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The Values I’m Teaching My Son

Major Martino wears an Elmo hat, and a ramones tank top, and plays in the sand at a playground in Connecticut

When I found out I was having a boy, I immediately felt so much responsibility as his Mama.  Especially in the current social and political climate, at the peak of the #MeToo movement no less– it’s easy to see how raising boys to become respectful, thoughtful, and gently powerful men is of the utmost importance.  I want my son to be a part of the change and not the problem.  Of course once people are adults, the actions they take are not exactly their parents’ fault– but I wholeheartedly believe that the values actively instilled in our children will serve them their entire lives.  One tenet I live by, though, is that words can only do so much.  It’s so important to me that my kids watch US living and breathing the values we want them to learn, and hopefully these concept will become as natural to them as their heartbeats.  Today I thought I would share some of the values I’m teaching my son, in the hopes that he will grow in to the type of Man we all need more of.

Major Martino stands in the sand box in Connecticut, wearing striped shorts and an elmo hat

Masculinity Means Anything You Want It To

It’s so important to me that my son fully understands that there is no “right” way to be a boy or man.  That he is enough exactly as he is, for exactly who he is.  From the minute Major was born, he was always a softer, more gentle soul.  Marlowe came out like the roaring Leo that she is, and Major came out with his calm energy, and eyes full of wonder.  He has the combination of playful energy, athleticism, “boy” curiosity and ability to get himself in to ALL kinds of trouble– and also an intrinsic, beautiful sweetness.  He goes up to any tiny baby in the room and wants to give it gentle kisses, and he is so open with his emotions and how he is feeling at any moment.  I hope he never loses that.  I think that our society’s long-held concept of what manliness is continues to hold many men back– and trip them up.  I can’t wait to see what kind of man my little sweetie becomes– on his own terms!

Eva Amurri Martino sits on the ground wearing a navy blue dress, while son Major snacks on a stool next to her

Be Kind

Before you do anything, think to yourself if it’s the right thing.  Choose kindness over everything else– not only because it feeds your soul the most, but because it WILL come back to you tenfold.  I hope to teach Major to help somebody struggling with bags on the street, to sit with the kid sitting alone in the cafeteria, to think before judging somebody.  I truly believe that our inner compass tells all of us what the right actions and decisions are, but that it can get hard sometimes to follow that inner voice.  It’s so important to remind ourselves of it daily!  Most of all, I want to instill in both of my kids that the most important person to be kind to is YOURSELF. Invest that energy in to feeling your best, accepting yourself for where you are in that moment, and speaking to yourself how you would want others to speak to you.

Eva Amurri Martino sits on the ground at the playground, and leans in to give her son a kiss on the cheek while he finishes his snack

Major Martino leans in to give his Mom a kiss on the cheek at the playground

Respect Women

This should go without saying, but strangely often does not! I can’t tell you how many guys I dated who  “respected women” in theory (according to them), but in actuality would demean me in little ways constantly.  I find a big difference between intellectually agreeing that women are as worthy of rights, paychecks, and responsibilities as men– and the behavior that indicates that this has actually been absorbed and believed.  Thankfully, it is starting to change, culturally, but we still have a long way to go.  Kyle and I have struggled with it in our own marriage! Even though we both work full time, I am often the one who takes on most of the traditionally “female” roles in our household on top of the other work I do.  We’re working on it.  What’s important is to keep the conversations going, to share feelings, and to bring our awareness out of those antiquated times.  My hope is that Major and Marlowe see Kyle and I both working hard, respecting each other, and trying our best to discover a new and modern familial dynamic.  We don’t get it right every time, but we try to ask the big questions.

Under this same umbrella of respect is the concept of respecting a woman’s body, and her sexuality.  These lessons will no doubt be much more important as he grows up, but they’re ones I plan on drilling home in a big way.  I think that having a sister (who he adores) will help him to intrinsically understand this as well, hopefully!

