Sunday, 23 December 2012

Two layers of manliness

To say that my son is growing UP is an understatement.

He's not yet 13 but I've just bought him men's size pyjamas. He's about 3cm taller than I, but that is clearly because I am a very short Singaporean female at 1.58m.

It's also my fault that I have been feeding him 'man-size meals' since he was five.

He was 90cm tall at two years old so that before one visit back to Singapore I had to drill him on using the MRT gates. We practised the action of mum slotting in his card, imagining the barrier opening , and him having to go through quickly before the barrier closed , mum retrieving his card before mum going through herself.

He was tall in stature but young in years.

In the last three months however he was, more importantly, growing up emotionally in a way I did not expect, and in a most delightful way.

He went through a very rough patch in the early summer that caused us a lot of grief, but then suddenly he started behaving like a young man as mothers would like young men to behave.

Recently I checked to see if he was warm enough in the clothes he was wearing. His answer, "Mum, don't worry. I have one layer of clothes and two layers of manliness."

His voice is only just breaking but he is thinking and learning ways of being manly ... and POLITE. That can be a shock to the system. But I am not complaining. The other mothers at school keep telling me how 'charming' he is. I reassure them that he's not always like that at home.

So it was interesting to read this article about how women like their men: Bring back the gentleman!

Someone asked a Bible College lecturer, "The Bible has lots of principles that wives are supposed to follow. What about the husbands?"

The lecturer said, without hesitation, that what God expects of the wife, He also expects of the husband.

Now we are not going to debate that here as it shades into the region of 'equality' and how equality is not the same as 'sameness', but some of the comments to this news report also suggest that men also expect women to be 'gentlewomen'.

Kindness, politeness, graciousness, awareness of others, both men and women are free to give these 'gifts' away. So why not give as generously as possible?

Instead just yesterday I saw a young lady speaking in a very agitated manner with her neck sticking out, finger jabbing in the air, as she told her companion (or victim?) what she was most unhappy about in a very loud voice in a very public place.

I  see groups of older and younger teenagers, boys and girls, swaggering in the shopping precinct effing and blinding, eating and talking loudly, throwing rubbish onto the ground, etc. I often stopped my son if he were with me to say, "On no account do I want to see you or even hear reports of you behaving like that."

Worse, if I may say so, "If a girl behaves like that, then she is not worthy of you."

Manliness? Sometimes young men think that to be seen as kind or polite is to be seen as being weak, a wimp, not macho enough, etc. The truth is it takes a big man to be kind, and polite, and gracious and all that.

Because a big man knows that when push comes to shove, he is (probably) bigger, stronger and more courageous than those who merely talk. As my primary school teacher told me once, and I have never forgotten, empty vessels make the most noise.

If we had a daughter I would also expect her to be all that.

When I was young I read about girls being sent to 'finishing schools', to learn etiquette and the manners to help them get on with life.

I wonder if there is a market for my next business idea: a 'prep school' for young men and women as they go into the world, and as they prepare to settle down in a relationship. How many of our young book-smart people are able to live independently, keeping house, managing budgets, cooking, cleaning, ironing, etc without a live-in 'foreign domestic worker'?

Manliness? I think it begins at home. When dad shows that it is not beneath him to make tea and coffee, cook, etc.

What about 'womanliness' then? How does one practise womanliness without shading into flirtatiousness? I think that is a more complex matter.

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