Sir Edmund Hillary once said “Adventuring can be for the ordinary person with ordinary qualities, such as I regard myself”. What struck me in all the comments people made about him after his recent death was their talk of his modesty. Someone’s take on him and why he was a ‘hero’ was that he was incredibly strong and courageous yet humble and incredibly modest.
I have already touched a little on raising my own small boys but I might not have mentioned my utter shock and panic when I was told Gabe was a boy. I have sisters, one solitary (male) cousin who I hardly knew, I did time in a girls’ boarding school, I had little contact with boys in any meaningful way until I was 18 and even having been married to one of them for 10 years (next month!) I’m still not sure I’m qualified to know how they tick. Less still Gabe (5 in a fortnight) when he says ‘mum I wish you were a boy’ – when I asked him why he said ‘well just then you’d be like us wouldn’t you?’. Us being the rest of our small family!
My usual academic approach of reading everything I can get hold of on the matter has helped to a degree – Raising Boys by Steve Biddulph, books on reading and gender in primary schools, a fantastic book called ‘Guys Read’ by an American writer called John Sciesza – a compilation of very short pieces by well-known male authors, illustrators, film producers etc covering a multitude of themes pertinent to boys in an informal and humorous way. I guess I was searching for some ideal man-ness which I could help the boys head towards, some qualities and skills which they might aspire to have…? I guess I thought that strong, courageous, adventurous, risk-taking combined with kind, generous, humble and modest… might make a ‘good man’?? In a culture where celebrities and reality TV stars are the new heroes, he might well not have been a bad role-model.