I don't want my sons to be heroes...

19 August 2016

Dear man at the beach,

If I wanted your advice I would have asked for it. If it wasn't bad enough that my son was jumped on by a dog and chased around shocked and scared you choose to attack me too...

Did you think it was a good time to step in with your excellent advice? Are you a child behaviour expert or just an interfering knob head? Do you even have kids?

None of this actually matters. You don't matter, neither does your opinion. All that mattered to me at that moment was comforting my frightened son and making him feel safe. 

You don't know me or my son. You have no idea who we are, how we tick. What if my son had been attacked previously by a dog? What if he had special needs (as it happens it wasn't my autistic son who was shocked.) Would you have reacted the same?

At first I thought you were showing sympathy but no... according to you by comforting my son, I was making it worse, making him frightened of dogs. As I understand it (you were speaking quickly and angrily in Dutch at the time) he needs toughening up...

At this point I was like a goldfish gulping for air and conscious that my autistic son was now looking very stressed at this man talking loudly to his mum. (Loud talking makes him very nervous.) So I muttered something about; What are you talking about? We have a dog ourselves, he's not frightened of dogs...and walked away quickly!

But then I mulled over what you said all the way home and all afternoon it went round and round my head. Stupid really as I imagine I haven't crossed your mind once. Maybe verbally attacking vulnerable women with children is a regular occurrence for you? Having my parenting skills questioned thankfully isn't a regular occurrence for me.

I wish I could see you again to ask. Would you have reacted in that way if he had been a girl?

Why is it that my son must be a hero, a tough guy, why must he hide his emotions and not show fear. Why shouldn't I comfort him?

I am raising my son to be a loving, kind, caring human being who is not afraid to express his feelings. He is sensitive and thoughtful and wants nothing more than to be a clown because they make people happy. I am proud of the person he is becoming...

I do not need/want to toughen up my son. Why should I? Does it make him more of a man?

I suppose that depends on your view of what a man is.

Let me tell you that he is already becoming the kind of man that I admire, who will make a difference to others, will treat his partner with respect, be a strong yet caring father, who will spread happiness and laughter, wonder and fun wherever he goes...

I hope you heard our conversation as we walked away. I told him not to listen to the silly, big, tough man. I told him never to hide his feelings. I told him it was normal to be shocked and scared when a dog jumps up at you... I told him he was OK and I held his hand until he was confident enough to go off and play.

A boy does not have to act like a super hero to be a man... My boys are my heros they make me proud every day simply by being themselves... 

So man at the beach take your advice and stick it where the sun doesn't shine!

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