As a dad, I feel a huge responsibility to influence my son in the right way. We live in a society that is rightfully very diverse, but not always as equal as it should be. Bringing up a child in a world where inequality, racism and bigotry is rife, as parents, I think we need to give our kids the right messages so they can make the right decisions in the future.
Stereotypically, boys are taught to be strong. They are told from a young age (by many) that big boys don’t cry and that they need to stop being so soft about things. Schools can be tough places and often anyone who is different or stands out in anyway becomes the recipient of unwanted attention – often negative.
I want to teach my boy to want to be himself, even if it means being different. Recently, I got a book called “Stories of Boys who Dare to be Different”, an illustrated non-fiction book, crammed full of stories of successes by people who society deemed to be different.
Each double page tells the story of someone who did something amazing for the world in concise, succinct paragraphs coupled with colourful illustrations. Each night, we sit together and read about 3 different people who dared to break the mould. Our boy’s got no idea what’s going on at the moment, but I’m hoping the words of Ben Brooks and the stories of these great men stick in his head.
Like any parent, I hope that my son goes on to do something amazing in the world. I don’t mean that I expect him to cure world hunger or anything like that, but I hope he leads a fulfilling life that allows him to help others and make the world a better place. Showing him from a young age that it’s ok to be different is something I want to engrain in him. I want him to understand about sexuality and race, I want him to be able to empathise and respect different cultures and most of all, I want him to be able to tell others about the importance of being different.
Stories for Boys who Dare to be Different has reminded me of how important it is to be a good person, but it also made me smile a lot. The stories of people succeeding in the face of adversity reminded me that although there are people that always hold others down, there are also those who persist and remain determined. It is one of those people I hope my son becomes.