Major Martino feeds his Mom a bite of snack on the playground in Connecticut

Major Martino feeds his Mom a bite of snack on the playground in Connecticut

Manners Are Essential

At this moment, because of a very long history as such (and upheld by many centuries of violence), the world is easier for White Men than it is for anybody else.  As a result, it is heartbreakingly easy for little white boys (who turn in to white men) to think that they are entitled to an easy and good life.  And this entitlement manifests itself in a myriad of ways at times, unfortunately– in everything from violence, to sexism, lying, cheating, and anger.  Of course not ALL “White Men” have this entitled attitude! Thankfully.  But it is an important cultural trend to recognize, and I think when you have a boy, in particular.  I think it’s important for Major to always know that the world doesn’t owe him anything.  That hard work, kindness, intelligence, and respect will get you everywhere in life– and that he must treat every soul he encounters with the same recognition.

I expect my son to have manners always, to show his appreciation for the care others show him, and to be respectful in all walks of life.  The most joyful people are the most grateful people– and that is something I remind myself of daily.  My son WILL be the man who holds the door open, who helps a woman with her jacket, and who takes anybody’s hand who needs a helping one.  And that is a promise!

Major Martino sits and eats sa snasck on a log at the playground in Connecticut

Find Joy Every Day

Life will have ups and downs.  That’s ok! That’s normal.  It’s important to know that even in the dips and valleys, that it is ok to have those periods of discomfort– and to stick them out.  The tides will change, they always do.  I hope to teach Major that even in the darker times, it’s important to find the simple joys in every day.  Even if it’s one small thing.  It can do such big things for our psyche and for the way we treat others to tap in to what makes us truly happy! I hope he finds something (or many things!) that he truly loves, and give them his all.

Major Martino pretends to drive a fire truck at the playground in Connecticut

Major Martino drives in a pretend fire truck at the playground in Connecticut

 

Do you have sons? What are the values that you are prioritizing in raising them? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

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Photographs by Carter Fish

 

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16 Comments

  1. Dije says:

    You inspire me so much! Im sure your boy will turn to an amazing man. I dont have kids yet, but somehow I love reading what you have to say in the hope that one day I can do the same great work as you do now. Love, from switzerland

    09.10.18Reply
  2. Jen Staffeldt says:

    This is very well said! I am so impressed by you, as a parent and a celebrity. Your parents must’ve been incredible because you are well grounded and seem to understand that being successful is not about money or status – it’s about connection and raising healthy kids who feel loved and valued. Kudos to you! I don’t know how you juggle it all but I very much appreciate your honesty and let’s be real, your hair/makeup are #lifegoals. Hahaha 😊😊

    09.10.18Reply
    • Thank you so much for the kind words, Jen! I appreciate it 🙂

      09.10.18Reply
  3. Brenda says:

    That was so beautifully written! Hope all your followers read it. I have 3 sons and 1 daughter, and I believe the best gift we gave them was modeling love, kindness and respect. I get to see the results as I watch them raise their own children with the same values!

    09.10.18Reply
    • I couldn’t agree more that it’s all about what we SHOW them as well as tell them. I think this piece is lost in translation at times.

      09.10.18Reply
  4. Raven says:

    Love that you are making conscious decisions about raising Major; however I hope you also look to surround him with multiple races and perspectives.

    09.10.18Reply
    • I’m curious what about this post made you think that we weren’t doing that?

      09.10.18Reply
  5. Brigit says:

    Major is beautiful. It is really great that you are good parents and want to teach him values. He will grow to a beautiful young man.

    09.10.18Reply
  6. Tracy L says:

    This is such a great post. I do feel a real responsibility to raise thoughtfuI and curious boys. I have 3 boys and they are so different so I find myself constantly evaluating what they are doing and how I am responding. I am hardest on my oldest because like I tell him his brothers are always watching. I love how siblings are always learning from each other and I give my older kids credit for how much quicker the younger ones absorb things. I try to get my kids out in the community outside of school because I think they really learn so much just by experiencing different activities and social situations. I also feel it is so important to do these kind of things at a young age because so much of that stays with them. I also recognize they are very, very fortunate to have a father and two grandfathers who go out of their way to be involved in their lives and set good examples.

