Thursday, January 31, 2013

Daughters and Sons

Yesterday, as I was walking Rooney (cue obligatory cute dog photo):

I was listening to music and the song Daughters by John Mayer came on. The playlist I generally listen to when I'm walking the dog is long and varied so I hadn't heard this song come up in awhile.

There's something very sweet and plaintive about this song. This poor lovestruck guy who is apparently suffering the effects of being in love with a girl who had an absentee father and therefore has trust and commitment issues, is making a musical plea for fathers everywhere to love their daughters well.

I'm with you there, John. 

In addition to his advocating for all future grown-up girls who might one day date someone like him who'd rather not have a girlfriend with "issues",  John apparently would also like a time machine in which he could reverse the time-space continuum (probably something that resembles a DeLorean) and somehow convince his beloved's father to stop being such a schmuck.

It's really all very noble and romantic (and a teeny bit self-serving, but I'm willing to forgive him that).

Where John loses me is with this throwaway stanza in the middle of the song that pretty much says you can dump on your sons all you want, but you better be gosh darn sure to take care of those girls.

Boys, you can break. 
You'll find out how much they can take.
Boys will be strong
And boys soldier on
But boys would be gone without the warmth from
A woman's good, good heart

Never mind that there is again a bit of a self-serving message here. Basically, that he would like the benefit of a woman's good, good heart and never mind that he's a broken mess himself because he's a boy and he'll just pull up his boot straps and soldier on. But as a mother of two sons I can tell you (and I'd tell John, too, but he hasn't been taking my calls) that it's just so completely and utterly false.

I have two pretty soldier-like boys myself. They keep their tougher emotions close to the vest and eschew any big discussions of "feelings". Ask a teenage boy to "use their words" to describe what's going on with them and mine would come up with words like, nothing, fine, I don't care, and whatever. We have tried giving them a Thesaurus and Word-a-Day calendars as birthday gifts but it hasn't seemed to help (nor have those gifts been particularly popular-go figure?)

That said though, I don't imagine for a minute that they don't wrestle with tough emotions all the time. And if you learn to watch carefully, as a mom, you can always see the signs.

It's in the eyes. It's in the way they suddenly get snappish and grouchy over things that would normally never bother them. They can't focus and procrastination reaches even greater pinnacles than you ever thought possible. Their words start carrying an air of futility or ambivalence; things like, What does it matter?, I didn't really care anyway, It's stupid, or even better they will string them all together in one big long statement of angst, Who cares? It's all just stupid and doesn't matter and I didn't care anyway. That pretty much sums it up, huh?

All of the snarls, the closed bedroom doors, the half-done homework, it's all their masculine way of saying:

I'm disappointed.

I'm worried.

I'm scared.

I'm not sure of what to do next.

And while so far my boys have been able to bounce back from all of the setbacks they've faced, I don't think for a minute that they couldn't be broken, that they aren't vulnerable, that nothing life throws at them could ever take them down. Just because they're boys?

Boys fill our prisons.

Boys commit the overwhelming majority of the violent crimes in this country.

Boys commit the majority of the non-violent crimes in this country.

Applications for college is lower for boys than girls.

Girls outnumber boys in successful completion of college.

Sorry, John, we are going to have to agree to disagree on this one (and I might have a few bones to pick with you on some of your other songs. I'll let you know after I walk Rooney today and have a chance to mull over Say and Your Body is a Wonderland. I'm feeling like there is some subtext there that I'm not getting...)

How about we all agree, Fathers and Mothers, to be good to both our daughters and our sons? 

Let's try not to break anybody and find out how much they can take. Life will usually do enough of that all on its own.

I'm done over-analyzing the lyrics to pop songs for today. I can't promise what might spring up in my brain tomorrow though. I've got a lot of time to think when I'm walking my youthful, energetic, fluffy buddy. One of these days, I'll come up with the answers to all of the world's problems. 

I'll keep you posted.

1 comment:

  1. I've never heard that song, but based on your analysis I'm sure I agree with you on every bit. And I have more thoughts about well raised daughters marrying boys who got screwed up but being that this is a public space . . .