As an Egyptian woman, I, like many others, have many doubts about the way Egyptian males are brought up. From the discrimination in treatment to responses to actions, I watched many times how male cousins in my family got the royal treatment while we, the females got the “you can’t do this, you are a girl!” routine.
At first I blamed the parents for making such silly biased decisions based on gender. As I reached my adult years, I stumbled upon a lot of interesting characters, I met guys who had multiple personalities, so cool and modern from a distance but deeply buried was the typical Egyptian retro man. I met guys at work who treated their wives as belongings; I got infuriated by men who let their wives carry all family responsibility, and was shocked to see how some men are ready to consider one woman for love and another one as a respectable marriage material. Now I blamed the whole society for bringing up distorted men who believe that they are superior, forgivable and think of responsibility as an option. I vowed that if one day I had a boy I would make great effort to avoid the mistakes of the male society we live in.
And I got what I wanted, blessed with a boy I did my best to teach him right and wrong, to respect elders, respect that both men and women have equal rights and to be kind hearted. On the other hand, I caught myself clueless when it came to teaching him about responsibility or the value of time or money! But how could I have acted differently?
When he was old enough to get into a school or play a sport, old schools and old sports clubs meant to me pathetic, dirty and underpaid staff, so we paid a lump-sum to make sure that our precious boy got proper treatment and went to a clean place with peers from an acceptable social standard. When he was old enough to have a phone he aimed directly at a smart phone, I got it for him as a surprise, the hug I got was rewarding but the way he let it drop on the floor many times and ruin the screen only to be discarded along with other expensive gadgets made me angry, it seems that everything he wants initially means the world to him but later lay at the back of his closet with other dysfunctional stuff. When he was old enough to go places on his own, he wouldn’t take public transportation and I didn’t make him do errands for us. This got me thinking that I am doing what I hated, I am brining up my son to get the royal treatment and own almost anything he wants without working hard for it, I am making his dreams come true without him doing his best and it’s definitely not the way I want him to be or the image I see as a responsible man having a family of his own one day.
Now I do realize that while trying so hard to bring him up properly, I got confused between love and over protection, between working hard to get what he needs and being over stressed to get every insignificant need. So, criticizing other parents didn’t actually help me.
What I think will help is this:
1- Stay focused on who do you want your kid to turn into, a balanced boy would definitely turn into a great man, so balance his needs with his chores and kids need to do chores to learn the value of hard work, time and responsibility towards the family.
2- It’s OK to get him an expensive gadget, but help him save for it; he definitely would take care of it.
3- Be firm, if he begs you for a pet and swears he will be responsible, stick to your rules, don’t accept excuses that he is too busy to clean the cage or too tired to pick up the litter, you will end up doing it yourself and giving him an OK to break his promise and skip on responsibility.
4- Let him choose his own role model or hero and try to know why he chose that person (or cartoon character), guide him by talking to him more. Understanding the way they think and keeping them under supervision is the key to set things straight before it sets in their character.
5- Accept your kid for who he is, acquired and inherited traits are completely different things, if you push him so hard to change it will only lead to him to frustration and a frustrated kid trying too hard to please his parents will not make a good man in the future.
We usually make plans for weddings, interior decoration, vacations, but surprisingly, we don’t plan how we should raise our kids. Bringing up a man is not an easy job, especially in Egypt, where we are still surrounded by gender discrimination and confusion between Eastern tradition and Western habits. Raising a man requires a lot of patience and calmness, and above all, it requires us to set aside our own troubles and problems to focus on them, it’s a tough job, but it pays off!