Friday, February 8, 2013

20 Things a Mother Should Tell Her Son (A Feminist's Revision)

Act #39: Make your own list.

Yesterday as I was making my usual social media rounds, I came across a piece that recently went viral titled, "20 Things a Mother Should Tell her Son".  At first I was excited, hopeful for some nuggets of parenting wisdom, but then found myself slightly disappointed with the usual offering of traditional gender-biased language that suggested unrealistic and paternalistic expectations for both males and females.  The list just didn't quite offer up a vision of the world that I want my son to grow up in.  It certainly didn't capture the wisdom that I wanted to pass on to him.  So I decided to respectfully do a little editing of the list. The original author's list is printed in black and my revised version follows in blue.

1.  You will set the tone for the sexual relationship, so don’t take something away from her that you can’t give back.  You will both set the tone for your sexual relationship.  You can’t take something away from someone that wasn’t yours to begin with.

2. Play a sport. It will teach you how to win honorably, lose gracefully, respect authority, work with others, manage your time and stay out of trouble. And maybe even throw or catch.  Don’t feel pressured to play a sport.  You are no less of a man if you choose to hike, build Lego castles, dance, or play the violin.  There will be plenty of other life experiences that teach you to build meaningful relationships in healthy and non-competitive ways. 

3. Use careful aim when you pee. Somebody’s got to clean that up, you know.  Aim wherever you want when you pee, but just know that you’re the one that will have to clean it up.

4. Save money when you’re young because you’re going to need it someday.  Don’t let money be the guiding force for your decisions and actions, but plan wisely if you want to travel, learn, share it with others, and have more freedom to savor a diversity of experiences in your lifetime.

5. Allow me to introduce you to the dishwasher, oven, washing machine, iron, vacuum, mop and broom. Now please go use them.   Allow me to introduce you to the concepts of self-sufficiency, accountability, and responsibility.

6. Pray and be a spiritual leader.  Seek that which grounds you, and gives your life meaning and purpose; once you find it, live your life accordingly and do everything in your power to stay connected to it.

7. Don’t ever be a bully and don’t ever start a fight, but if some idiot clocks you, please defend yourself.  Respect others and remember that violence is never the solution.  Respect your body and do not permit others to violate that.

8. Your knowledge and education is something that nobody can take away from you.  Your ideas and perspectives will evolve.  Your quest for learning and growth will continually enrich your life.

9. Treat women kindly. Forever is a long time to live alone and it’s even longer to live with somebody who hates your guts.  Treat everyone kindly.  If you choose to have a life partner, offer them the same level of respect that you would expect for yourself.

10. Take pride in your appearance.  Love yourself and the world will see you glow.

11. Be strong and tender at the same time.  It's OK to be weak, to be vulnerable, and to cry.  No one can be strong all the time.

12. A woman can do everything that you can do. This includes her having a successful career and you changing diapers at 3 A.M. Mutual respect is the key to a good relationship.  A woman can't do everything you can do (like aim when she pees), but she is just as capable and as valuable of a contributor to the world, as you are.  Separate bathrooms are the key to a good relationship.

13. “Yes, ma’am” and “yes, sir” still go a long way. "I understand", "I'm sorry", and "Can I help?" go a long way.

14. The reason that they’re called “private parts” is because they’re “private”. Please do not scratch them in public.  Don't be afraid to call your penis a penis.  Because that's what it is.  Scratch discreetly when you itch.  Wash your hands afterwards.

15. Peer pressure is a scary thing. Be a good leader and others will follow. March to the sound of your own drum - you are worth it.  If you happen to inspire others along the way....awesome.

16. Bringing her flowers for no reason is always a good idea.  Finding opportunities to practice random acts of kindness is always a good idea.  Some women (and men) are allergic to flowers.

17. Be patriotic.  Be humble - the world is a big place and you are but a small piece of a much larger puzzle.

18. Potty humor isn’t the only thing that’s humorous.  Humor at the expense of others is never funny.

19. Please choose your spouse wisely. My daughter-in-law will be the gatekeeper for me spending time with you and my grandchildren.  Whether or not you choose to marry or have children, I will always love you and stay connected to your life.

20. Remember to call your mother because I might be missing you. If you remember all of the above, you will want to hear your mother's voice every once in a while.  Not because she might miss you, but because you might actually miss her.

Note:  Credit for original blog post:, "20 Things a Mother Should Tell Her Son".  To the author, thank you for your perspective, and if you happen to come across this, I hope you consider that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.


  1. I love every single bit of this. My blog has been a place for pictures. But you have inspired me to write. I'm working on it.

  2. I love this! Thank you so much for your "revisions" :-)

  3. Oh Plain Jane, you've done it again! So many of your revisions are almost *exactly* my thoughts when I first read this list. The original is earnest and heartfelt, to be sure, but your revisions are spot-on.

    1. Bhana, I concur, I have utmost respect for the author, just needed to give it a little personal touch :-)!

  4. Aim wherever you want when you pee, but just know that you’re the one that will have to clean it up.

    Wishful thinking internet lady. Wishful thinking.

  5. I like your thoughts on this! I do think that it might be better not to post her exact list and then your responses without giving credit, but rather just post your own list and maybe a link to the original.

    1. Hi Kristen! I actually did give her credit at the end of my blog.