

CarolAnn Jarnagin, from Fort Worth, TX, is an active participant on the Men's Issues Forum and Women On-Line, where she writes a weekly column.

  "Men are only boys grown tall; hearts don't change much after all."   
  - attributed to Josephine Hunt Pixley  

"My babies are becoming male chauvinist pigs!"

Not so long ago, I was wailing this over the phone to my mother, who was listening in what I perceived to be sympathetic silence. Later, I discovered she was trying desperately not to laugh at me. Allow me to explain....

Recently, I have noticed that my sons have been coming to me for one set of needs, and have begun to go to my husband for another. Case in point:

"Mom, I'm hungry," one boy says.

"OK. What do you want?" I reply.

"Could you make hamburgers?"

"Sure. Ask your dad to come here and help me."

"Oh - he can't. We're busy playing Mortal Kombat. Call us when it's ready!"

I feed my children - my husband turns things into strawberry jam on a computer screen for their amusement. I do their laundry - my husband kills monsters in the back yard. I bandage their knees - my husband takes them rollerblading to keep Mom's Infirmary in business. Suddenly, Dad is the "cool" parent - I'm not.

At first it was difficult - all I could see was that my little babies were abandoning Mommy and turning into sexist, knuckle-dragging gorillas. Of course, I attributed this to my husband's stronger influence over them. I was no longer the center of their universe. Now I had to share my spot in the limelight, and I didn't like it at all. Besides, what valid lessons could he possibly teach my boys?

This is where the above-mentioned telephone conversation comes in.

My mother, wise woman that she is, explained to me I was acting like a child, overreacting to erroneously perceived snubs. In her words - "Grow up, CarolAnn." She suggested I watch the boys play with their father and see if I could recognize the dynamics of the father-son relationship at work. Although I protested mightily, saying there wasn't going to be any dynamic worth noticing, she wore me down and extracted a promise from me to observe them over the next week.

So I did - reluctantly at first, but then with growing interest. I saw that my sons were maturing physically and emotionally at an astounding rate, and I saw things in their personalities that I didn't know existed. Surprisingly to me, my husband did. I saw the emerging aggressiveness of my oldest son being channeled into constructive physical activity and the development of a protection instinct. I saw my youngest son becoming more and more self-reliant, losing the tendency to run to Mommy for the slightest little scrape and bruise and handling confrontations with the neighborhood children without resorting to fights.

I saw my sons becoming men.

Light dawned with a blinding flash. Humility came with it like a speeding semi-truck. I suddenly realized that I can't teach my sons how to be men.

There are some things in this world that are intrinsic to the male psyche, and these are the things that only a father can shape in his son. I have fulfilled my part - I have, I hope, taught my sons to nurture and care. My husband's part is just beginning - to teach them to provide and protect, to build and shelter. Although my sons will always need me and will never completely desert me, they will learn the most important things about themselves from their father.

That is how it should be. Only a man can successfully mold another man.

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