Living the Sweet Life: Raising a Young Man

By Alisa Murray
Nationally recognized
portrait artist and award-
winning columnist.

Each of us as parents are faced with many challenges. For some, it is a child born to us that has from the very moment of his or her existence a determination to explore and a refusal to listen. Others still have the task of facing learning and other challenges. I have had the blessing of being given a son that has a pleasant disposition, and as a result, a joy to raise. He is very thoughtful and inquisitive, has always been both eager to learn and equally agreeable to listen.

Lately in the wake of the #metoo movements and other news, his conversations have become more complex, and his questions about how to navigate socially in his era have brought some interesting discussions. Thankfully, he still looks to me for advice. Teaching him how to treat others and be the best human being he can possible be is not a new or extraordinary concept. Nothing has changed really, and yet everything has changed in ways that can seem confusing to our youth. It is important to navigate with them while they are still under our wings, so they are prepared for the world they soon face as young adults.

How does a young man view the world now as opposed to the world his father and grandfather once faced? Each day he sees through the media examples of what can go wrong if intentional or not. He has watched perfectly spotless careers of both women and men vanish overnight. He has watched skeletons flying out of the closets of those who he thought were spotless, and the tumble of a lifetime of what was seemingly successful people fall from grace yet again overnight. As a result, he is keenly aware that whatever is in one’s past can and will be used against them if the opportunity arises. Each case of what he has witnessed has made him question where that line is as seen in humanity. There is definitely a different “new line.” It is a sociological phenomenon that what was accepted 40 years ago is no longer seen in his coming of age. Each situation, as it were, must be dealt with and carefully scrutinized with the determining factor being intention.

When he asked me, “Well, mom,  how would I ask a girl out without her thinking I am trying to do anything more than that?” Before responding, I reflected back to when I was once 16. Had I ever experienced any situation like that? Of course, there were always those guys that everyone knew were “up to no good.” All of the girls knew what their intentions were and therein lies the heart of how to navigate all of this chaos. I told him, “Be true to who you are and treat anyone you come across with respect, generosity and kindness, then your character will be reflected in all of your intentions.” Moral character defines each person regardless of their gender. The intention to do good or choose to be evil is just that – a choice.

I don’t recall my father or grandfather ever having these conversations with my brothers. We all were raised in the South, church-going and taught what was good and what it meant to follow the Golden Rule. Bad behaviors have always been a part of the human experience, and as we have evolved, we have become less tolerant and braver in an attempt to call out what we now feel both intrusive, unacceptable and just plain mean. Social media has surely contributed to this and our abilities to be “worldly” while in the comforts of our own familiar surroundings. Some things are absurd, like removing a popular song Baby it’s Cold Outside from play because it somehow has now been applied to a different time and place. No one is promoting getting a woman drunk and taking advantage of her, not even the famous singers who bellowed out that tune when it was first introduced in society. It takes off in the extreme. Balance is important to understand as with anything in life, and as my grandmother would have told him, had she lived to have this conversation, “All you need to do is think before you speak darling, and use your good common sense!” Being kind and not misinterpreted is as simple as that.

Take Care of YOU!