Sunday, October 11, 2009

Little Boys

Gus is posting about an important topic, one that's been especially on my mind today.

I am the mother of an only son, an amazingly kind and gentle man who is so strong that he takes away my breath, often, regularly, spectacularly. I am the older sister of two little brothers, and the aunt of three nephews. I am the great-aunt of the world's cutest almost-one-year-old little boy, and I am -- as you may have heard -- a grandmother to my grandson. I held him a few minutes after his birth, looked into his eyes, said and meant "Namaste," and have been madly in love, ever since.

It's a sign of the Goddess' grand sense of humor that she's sent so many little boys into the life of this militant feminist, this Dianic witch, this old woman who would still love, at some point, to nurture a girl-child of my line. Maybe the joke's on the young men.

Today, I was considering the fact that there can be something so incredibly, burningly pure about a little boy's need for certain things. (It may be so for little girls, as well, I just wouldn't know.) Even when they're not the objects that I'd prefer to provide, I've coughed up the cash for them, simply because it was obvious to me that the little boy in question truly needed the object, and by "needed" I mean, "had to have in order to actualize," had to have in order for the universe not to veer off just that much wrong.

When Son was all gangly bones and adolescent longings and full of the need to move on, we did the campus tours, and he set foot on the Earth at Princeton, and he looked at me (a background of wisteria by the gate, as I remember it), and he told me that he needed to go there. I didn't like it. They had all-male eating clubs at the time. From the time that he'd been in my womb, I'd imagined sending him to St. John's in Annapolis for the education that I'd wanted, but couldn't have. But what I liked and wanted and what that nascent young man needed were two different things. Son went to Princeton.

At one point in his childhood, Son wanted a kit that took fingerprints -- a way to catch other people's secrets -- more than he wanted anything. I don't mean that he "wanted" it, I mean that, in order to be and become who he had to be, Son needed it. I was all the way broke at the time. I don't remember what bill I paid late, but I did get him the fingerprint kit with the magnifying glass, and the dusting powder, and the secret chart that explained everything.

G/Son and I have lately been enjoying the whole Redwall series, and G/Son has taken wholeheartedly, in the way that only little boys can take wholeheartedly, to the story of Matthias, the warrior who defends Redwall Abbey against all comers. I introduced him to the series, feeling that a steady diet of Pixar and Batman were somehow not meeting his deeper need for myth and for a hero with whom to identify. For a few weeks now, G/Son has been telling me, in that way that little boys have of telling you, and telling you that this REALLY matters, that he needed a sword and a shield, just like Martin and Matthias, the warriors. I don't like war, I don't like the notion of chopping up other beings with swords, I don't like the societal story that men get their value based upon whom they can kill. I don't know if this deep need for a weapon in all the little boys that I've known is genetic, or cultural, or some interesting brew of both.

But I know true need when I see it.

And I think that it just kills your own soul to see need that raw and to ignore it. I do.

Today, Son and I took G/Son to the Maryland Renaissance Festival and we ate spiced pecans and we drank meade and we listened to fiddles and bagpipes and we bought a wooden sword with a blue handle and a wooden shield with a blue dragon and we got a blue battle axe dripping blood painted on G/Son's forearm and we had, all in all, a perfect Autumn day.

Was I right? Was I wrong? Am I fostering exactly the wrong thing in the next generation? Am I simply giving way to a cultural/biological imperative? I don't know.

I only know that need that certain and that pure should be met.

That the world is better when such needs are filled and filled by one who loves the person who burns inside the flame of that need. When I was leaving this afternoon, Son told G/Son to "say 'thank you' to Nonna for everything," even though G/Son already had. G/Son looked with the eyes of his old soul deep into my old eyes and said:

"Thank you for getting me my sword and my shield."

I said, "You're welcome. I could tell that you needed them."

Then I went to my car and broke down in tears. Sometimes, my life is too wonderful for me to even bear.

I hope that Gus and our other elders can give us advice about little boys. How do we raise them in the 21st Century? What should their Nonnas be telling them? I want a better way to sister, to aunt, to mother, to grandmother our little boys. I just don't know what it is. And I'm not sure it's the sun dance that Gus proposes, but I'm willing to listen to all sorts of advice on this. I'm the one person who needs to know: the person placed in the position of sister, aunt, etc. But I don't know.

