“You put dead mans in boxes,” the smallest person says.
His statement races through my mind chaotically like a confused mouse in a clinical maze, trying unsuccessfully to connect Son No 3’s belief that I ‘put dead mans in boxes’ to the conversation I’m having with No 1. He, the oldest and my resident social-networking expert, is telling me about ‘ranters’.
“So, they’re an actual thing?” I had queried.
“Yes, you just rant about stuff. It would be perfect for you, mum.”
Even so, I don’t understand why a ranter is categorised differently to a blogger or a vlogger, but I am told the woman we are discussing is neither of those things. She is most definitely a ranter and I can be one too, if I like, although I must have some extreme ideas to rant about.
That’s the whole point of a ranter. She or he must be vociferous.
Son No 1 goes on to give me an example while Son No 3 continues quietly munching on cereal, and taking it all in.
“So, you could spout extreme feminist views, for instance, but they have to be really out there!” He then does an impression of my potential ranting which is not terribly flattering about men. Or me, to be honest.
“Heh, men are ok,” I say, “so long as they go back in their boxes at the end of the day!”
It’s a joke, of course. But I do worry immediately about the message I’m transmitting to my youngest and oldest male offspring.
Which is where Son No 3’s statement about putting dead men in boxes comes in.
“No, darling, I don’t mean it …I don’t really want to put them all in boxes…” I find it too hard to fully explain because well… how do I deconstruct a slightly acerbic, not terribly funny joke to a four year old? Four year olds famously don’t really do irony. (Neither do psychopaths, they tell me, but that’s another story).
And anyway, I am more concerned about his notion that I want all men to be dead before putting them in their boxes.
“Why do you think they’d be dead?”
“Because your dead dad is in a box,” he replies.
“Ohhhh – yeah!” He’s referring to my late father’s ashes, currently residing in an urn, which is still inside the cardboard box we received it in, on the day of his funeral, and which rests at the very top of the book-shelf in my front room; reasons for which I explained in an earlier blog.
So it turns out, to all intents and purposes, that Son No 3 has listened carefully to the lesson about social networking ranters given by Son No 1 along with my interactions, and concluded that I believe all men should ultimately be turned to ashes and stored in cardboard boxes. Which, I hasten to add, isn’t true. Really. I mean, mostly, it’s not true at all.
All joking aside, in case anyone misses the irony – I’ve realised that occasionally parody doesn’t travel as well as I imagine it might – it is often challenging passing on basic feminist ideals to my three male children in a balanced, mature, and humanist way. Feminism isn’t about women or men. It’s about human beings being decent and fair to one another. Which, obviously….Silly… never equates to one gender being consigned to boxes, dead or alive, at the end of the day, or in fact any time – no matter how their sex is defined.
I am, like so many other parents, trying to ensure the boys grow up to be modern, helpful, authentic, genuinely kind, gentle but happy in their masculinity, as well as present; and who know where the washing machine and dishwasher are. And who don’t assume it’s their God-given right to be absent most of the time doing who knows what while some poor long-suffering wife/girlfriend is stuck at home, either all day or at the end of a full working day sorting his underwear into darks and lights before shoving them in the machine, which only she knows how to use. I know I don’t always get the tone right. In fact, I fail miserably every now and again.
Either I am a little too caustic; presumably generating ideas in small minds that suggest I might think men should be kept in boxes. Or I just find it easier to get on with domestic chores myself, rather than teach them how to contribute.
The challenge of bringing up those three little boys who absorb messages from the world around them, some of which lead Son No 3 to believe that I can’t be a super hero because I’m a girl, is immense. I strive constantly to counter such beliefs calmly and rationally but I’ve been bought up in the same world, and have undoubtedly, and without thinking, upheld many of the gender specific roles we still cling to in our society, by cleaning up after everyone and allowing them to get away with not learning basic white goods management. I do of course know little girls can also be happy to let mum do it all too. And I totally get that we mums love to mother our kids, to make them feel taken care of, looked after, even cosseted to various degrees. Because it’s lovely for them to feel that way, and wonderful to be able to do it. Nevertheless, I am furiously trying to back-peddle, and listen enviously to tales of how other families apportion various chores equally to all their children, regardless of gender. Instead of always doing everything for them, I am consciously trying to remember to give them space to learn how to take care of themselves in the domestic sense. Because it would be awful for them to reach their 50s and still not know how to use a washing machine like that poor deceased dad of mine, whose ashes live in a box on the shelf.
So no, I don’t think I’ll become a ranter as suggested by Son No 1. I don’t have extreme enough views. I can’t possibly bang on about men being consigned to boxes at any time and in any state because the world would be a sadder place without them. Most men are, of course, OK really. Especially when served on a nice bit of toast with a little dollop of pickle on the side. And perhaps a glass or two of a decent chianti.
Image (c)SJField 2016