A letter to my son: How to treat young girls

A letter to my son: How to treat young girls

If there’s one thing any parent will tell you – it’s that oh so true saying: "The older the child, the bigger the headache."

Gerda and Aiden
Supplied/Gerda da Sousa

When you were born, Aidan, I prayed to God every night that he would just help me get you through the next day, week and month. I pleaded for the basics – please guide my maternal instinct to know when to feed my little boy. Motherhood 101 was my only request.

Then the daily appeals to the heavens above became a little bit longer – help me get him through grade 1 and all the homework. Motherhood 101 coupled with Maths.

At the age of 10 and knowing you were blessed with a brain for geography, science, and maths – my morning motherly wishes extended to the sports field. Help Aidan reach the other end of the swimming pool, let his helmet be strong enough against every ball bowled on the cricket field. Motherhood 101 a la sports cup.

You were saved from (most) of those bumps and bruises – and once again our family unit found ourselves marching onwards to the next milestone.  

As is the case so often in a mother’s life – looking back always makes the problems of the past seem frugal in comparison to the current headaches.

This one is especially difficult because it is me letting go.

Now, my son, my focus is shifting to the teenage boy you are becoming and the young man I would like to send into this world. However, this time around, I am painfully aware that I am playing a pivotal role and that my voice will have been the one you hear when it comes to one critical aspect: How to treat young girls.

I am not talking about your 4 and 5-year-old girl cousins. You carry them around with enough love for me to know they will always look up to you.

No, my darling boy, this is about the 13-year-old girls you share the classroom with. The girls you have gotten to know through your everyday life at school – when you run athletics and sit around during the break. Because this is where it starts. This is that age when the axis tilts towards you showing real respect for the person you are talking to – whether you share your chips with her, asking her for advice in the art class or trying to run rings around her while playing TAG on the playground. 

Tell her she runs faster than the boys if she does. Don’t be shy to say that her hair looks nice if she’s cut it short. Ask her why she looks sad. And congratulate her when she’s outdone you in a test. I know you so well, Aidan, that I can hear you argue you don’t want a girlfriend so why be nice. 

That’s exactly my point. If there’s only one thing I want you to learn this year – along with fractions and the periodic table of course – it’s that you are not only nice to a girl you have your eye on. Never. There shouldn’t be a specific reason why you pay a girl a compliment. See her for who she is, what she is achieving and the teenage friend you enjoy spending time with. Recognize the person she is and not a piece of flesh you are used to sitting next to in assembly. 

There’s a whole lot more to come when you learn about girls and believe me, between Mars and Venus – this is going to still spill into a vastness of the unknown. But that is a whole different letter.

For now, Aidan, my hope is that you stand strong in the belief of the gentleman that we have raised you to be. Treat the little girls with respect without wanting anything back. Don’t indulge in the boys’ gossip and spread stories about a girl. Just like you don't want that to happen to you. Don’t tease a crying girl. Carry her bag if you see her struggle.

And tell your friends to mind their own business.

In other words, Aidan, treat little girls the same you would me. Make your mother proud. 

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