    09.10.18Reply
  7. Katherine Santana says:

    Hey Eva, I’ve been following your blog for a couple of months now and you truly are inspring. I watch your stories on Instagram and think your a great person and mother. Love your fashion as well. I am 33 years old and have two boys 12 and 10 and I am also raising my 11 year old cousin. Most of all the things that you wrote about in this post is what I try to instill in my boys. I definitely tell them to be mindful of others, to be kind to others because you never know what anyone is going through, that men and woman are equal and I try for them to definitely have manners: like to give the sit up on the subway for a pregnant lady or an elderly person, to hold the doors open. Both my boys are sensitive and I tell them their is nothing wrong with being in touch with your emotions. One important thing you touched on was to respect woman as well I also tell them from both perspectives. Treat girls how you would want your mom to be treated and vice versa and girls have to treat you the same. In my household I am not married but been with my boyfriend for 10 years and he is not the biological father but he’s an awesome Dad!! He gave my boys what I didn’t have growing up a two parent household. To which I grow up in a single mom house hold. Thanks for sharing on your values in gave me some things I need to work on and remind my boys of !

    09.10.18Reply
  8. Mary says:

    Dear Eva,
    This post truly speaks to my heart! I think that for far too long masculinity has been synonymous to aggressiveness, absence (or concealment) of emotions and dominance.Fortunately the notion of “allowing” men to have other more “feminine” sensitive qualities as well gains ground and breaks old taboos.I absolutely agree with all the values you want to instill to your son and especially the one about finding joy every day is sooo important! I have a little boy 31 months old and from early on I tried to teach him to be kind, not to hit and push other kids, to share his toys, which mostly comes naturaly to him cause he is such a good soul and sweet heart.Of course, not all parents around us are concerned about teaching their kids such stuff and even if they do it’s not always easy to force good manners to a child and therefore hitting, pushing, mocking, yelling etc. happens very often between kids.Which brings me to my biggest concern as a mother right now : my boy is usually very upset when some kid acts aggressively towards him and bursts easily into tears.Sometimes he might hit back ungrily feeling that he was treated unfairly but I am afraid that by teaching him to be kind and not hit others I might confuse him and not help him assert himself when he needs to.While I dont want him to be a brat and hit other kids intentionally, I also want him to be able to cope with the aggressiveness of others and not become an easy target for bullying later.He is a sensitive boy and I know by first hand that sensitive people are also very strong, I dont want him to loose that.I just want him to be able to set boundaries and not allow others to take advantage of him or hurt him because of his good heart but without him becoming an insensitive asshole.I am trying to instill self confidence to him through my love and fortify his beautiful soul.This whole matter has caused a lot of disagreement with my husband who thinks that we should not tell him all the time to be polite and kind and that he should be allowed to express his natural aggressiveness and become assertive and tough man later.It’s difficult to balance, right?

    09.10.18Reply
  9. Margo Tomsey says:

    So. Smart. I’ve been thinking about these same values and how I’ll raise my future sons. I’m hanging this article up in the closet of the nursery to remind me along the journey. And I’ve been working on an art piece for the wall that says KINDNESS.
    Same page, Mama. Keep up the good work.
    You’re so inspiring.

    09.11.18Reply
  10. Sally says:

    I’m seriously crying over here, I cannot begin to tell you how much I needed this article.
    Last week my husband and I found out that we were having a boy. And while I was elated that he was kicking and healthy, I IMMEDIATELY started worrying. Long story short, it began a week-long downward spiral of panic attacks and compulsive parenting book purchses. As a survivor of sexual assault and workplace harrasment, I have stressed over every point you made. It is calming to read that I am not alone in my worry and that it is possible to raise respectful men today.
    Thank you. I really needed this today.

    09.11.18Reply
  11. Lauren says:

    Thank you for this! Totally something I worry about with the current climate going on especially. While my baby is a little too young to understand quite all of this, I plan to teach him these values early on for sure-right now just working on sitting up!

    09.14.18Reply
  12. Paulette Daniels says:

    I so enjoyed this article. It brings back so many memories of when my son was a child and all of the values that I tried to instill in him. I think that it is harder with boys but if we start early surely we can teach them a lot. My son and I who is now 30 years old was out to dinner one day and one of his co workers who is a older lady commented on how well mannered he is. I can tell you that it made me so proud and to think that just maybe I did a few things right. And you have a beautiful family!!!

    09.14.18Reply