My first stepson was a very sweet, gentle, quiet boy. He did well at school. He never liked rough tough play. He liked reading and playing by himself. He liked quiet play with the few friends he had. He was well mannered, kind and thoughtful. When his brother and sister were born (my children), he was typically loving, caring and gentle.
But his lack of ‘boyishness’ always bothered me. I was concerned he was too soft for his own good, that he’d get pushed around in later life. I thought he needed to show the kind of aggressiveness many boys exhibit, so for years I encouraged him to play rough, and be a bit louder, brasher and stronger.
But he never changed. He stayed the same. He’s still the same now.
Imagine the strength of character it must have taken for a small boy to ignore his Scottish stepdad’s demands to toughen up. Imagine knowing your own mind at 5 or 6 years old. He knew what was right for him and he stuck to his principles.
Now that’s what I call inner strength.
When I think about it now, I’m awed by his integrity and self respect, and I can’t help thinking it’s what we need in the world now – boys being raised to feel a sense of inner strength, self respect and integrity.
We don’t need to make them tough, because there’s already too much toughness in the world. But there’s plenty of room for love and understanding, and we need it more than ever.
So I take my hat off to you, JM! After all that effort of trying to change you, and it was you that changed me. And you weren’t even trying.