Thursday, 2 July 2015

Advice to a son


If I’d known how, I’d have iced your cakes
with princesses in pink, and unicorns;
with doll-size chairs and stairs, golden flakes
and sparkly angels standing by new-borns
of either sex, make no mistake.

I let others bring the trains and planes,
the football fields and swimming pools and blue
iced skies, green iced grass, streamers and chains
of boyishness, doll houses kept taboo.
Boys are trained early on as men.

But now that you’re a man, let me say
that manliness isn’t determined
by colours and the games that you play;
by being fierce like the sun, fast like the wind.
(And pink is totally okay.)

Especially, it’s not characterised
by what you choose to love, and who.
By cakes that are blocks and bricks when iced.
Doll-sized, sparkly things are manly too,
nothing of these need be despised.

Strength is manly, womanly as well,
and tears aren’t only for the weak;
the strength to love and to marvel,
the know-how to turn the other cheek
or not, to err towards too gentle.

It takes a very special sort of steel
to treat the weaker as an equal;
to fight injustice even as you feel
overwhelmed by the wholly brutal,
that is manly, that’s strength for real.

This is my earnest wish for you,
all my love in a tiny capsule
that you’ll learn to cherish and to value
every difference, and know when the rule
should be bent, and broken too.

And this my wish also, that you learn
all gaps needn’t be bridged, just respected;
your loving won’t get exact returns,
measure for measure always as expected,
it’s a gift, not open to trade terms.

When it’s over, all is said and done,
what’ll count will be the empathy,
how keenly attuned were your emotions.
Love’s the final index of happy -
the amounts got;  more crucial, those given.


  1. A manly man if he can not
    hold his new born, he’s not
    Weep with his daughter for
    the scrape on her knee, he’s not
    Kiss his wife in front of his boss
    at the company outing, he’s not
    Set at his mother’s bed side
    on her last days, he’s not

    But pink? I’m not

    Another fine poem

    1. Double thumbs up - one for the message, and the other for style!

  2. That's a wonderful message to your son. Although I'm not for pink either.

    1. Thank you. Personally, I don't favour pink either, but I'm okay with anyone, man or woman, who does :)

  3. Very nice post .

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  4. Whoa Nila, one of your best yet. Absolutely sparkles! When all is said and done...empathy. Spot on. Without empathy we're nothing.

    As always, thanks for the inspiration.

    DENISE :-)

    1. Thanks, Denise! Esp for taking the time to read while on holiday! :-)

      Too often the supply of empathy seems to dry up, all of us locked into our own opinions, particularly in the ME