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The responsibility of raising boys

I assumed I was having a girl when I found out I was pregnant three years ago.

After all, I came from a family of girls. A feisty collection of sisters and aunts and cousins and grandmothers and a proud, powerful mother who all significantly shaped my life and perspective on what it means to be a woman.

So when the ultrasound technician said, “You’re having a boy,” my reaction was that of utter confusion.

“No, I’m not,” I said, shaking my head.

Mind you, I wasn’t angry or disappointed. Motherhood is something I always wanted, in any form.

I was simply baffled by the fuzzy outline of my baby on the projector and the comical arrow pointing to the undeniable proof that he was, in fact, a boy. I hadn’t made room in my mind for life with a son. I was preparing for pigtails and tea parties and preparing my little girl to one day take on the world as a strong, confident woman.

If parenting were a final exam, I felt like I could ace having a daughter. But something intimidated me about having a son, and my mind raced with questions as I left the doctor, ranging from broad concerns (i.e., “What if I’m incapable of understanding him and it hurts our relationship?”) to more specific fears (i.e., “How do you even potty train a boy?”)

It didn’t take long for me to realize I was overreacting (and admittedly hormonal), but it took a little longer to realize how raising a son would not only help broaden my perspective of the world, but ultimately give me the opportunity to shape the way he views and treats women throughout his life.

When the teenage years hit and the tough conversations start, that viewpoint will be critical to his understanding of life’s most important lessons beyond how to shave or tie a Windsor knot. Conversations about sexual assault, domestic violence and the constantly reinforced point that no means no every time, no matter the circumstances. That a woman’s worth isn’t determined by the length of her skirt or a number on a scale. That a woman’s body was not designed for the purpose of being ogled or criticized, or as a vehicle for politicians who’ve deemed her incapable of making decisions about her own reproductive health.

As important as it is to empower women to succeed, it’s just as important to empower men to understand and help confront the issues women continue to struggle with, from objectification to online harassment to workplace inequality and beyond.

It is the only way to elevate the next generation to tackle these issues and make the world a better place for our daughters.

And our sons.

Alex McDaniel is Editor of the Oxford EAGLE. She can be reached at alex.mcdaniel@oxfordeagle.com.