I love you, more than I love myself -- and your father (but this stays between us, he loves the idea of being the great love of my life). For years I prayed for a son because I became obsessed with the idea that I need to contribute to the small pool of good men to choose from. I've learned however that the unfortunate thing about life is that as a parent, you raise a human with a mind of their own and it's almost impossible to control the decisions they make.
For the first few years of your life, I will be with you physically for most of the hours of your day but soon you'll go to school and most of your time will be spent there. You will learn new lessons, from your teachers and your peers but I want you to hold on to my words and treat them as a guide whenever you are faced with decisions. Picture me as the good voice sitting on your shoulders pleading with you to do the right thing. I need my voice to be stronger than the other voices in your life. I'm your mother, trust me to want the best for you.
1. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"
This is the most valuable lesson you'll learn but only if you apply it practically. Baby, you will face heartbreak and this is a normal part of your life. What your friends might tell you is that the best way to avoid heartbreak is to become the heartbreaker -- this way you'll remain in control, they'll say. This, my son, is no way to live.
I implore you to accept that heartbreak as a lesson. I need you to allow yourself to feel, to heal your heart and then get up and love again. It is not cute or cool to be known as a notorious heartbreaker or "player" or whatever kids of your generation will call it. It's not cool to deliberately build the trust of another only to wreck it after that. Before you do anything, I need you to place yourself in the shoes of the other person involved. How would you feel if they did what you were thinking of doing to them? If it would break you or if it would hurt you, don't do it. Walk away.
2. Do not "man up"
Own your emotions. You're allowed to cry if you want to and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Sadness and disappointment are not emotions that make you "less of a man". If anything, it makes you a human and one who is emotionally intelligent. So cry. Talk about your feelings to someone you trust to listen to and possibly advise you on what to do about how you feel. A big part of owning your emotions as an adult is making sure you are able to channel your emotions effectively.
Don't lash out at someone when you're angry. Stop and think because, baby, words are powerful and they stick in the minds of the person you are communicating them to, more than you know. So rather stop and think before you run your mouth. And don't you dare call sharing your emotions "gay". "Gay" is not a slur you get to use to describe anything you view to be "lesser than". And you might realise you are gay at some stage later in life. Be careful with your words.
3. Do not shame women
Women are multi-dimensional beings, just like you are. Your friends will tell you about the "hoes" and the "bitches". A woman is not defined by her ability to take care of your domestic needs, nor her fulfillment of her sexual needs. People will try to tell you that some women are "wife material", while others are simply there to have "good times" with. Baby, this is a very dangerous mindset to have. It assumes that some people are at your disposal to use while others need to work and earn your affection. You better respect every woman you ever encounter because you will never be too old for me to scold for being disrespectful.
Women are sexual beings just like you. Women get sexual urges in the same way that you do, so don't you dare call them names for fulfilling themselves sexually in the same way that you and your friends do. A woman who loves sex can also be a good partner to you, and that I have to explain that saddens me. But baby, the world will have you think otherwise and I need you to be discerning enough to call out the bullsh*t.
Don't refer to women as objects. Women are not one thing or the other. They are not one-dimensional. Do not treat them like they are.
4. Women are not your possession
Consent is everything. Rape is wrong. Beating a woman is wrong. This is all people will tell you but there is so much more to consent and abusing women. Baby, if you enter into a relationship with a woman and you have promised each other monogamy, you need to honour that. If you don't want to be in a monogamous relationship then find a partner who wants the same thing as you. It is unfair to subject someone to the pain of your adultery when they did not sign up for it. Choose and let her choose too. Do not lie to a woman just to get your way, this is manipulative and again I implore you to put yourself in her shoes. And with whoever you choose to enter a relationship, some people will tell you cheating on them is in your DNA -- or something like that. Apparently, it's "what men do". Tell them to grow up, please.
5. Take responsibility for your actions
No human being is perfect. You will make mistakes, this is inevitable. When you do, however, you need to take responsibility for those mistakes and learn from them. You need to introspect and look at what you can fix to make sure you don't make the same mistakes again. Blaming someone else for what you have done wrong will not help you, and playing the victim is not beneficial at all. Stick around and face your sins.
Here's an example to help you understand what I mean: if you impregnate someone before you are ready to have a child and she decides to keep it, then you better stay and father that child. The world owes you nothing. If you father a child, then you must take responsibility for the action you were very much a part of. You cannot blame anyone else for that, so face it, live with it and learn from it.
Son, you need to deal with traumatic experiences in your life. You need to sort through the impact they have on you, otherwise you will make the mistakes of those who came before you.
6. Make friends with people who help you grow
I'm hoping that you will do this automatically. But I've seen so many men surround themselves with people they don't even respect. I don't understand this behaviour but I hope you'll be wise enough to surround yourself with people who edify you. I hope you will be strong enough to say no to the kind of people who do not share your values. I hope you will be friends with people who are aligned with you. I hope they will call you out when you are wrong and that you will do the same for them. I hope they are the kind of people you will sit down and talk to about your dreams, your ambitions, your pain and your joy. I hope they will be good people.
There's so much more I could say to you but unfortunately, I do not know all the struggles you will face. I can only tell you the things I wish some men I met over my lifetime had remembered when they interacted with me and my friends. They made claims of being good men. So, my son, I hope my lessons will teach you to be a good person, because being a good man is simply not good enough.
P.S. If I forget to hold you or your father to these standards, just send me a link to this letter. Don't let me fall into the role of the patriarchal idea of how a mother should treat her son or husband.