Our son is 11 (almost 12) which means we are beginning to experience those tween years you hear so much about. The transition from kid to pre-teen is an interesting one and comes with its own set of smells – namely deodorant, body spray and cologne.
Miguel started wearing deodorant intermittently last summer and his aunt gave him cologne and AXE body spray this past Christmas. Recently, he came downstairs smelling like ALL THE THINGS and I had a vivid flashback to my Big Gay Boyfriend in high school who smelled so strongly of Polo that I could taste it.
I immediately began to fear for our safety and could almost see the headlines in the newspaper: “Minnesota Family Dies From The Silent Killer”. Is there an AXE monoxide detector? I couldn’t even open a window because January in Minnesota is as deadly as body spray. The only thing that I could do is to nip this over-odorizing behavior in the bud.
Me: Oh honey…don’t be the boy who uses too much cologne.
Miguel (laughing): You say that a lot.
Me: First of all, a cloud of cologne is no laughing matter and, secondly, we’ve never talked about this so I don’t “say it a lot”.
Miguel: No, you say “Don’t be the boy who blah blah blah…”
Me: Really? What have I said?
Miguel: You know…”Don’t be the boy who gives mixed signals to girls” and “Don’t be the boy who objectifies women”.
I was truly shocked. While I stand by both of those pieces of advice, I pride myself on being intentional in the way I talk to my kids and I had no idea that “Don’t be the boy who…” was my own personal trope. I was also shocked because he obviously listened to me closely enough to repeat my directives verbatim.
Me: Huh. I didn’t know I did that.
Miguel: Don’t worry about it. It’s funny.
The next day, Miguel asked me to show him how to put on the right amount of cologne and I did. And then I thought about all the times we have discussed rap lyrics and advertisements and their treatment of women. And then I thought about all the conversations we’ve had about his interactions with girls at school and I thought about all the ways that we teach him to be the kind of person we want him to be.
We do so much with intention.
And then I thought about the power of the lessons we give without thought.
Don’t be the boy who…
Giving mixed signals to girls and objectifying them are bad. Yes.
I’ll stand by those words but I can’t help but wonder if there have been others. What messages have I unknowingly given him about masculinity? Would I stand by those as well? I don’t know. I can only hope that he’ll point them out to me sometime because I don’t want the be the mom who…