I sprained my ankle the other day and I must confess I was not graceful and brave about it. I was loud, I howled, I kicked up a storm, and I even squeezed out some tears when I attempted to navigate myself around the premises with the ankle (the size of a melon) impeding my movement. The boy looked on with what, at first seemed like sympathy. And then sneered in a disgustingly scathing manner, "Don cry like a girl." I sank quickly onto the nearest available surface in shock. For all my feminist frothing at the mouth about sexism and suchlike, here he was, the homegrown spawn of my womb, declaiming ideology that would have me wringing necks in regular circumstances. "I am a girl," I replied. "And I am in pain. Why should I not cry?" He looked at me in confusion and then scurried off to find me some ice and a napkin as commanded in emergency first aid situation, and was back to being my concerned, helpful boy.
"Cry like a girl." I had two major issues with this statement, which I thought I'd discuss with him once the leg was okay enough to let me navigate my surroundings, without howling loud enough to wake up the dead from the cemeteries in the immediate suburb. The first was the implication that crying was no good. And the second was the assumption that only girls cry. God knows, we've spent enough of our post-feminist outrage on the stereotypes being passed down about being the emotionally weaker sex.
"You," I spat virulently at the caveman Y-chromosome donor, "Are the root cause of this." Ah yes, he could have argued, he is, because if his Y had not met my X, the boy would have never happened. He, in true retro-sexual male manner, shrugged his shoulders and grunted indecipherably in response. But I meant it in the literal way—he was the cause of the 'cry like a girl' thought process; I've heard him say it enough. And the boy has taken it to heart, because, when I think of it, he rarely cries. If he does cry ever, I know that he really is in terrible pain or is terribly hurt emotionally. A part of me worries about my son growing up to be the stereotypical 'macho' male. His father, the beloved Y-chromosome donor is of that variant—and it is a tough battle to get him to see beyond the role model that his father sets, who in turn gets it from his father. But the spouse, thankfully, does have the machismo tempered with good, old fashioned sensitivity, which is something I truly wish The Brat inherits from him.
This 'Cry like a girl' resulted in one of those Sit-Down-We-Need-To-Talk moments with The Brat yesterday. Getting him to sit down and pay attention is much like what the nuns in The Sound of Music sang about Maria—how do you keep a wave upon the sand and suchlike. When this 'wave' had been hemmed in, with access to the door blocked by a determined mamma, the 'wave' in question settled down to a civilised action figure wrestling 'bout on the bed, with one ear cocked reluctantly to listen to what the mamma was about to 'talk to him' about. In that manner, the Y-chromosome bearers of my family are alike. The simple words 'we need to talk' can strike unmitigated fear into their hearts, and therefore I use it occasionally and carefully.
"Why, dear child," I asked him, "Would you think that crying is something to be ashamed of?" He looked stonily into the distance in the Y-chromosome donor-patented manner. "Because only girls cry." I sighed. Deeply. The curtains rustled with the gale force of the sigh. "Why would you think only girls cry?" He whacked John Cena a mean left hook with the Randy Orton action figure before replying: "Because girls are weak."
I shook my head and decided to start from the very beginning. "Is mamma weak?" He looked up with a startled expression, remembering no doubt the infinite episodes of bellowing which might have caused curios and other artifacts carefully placed on display shelves to rattle and shatter from the sound waves. "Nope." "Is nanna weak?" His thoughts went to my mater, a feisty old lady in the tradition of feisty old ladies, quite likely to bat away anyone who offended her with two strikes of her umbrella and dust her hands calmly post it. He shook his head to indicate a negative. "Is daadi weak?" He shook his head again.
"Which girl, then," I continued, "is weak?" He thought long and he thought hard and came up with a bunch of assorted names of girls from his class and the playground. "Why are they weak?" I asked again. "Because they cry about everything." I recited the names of friends—boys—I'd seen bawling their hearts out when hurt or after a spat. "Are they weak?" I asked. I could see the cogs and wheels in his brain circuitry spinning and whirring as he tried to assimilate this. I rounded it off by giving him a nice little speech about emotions and pain and expression and how being strong is not necessarily a virtue and crying is not necessarily a weakness. There was no shame in crying, I repeated, and I told him that while I didn't stand for crying at the drop of a hat over miniscule reasons (you must remember here, I am a mother who goes through a box of band aids with a ferocity that rivals how fast I get through a box of Ferrero Rochers), it was perfectly acceptable for him to cry if he felt sad, or if was in pain. The body, I told him, has created tears as a response to negative feelings and to cleanse the system. He nodded and went back to his action figures decimating each other in a particularly vicious WWE bout. Then he paused, and pulled out a tissue from the box, and handed it to Randy Orton. "What happened?" I asked, "Why have you taken out a tissue?" He gave me the look he reserves for times when I'm being really dense and he thinks I need to get the white-coated ones to take me into a padded cell with the straitjacket buckled on tight. "Randy Orton got hurt. He's crying. Dat's why."