Mami, My Way: Raising a Latino Man

Mami, My Way: Raising a Latino Man
Courtesy of Verky Arcos

Today, as women, we are more conscious of sexist behavior and are more apt to speak up on the inequalities that we face daily in the world than past generations. We fight so hard to be treated equally as men that when I had my daughter, some of the characteristics and beliefs I instilled in her were somewhat instinctive.  You know when you have a girl you must teach her to be brave, to speak her mind, to cross her legs when she has a skirt on, that "no" means "no" and, most importantly, that she can do anything a man can do. To me, these lessons were a no-brainer. However, when I had my son, it was a different story.

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With boys, we learn that they should be strong, not “cry like a girl.” But, as Roman gets older, I question, and actually check myself, on some of the qualities and characteristics I find myself instilling in him.

Both of my children are small, so every once in a while there may be a moment where one of them will run out of the bathroom naked thinking it's funny, or not thinking anything of it at all. When Roman has done it, we giggle and send him back to the bathroom. However, when Sienna has done it, all hell breaks loose because "she's a girl." I try to be a very conscious and introspective parent, and I realized that with our reaction, I am teaching them that a boy (or a man) can walk around more entitled and with no shame while the girl (or woman) gets shamed for the same exact thing. These were one of those times I checked myself, realizing that what I want them to both learn is that their bodies are sacred and belong to them and no one else.

But it’s not enough to just break down sexist ideas about girls. Gender roles also hurt the boys who become men.

Roman is three years old and, at the moment, he's going through a phase were he cries to express himself instead of just using his words. When this happens, I would say, "Stop crying right now. You are not hurt, so there is no reason to cry" or "Stop crying, you are a big strong boy. There is no reason to cry," and usually he would stop. That's the right thing to do, right? I mean, he's a boy, and if he is going to be a man, then he needs to learn to be strong, and being a strong man in our society means not crying –  WRONG!

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 I realized by reacting the way I do to his crying that I was teaching him that he couldn't show emotions. I thought to myself, "I'm going to create one of these men whose wife has major issues because she gets no emotion from her husband and can't have a heart-to-heart talk with him." I surely don't want that. So now when I see him tearing up, I ask him why. If I feel the reason isn't worthy of a cry, I still tell him to stop crying, but I also tell him it’s OK that he feels pain, whether physical or in his heart, because boys need to know they, as humans, are emotional beings, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.