At Castle Frenchington, we’ve reached something of an important crossroads—and I don’t mean how I spent the other afternoon in the passenger seat of my car while my teenager slalomed around potholes in the Rave Cinemas parking lot. I’m talking about cultivating a more enlightened relationship with women.
When your boys are young, gender politics is pretty simple: Girls are alien beings who may or may not be teeming with virulent, mythical bacteria. But now that my sons are 15 and 12, and body types start to diverge, and there is talk about “liking,” and Facebook Liking (and even “like-liking”), we veer into a whole new area, where girls are alien beings and also scary.
And that’s where Mother’s Day comes in
To get the full picture of why Mother’s Day grows in importance every year, it would probably help to outline what life is like for the Three French Men. When my boys are with me, we live within a decidedly masculine environment. Our needs are basic, without much attention to décor. We eat. We load and unload the dishwasher. We wear matching socks (usually). We indulge the sounds our bodies make, and intermittently beg each other’s pardon.
We clean up well, but maybe not as often as we might if we lived with full-time female personnel. And that’s something we’re absolutely working on: As any parent of boys knows, you inevitably reach a tipping point when you realize you spend more than half your life teaching them to be less disgusting.
The point is, there’s plenty of opportunity to retreat into our man-castle, throw our socks in the corner, watch Road House for the umpteenth time, and view girls as “the other.” And that’s something to guard fiercely against, since you can pin a lot of the world’s problems on men who lost track of women a long time ago and never really got over it.
Learning from watching
The boys have reached the age where they’re learning much more from watching me than from listening to me. And I think the most important thing they can watch me do is treat their mother well—which, I feel very fortunate to say, is (usually) easy to do.
My ex-wife has all the qualities of a great mom. She’s affectionate and loving, but she won’t hesitate to call out your nonsense. She’s a B-school grad with a flair for troubleshooting by distilling things down to their essence. She smiles with her whole face. She tries new things. When she says she’ll do something, she does it. And she can knit a Pussy Hat before you can say, “No one respects women more than I do.” So I try to make Mother’s Day a bigger deal, to show the boys it’s cool (and eminently possible) to be friends with a woman you respect.
Any relationship is complicated, but the best relationships survive the complications. And I’m glad to have her as a friend– though not a Facebook Friend, because right now I just don’t think I’m ready for that kind of commitment.