Raising a good man

Watch this video. Yes, it’s corny. Watch it. Then c’mon back and read the rest.

I’m sharing this here. Why? We’ve all seen these types of videos before; schools have been doing these for a bit now with hit songs, sort of the answer to flash mob proposal videos. But I’m sharing it because it struck me while I was watching it: the teacher in this video represents a lot of qualities that I want my son to have and be when he grows up. I joke about him being a dentist, or a doctor, but the reality is that it’s much more important to me what TYPE OF PERSON he grows up to be, rather than what he does to make money, and so, the video. And my thoughts on same. You may disagree, or think I’m awful or whatever, and that’s fine. It’s my blog. Write what you want on your own.

First: I really think all men should know how to dance about as well as this guy. He’s no Fred Astaire, but he can keep a beat and moves generally well. And he isn’t embarrassed about it, he owns what he has and that makes it look even better than it is. The vast, vast number of men I have known in my life do not even have those basic skills, and I think that’s too bad. A man should know how to dance. I wonder why it is that, at least where I grew up, almost ALL the black guys could dance, and almost all the white guys could not. What is the culture of the black families that dancing is encouraged and men are brought up feeling free about moving this way? I don’t know, but I hope I am cultivating it. My son and I dance every week. We have dance parties at home on the regular. We “seat-dance” in the car when good music comes on, banging our heads if appropriate or waving our arms. We dance in a store if a good song comes on. We dance with a tiny bit of instruction and structure, when I can get him to go to improv dance class with me. I hope my son grows up to be able to at least functionally dance, maybe even be pretty decent, like this guy. You don’t need to be Baryshnikov, but I don’t ever want my son sitting on the sidelines of a school dance because he’s terrified of looking stupid with a girl on the floor because he doesn’t know how to move his body comfortably.

Second: Teacher dude here is obviously somewhat of a leader, and many people like him. Otherwise no way would all these teens, who are notoriously cranky, have done this video. Further, the administration would not have supported and allowed it, so it isn’t just kids that get along with him. And the tech guys like him too – the people shooting this thing are equally as talented as anyone in the video, if not moreso. So, techies like him, administrative shirts, and kids, and he can get them to go along with an idea of his that seems a little far-fetched or difficult to pull off. That’s a win.

Third: He just looks like a nice, fun guy. If you were out and lost and you saw this guy, you’d feel comfortable asking him for directions. He’s approachable and looks like he has a decent sense of humor. He’d be nice to sit next to at a kid’s sports game, or at a barbeque, or at a wine bar to talk about politics. Affable. Sort of the opposite of what I have. I have Greek Resting Face, which means a lot of people ask me what I’m mad about when I’m really completely not mad about anything. And a lot of people when I was growing up said they were scared of me because I had a scowl on my face.

Fourth: His sexuality is sort of up in the air; he defies labels. At least to me. He’s not some meaty, overly-muscled mouth-breather in a string tank top and has that sort of “is he or isn’t he” quality that many people find accessible and easy to be around. He’s nice looking, but you can’t really box him in to any stereotype. I like this. Like Michael Stipe or Kevin Spacey, I don’t need to know about his private proclivities to like him, he just seems likeable.

Fifth: He’s inclusive. Again and again in the video, he makes little gestures to indicate that the video isn’t all about him, it’s about everyone else who is there as well and he’s cueing them subtly. It’s nice. The kids got special shirts, some of them, and he probably choreographed this whole thing so that there was something everyone could do. Inclusive.

Sixth: He wants to get things right (as you can see from the dancing), but he’s not an obsessive perfectionist and doesn’t do exactly what every single other person is doing the whole time. Truth be told, I don’t want a straight A student. GASP. I don’t want a C or D student either, obviously. I want him to work to his best potential and be comfortable with how well he does, and able to enjoy his life while he is doing the best he can, not beat himself up because of a letter grade.

Seventh: He dresses decently, but again, not obsessive. He has a casual approach with his outfit that says, yes, I own an iron, but I’m comfortable and I know what looks good on me, so that’s what I wear. The outfit is nice enough to get respect at a school without being uptight and in a suit, but not so dressed down he looks like a slob. And the clothes fit him, and his style, and match. Many, many men have no idea what looks decent on their shape or how to put an outfit together. Hopefully I can get to this point with my son, who I do not allow out of our home while wearing sweat pants, even though he says I’m mean not to let him.

Eighth: He’s not obnoxiously making you stare at him. He’s not all grabbing his crotch and mouthing the lyrics and pretending to be Bruno Mars. He’s the theater teacher, and could easily have hammed it up and hogged the spotlight – he likely, most certainly even, has that ability. But he didn’t make it about HIM.

He just, to me, looks like thought this would be super fun and something for kids to do who often start to check out and not care. He got them to INVEST. This took hours. And he got some money from somewhere to do it; no way did he buy all those sequin shirts on a teacher’s salary. And – this is not some school of the arts. It’s a TECH magnet school.

I think every day about choices I can make for my son. What little thing I can do or say that sends a message about what I think he should be and do. Maybe it’s just repeatedly telling him to sit down during dinner, or insisting he ask to be excused when finished, in the hopes that one day he will do it repeatedly on his own without me prompting him. Or that I tell him to thank me for fixing him dinner, because he should be grateful. Or how I helped him pick out the little special box of chocolates for his kindergarten girlfriend and helped him design the post-it note that goes with it – just to her, from him, and a bunch of little heart stickers, so he feels giving is a happy and fun thing and that I support it. Even when he isn’t here, I’m always thinking about how I can help him become a good man.

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