I tell my current husband that he is an oddity in my dating life. He never played a sport growing up. He was in gifted classes, whip smart since forever, and her prefers MSNBC to ESPN.
Now, it is not lost on me that most parents, especially fathers, put their sons in some sort of sport in order to toughen them up. Or, to teach them certain intangibles like sportsmanship, camaraderie or discipline. I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. My entire life I saw how important sports are, were, and could be in the life of young men. The most popular sports clubs here are the Boys & Girls Club of America and the Matthews-Dickey Boys Club (now, Boys & Girls Club). I am in favor of children regardless of gender having an outlet for their hobbies and interests. But as a mother now, though I have no sons, I know the importance of allow a child autonomy. I understand the importance of allowing a child to come to the discovery of their own interests.
Just like every girl doesn’t want to play with Barbies, not every boy wants to play football.
This doesn’t make a little boy ‘soft’ or ‘weak’ or ‘gay’ because they don’t want to put on gear and throw a ball. Just like we hype up our young men that play the traditionally masculine sports of football; we need to hype up the young men that are gifted writers. Or speakers. Or get easy A’s in chemistry or physics. Or draw well. Even the young men that love music, drama and may even be called to religious leadership.
We have to expand the definition of masculinity or what is considered masculine for our young men! We have to provide them the same space we give girls to be expressive without attaching a sexual expression to it. We have to allow our little boys to explore the world too. We have to allow them the space to own their lives in a way they believe best suits them. If your son doesn’t want to play football, but he likes photography? Don’t make fun of him! Get him a camera!
If your son would rather watch ESPN and creates a makeshift newsdesk from cardboard and markers? Take a minute and listen to him pretend to be Michael Smith from ESPN. This month, let us give our little boys the right to dream again. Give them the right to see the world as a little bigger than what it is.
Let them know they can achieve, and they are special. Let them know they can conquer the world–and don’t need cleats to do so.