My oldest son loves books filled with odd facts and random trivia. He shuns chapter books, but he will stay up late into the night reading “Weird But True” books filling his head with odd facts and weird trivia to share the next morning. Or even the same night, as I often hear him calling out from his room.
“Did you know that 100 billion servings of instant ramen noodles are sold each year?”
“Do you know how many Girl Scout cookies are sold each year? Two-hundred million!”
“Did you know that a palm tree isn’t a tree, but a type of grass?”
I am continually amazed at the things my son already knows. But even though he can blow me out of the water with his knowledge of absurd trivia and sports stats, there are still a few things I need him and his brother to know. Things that he can’t get from a book he reads at night. Things he can’t get from watching Sports Center. Things he can’t find out from a quick Google search.
No, if I were going to make a (non-exclusive) list of things I want my sons to know, it might look something like this:
- French fries are not a vegetable.
- Being a boy doesn’t mean you can’t be a feminist. Neither does liking sports and burgers and action movies. Just like wearing makeup and getting manicures don’t make me any less of a feminist.
- Learn the joys of chair dancing. And dancing in general. Bad dancing is more fun than no dancing at all.
- Know and appreciate the musical genius of Prince, the Rolling Stones, and Etta James.
- There is such a thing as the perfect cup of coffee.
- Know how to give a compliment — a real honest-to-goodness compliment, not that fake bullshit that people can sniff from a mile away — and then give those compliments away like candy.
- Know how to apologize. Being the first to say “I’m sorry” isn’t a sign of weakness, but an act of courage and strength.
- Boys do cry.
- Know the difference between a maxi pad and pantyliner. At some point in your life, you will be sent to the store to buy feminine hygiene products and, believe me, the difference between maxi pads and pantyliners is significant. (Side note: Avoid using the word “panty,” except when used before the word “liner.”)
- You can be both strong and sensitive; they are not incompatible.
- Phrases like “man up” and “like a man” have no significance.
- Please understand proper toilet seat etiquette. Put the seat up before peeing. Put the seat down when you’re done. Clean up any messes. But also be wary of toilet seat zealots. There are bigger things to worry about than whether the toilet seat is up or down. The same is true for the direction the toilet paper roll faces. Just change the damn roll and we’ll all be happy.
- Only have sex when you are ready. Not because your friends are having sex, or because your hormones are acting like a mad scientist with your minds and bodies. Only have sex when you are physically and emotionally ready to handle sex and the what-comes-after. Because there is always a what-comes-after.
- No means no. Always.
- Your gender doesn’t define you. Neither does your job, car, or bank account. Being a good friend, a hard worker, and a kind person are the things that define a person.
- And finally, know that once upon a time I was a person other Mom. I was fun. I didn’t always care about bedtimes and chore charts. Once upon a time, I was a little kid just like you, ready to learn things and certain that I already knew it all. Until I realized that we’re never too old to learn something new, that there is always something we don’t know. Like the speed at which tortoises crawl. (In case you’re wondering, it’s one mile/hour).