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I've grown up listening this saying all around me. “Boys don't cry”. Listening to something over the years and growing up with it somehow makes you believe it. That happened with me too. Whenever my son used to cry people around him, that includes me, his father, his grandparents, used to instantly say, “boys don’t cry. Stop crying”. Although this didn’t make him stop crying and he continued to be his own self and cry over anything he didn’t like or whenever he got upset. Recently when he got hurt while playing and was crying, I was about to say it again but then I realised the mistake I was doing all the years!
I was telling him to bolt up his emotions by not letting him cry. Being sad, upset, anxious are just emotions just like being happy, elated and excited. When he is allowed to laugh as much as he want then why not cry. Human emotions are very strong and sometimes even we adults are overwhelmed by it. Irony is that we never hear anybody saying ‘girls don’t cry'. No, I am not being feminist here. I am just being humanist. All babies cry when they are born. If boys are not supposed to cry then why do they cry when they are born.
Of course, a man is more strong physically than a woman but that doesn’t make woman weaker. ‘Be a man' is the most common phrase you can listen. What you’re telling your little boy by saying that? As he'll grow up listening to that he'll believe that its not ok to cry, that crying and being sad is the business of girls. How will you feel if you are asked to bolt up your emotions inside you, when you’re not able to express your self freely. That would lead to frustration and being uncomfortable whenever you'll feel sad and anxious. Its not about being ‘mumma's boy', its just that I don’t want my little boy to hear ‘be a man' again.
Another phrase which many people still use is ‘girls don’t jump'. As if jumping is what only boys do. Just wondering if that’s what Dipa karmakar's parents thought that there would not be any one representing India in gymnastics in Olympics. Sitting in a proper manner applies to everyone irrespective of gender. Again, I am not being feminist, I am humanist remember!
It is also sending a wrong message to both my kids, 5 year old boy and 2 year old girl. Its not ok for my girl to cry at the drop of hat just the way its not for my boy. My boy will think that people who cry are weak. He’ll not understand that its just a emotion not the parameter to judge strength. They'll think that being a man means only being rough and tough. I want them to realise that one can be sensitive and rough and tough at the same time. Its all about balancing and understanding yourself. Person who understands and is comfortable in his skin will understands others better. It takes great effort to express yourself, to be yourself and not to pretend.
Handling one's emotions and dealing with uncomfortable feelings is what being a man means. Its being the strength for your loved ones while balancing your feelings, your sadness. A more confident, able person is what we want our kids to be. They'll be that when they are comfortable in their own skin. I am not saying “boys don’t cry” and “be a man” anymore. Instead I say, “its ok” and “be strong” to both my kids. In the end, all I want to say is “Be more thoughtful with what you say to your kids. Your words will become their action tomorrow”.