When I found out I was having a boy, I was a little disappointed.
Mostly because I was looking forward to dressing my girl up in fun clothing. We had a “perfect” name picked out. I’m sure somewhere not so deep down inside I hoped I could somehow make her a better woman than I sometimes think I am.
But it didn’t take long for me to realize that maybe it would be easier. Or at least challenging in a way that I could handle better. This all remains to be seen of course, and I’d rather not describe things in terms of difficulty.
I didn’t want to put my boy in all blue or sports themed onesies or shirts that claimed he was “handsome” or a “ladies man” or “Daddy’s Little Tough Guy Pro Athlete All-Star Dude”. But his drawers are filled with gray and navy pants and socks with footballs on them and it’s fine. For now.
Recently, I’ve been around a lot of toddlers. I’ve definitely been zeroing in on the boys, trying to figure out how my little guy might turn out. Basically I’m scared shitless.
There is a hyper masculine four year old who is constantly going on and on about how girls are not allowed to do this or that, how girls don’t have muscles, how girls must like Wonder Woman. He actually orders a girl he’s friends with to sit and watch him and yell “Go Insert Boy’s Name Here” while he pretend fights his friend (who he also bosses around). He insults other kids by calling them “Mom” and berated another boy for using a pink crayon.
And. I. Just. Can’t.
I cringed as I overheard a dad telling a little boy who asked him why he was putting his daughter’s hair in a ponytail that girls have long hair and boys have short hair. I was sad when a sweet five year old who sat and colored with me, decided one day to make a gun out of Legos and declare he was a cop. He contorted his face into a menacing scowl and ordered me into jail.
A woman recently wrote a listicle on HuffPo about being the mother of three boys and the reasons this is great. One of them being that she can set an example for how women should be treated. While I appreciate the sentiment, this won’t work in the real world unless her sons see actual examples of men treating women right.
I can tell my son he should respect me and that women and men are equal in terms of their human worth, but I doubt very much that he’ll see this in practice in situations outside of the house. He’ll benefit more from seeing a healthy, balanced relationship between his parents than a mother who lectures him on feminism.
Not to say that the latter isn’t important. Of course I will do everything I can to guide him into being a feminist.
But even my own words and actions can have a gender heavy tone when I put him in a shirt with a fake tie on it or joke that perhaps he’ll be tall and play basketball.
I want my kid to be whoever he wants to be because that’s what he decides for himself, not to please me or society.
I hope I can provide that kind of environment.