There Is Gentle
When I was pregnant the second time, I harbored a fear.
I was afraid that the baby inside me would be
I’d spent the previous couple of years hanging out with a sweet, calm, kind little girl. I liked the little girl. When I’d take her places, like to the library, we’d sit together in shock and awe, staring at the little boys as they hung from the stacks, fought over toys, belted each other with hardcover pop-up books, jumped off the couches, spun the paperback racks as though they’d melt into butter if enough G-force was achieved.
Cowed by this behavior, I murmured to the chromosomes inside my body, “Please, no Y. Please, no Y. Two XXs? Good. Y? No. Please. I’m not ready to have my refrigerator whacked with a stick.”
Certainly, a good part of this thinking came from the dizzying whirl of Pregnancy Brain, that hormone-infused entity darting toward the sunniest of days before plummeting into the darkest of gloom as it explores every possible permutation of the future.
However, history attests that if a stick thwacks, a punch connects, a war decimates, a bomb detonates, the force behind that violent action will almost invariably be male.
Biology + power + opportunity = men are behind most of the violence.
This is not condemnation–just adding up the facts. Alternately, it is also important to note that women excel at relational aggression, poison, and methodical dismantling over time. It’s simply a different skill set. When women put their minds to nastiness, their subtle, wearing, diminishing cruelty creams an honest sword-swipe to the neck.
So I was pregnant, and although I wasn’t in constant worry about the gender, I did harbor a niggling concern that a boy could hurt our hardwood.
Then he was born—the fluffiest, most cuddly little hugger ever to sport low-hanging fruit. The boy who came out of me has spent the first eleven years of his life requesting “softie clothes,” wanting to cradle egg yolks in his palms, cooing over ducklings, asking his parents if they’d like one of his self-patented massages, whispering to me when we spot a toddler, “Did you see her pudgy little arms?” When we go to the public library, he sits with the rest of us, staring in astonished wonder, dumbfounded by the rambunctious hijinks of his boy-sterous peers. Indeed, my fear of having a boy was groundless, for my son is the most soft-hearted and tender member of our troupe.
Of course, had he been born into a different time, a different country, a different culture, a different family, a different religion, a different life, his natural sweetness, the same natural sweetness that exists inside nearly every human at birth, no matter the gender, could have become corrupted by circumstance. Through the sheer random luck of being born a white, middle-class American; of being born into an educated family that values peace, love, and understanding; of being born into a conflict-free region, my son’s most radicalized life moments may revolve around demanding better sushi.
Around the world, every day, there is violence within homes, violence with guns, violent beatings, violent explosions that kill innocents. Occasionally–exponentially less often than in most other countries–the United States feels the impact of this male-driven violence up close, firsthand. When we do, we sit on our couches, stunned, subdued, horrified, devastated.
While we mourn the loss of life, the loss of security, the loss of feeling untouchable, we should, similarly, mourn for those mothers and fathers everywhere whose softie sons’ shining sweetnesses, when scoured by prickly reality, lost their sheen. In their boys, as exists in mine, there once was limitless potential–for compassion, kindness, caring. Woefully often, however, their sons’ softness was replaced by hardness and hatred.
I am achingly sorry about that. I feel for mothers and fathers and sons and daughters. I feel for us all.
When violence erupts, it is a reminder to me that I must continue to foster the gentleness that defines my son. I must provide him with a life and environment that recognize others’ humanity; I must teach him mercy and forgiveness; I must help my son be a reminder to the world that another type of male exists.
For every punch that breaks a jaw, tackle that snaps a femur, bullet that pierces a forehead, bomb that obliterates someone’s legs, there are are millions of tender, loving, gentle boys who provide comfort and solace, their grace countering the callousness of a world that is unbearably hard.