I only love and hope and try to provide what's needed. Goddess willing, that's enough.


ErinPDX said...

Lovely post. We've sprung for the musical instruments, equipment, lessons and it has been well worth it.

Vicki said...

What a beautiful post. I understand. I've done the same.

And the world is a better place, and my daughter is a better person, for it.

This made me cry, btw.

Lavanah said...

The Goddess played no jokes, Hecate. You, as a loving militant feminist and Dianic witch, have done a far better job than most at loving and helping to guide wonderful male children. As for your grandson and his sword and shield, he is learning to protect those who need his protection, just as his Nonna does in the courtroom.

Teacats said...

Yes. True souls call to each other and the other simply understands. A shield and a sword? Have you not watched Disney's Sleeping Beauty? When the fairies grant the prince his weapons and charge them with the needed magic? "Sword of Truth, Fly Swift and Sure, Let Evil Die and Truth Endure" So mote it Be.

Jan at Rosemary Cottage

crowsfoxes said...

Perhaps, Hecate, the plastic sword will become a pen in his hand, writing laws or exposing the evils of the world. The shield could become the protection he provides to the unloved and unwanted as he cares for those less fortunate. You are doing a great job, Nonna, keep it up!

nanoboy said...

A red-blooded American male here. I can tell you that most of us (most especially male) have a perverse attraction to violence in one form or another. According to my mother, she tried to keep any violent media away from me, but despite that, at one point I chewed a fig Newton into an approximate gun shape and went "pachoo, pachoo" with it while sitting in my high chair. I think it's part of our evolutionary heritage. Even if we don't want to hurt anyone, especially those we know and love, we have this drive to know how to inflict injury. Without it, we cannot protect those we love.

I am a well-adjusted and gentle person who can be politically classified as a quasi-dove, but I do like violent media. I like football, war movies, crime movies, books about how to make war, books about the instruments of war, first-person shooters (a type of video game), war strategy games, role-playing games involving all manner of combat... I like to practice German longsword technique with my wooden waster. (Incidentally, if your grandson is interested in it, there is a revival in western martial arts, so he can learn how to properly and effectively wield a sword and shield.)

I've learned that I cannot consider this a bad part of myself. It's part of who we are as people, and where things go wrong are in our choices to do ill to others. That is where we have to be careful. We have to recognize who real people are and how hurting them is a terrible, terrible thing, reserved only for special situations. We have to learn about mercy and honor. That's really the trick, not shying away from violence as entertainment or an academic curiosity but realizing how it should and especially how it should not be inflicted.

fyreflye said...

Arthur had to manifest the strength to withdraw Excalibur from the stone before he could assume his rightful place in the world. Power, even violence, is as natural a part of the world as is love. The man of wisdom is not the one who shuns it but the one who knows when it is absolutely necessary to use it.

Double Jointed Fingers said...

What a beautiful post! This witch has been given 3 sisters, 2 daughters, 2 granddaughters and lo and behold a grandson.

I was totally alien to boy children, but he is a thinking child, and a thinker is a marvelous thing. He is currently enthralled with vampire books. I just love him to pieces.

Anonymous said...

Great post & comments.

Oh, the many layers we move through as we grow and manifest signs of recognizing ourselves as a whole person, as part of a greater whole, and a force to be reckoned with vis-a-vis an array of other forces.

G/son's need for shield and sword (and your recognition of authenticity of his need) made my mind wander through my Latin roots archive, zeroing in on the words integrity, integument, integer from the roots teg- or tect- meaning protection, wholeness, undivided, one.

I also did teh google search for the etymology of the word violence (thought to derive from vi, viva, via meaning force or way). I found this link,
and this note:
In M.E. the word also was applied in ref. to heat, sunlight, smoke, etc., with the sense "having some quality so strongly as to produce a powerful

and this:
Magna vis conscientiae.
The force of conscience is great.

Just goes to show how essential meanings are transformed depending upon the field of gravity. Fortunately, young M/Arthur is lucky to have a Nonna like you.

geor3ge said...

What Lavanah said. :)

Who better to teach the next generation of men the true worth of women?