I've been party to a number of conversations recently that have got me thinking about this subject. Raising my son to be a gentleman has always been one of my mantras, particularly in the scary modern world of gaming that seems to idolise characters that, I can safely say, without arguement, are not who we could ever class as gentlemen!
Body image isn't just about weight, it's being too short, too tall, too thin. Wearing glasses or having big feet. Anything that doesn't conform to the norm. We need to remind our children that different is good, and that there are more important things to consider at the tender age of five, than how fat you look in a puffer jacket.
As my children get older, particularly because they are boys, I find other people - their father included - respond with little or no patience to the damp emotion. In fact, anything non-life-threatening that provokes tears is usually met with a flippant, "What are you crying about now? Big boys don't cry!"
My boys don't conform to stereotypes, they have long hair which they both love and don't want to cut, they love bold clothes, are both fiercely bright and fun, funny and thoughtful and love to pick wildflowers and brush my hair (and tell me I'm a princess), as much as they enjoy running outside, kicking balls and climbing trees.
Little boy, you broke my heart today. We were at your very first classmate birthday party: a bouncy castle in the corner, cake and balloon plates ready on a table, preschooler shrieks echoing bat-like against the walls. You'd been talking about it for weeks. You fidgeted as we put on a shirt and jumper, and zipped ahead of me on your scooter as we walked down to the hall in the sunshine.
It worries me that boys are told that showing emotion is a weakness. And don't get me started on their notion of invincibility and willingness to jump off sheer cliff faces just for the hell of it. So, with all of this in mind, I've done a lot of thinking about how I can raise my boys to be good men.