I’m not, nor have I ever been in fact, a boy. With two sisters, I grew up in very much a ‘girls’ world’. We had dolls; we wore pretty dresses and had French plaits in out hair; we watched the little mermaid on repeat and yet I also grew up, unashamedly, a feminist. I didn’t stop wearing makeup, or shaving my legs, or ‘man hating’, or any other dated, offensively inaccurate notion of the word, but as I grew older I developed a sense that if I adhered to a version of the female ‘norm’, it was because it was my choice to do so and ‘choice’ was the operative word. I had ambitions and independence alongside a belief that any differences between the sexes were there because society had put them there – they were not innate and neither were the the vast gender inequalities and injustices that are, sadly, still all too common across the world today. They could and can be changed.
I should probably get to the point as I’m in danger of writing a sociology essay and can feel my sleep deprived brain cells cracking and wobbling under the pressure of ‘thinking’.
What all this meant was, in my head, when I became a parent I’d refuse to let our children be defined or confined by their gender. Despite my best intentions though, my home (much like that from my own childhood) isn’t filled with gender-neutral toys, and as a mom of two boys I cannot move without stepping on a tiny car or vehicle of some sort – they are drawn to them, like moths to light. In truth, I’m no expert, not in the slightest, but now we have our boys I’m starting to think that some (not all) differences between the sexes ARE just there and inbuilt somehow, and that’s fine. Regardless of whether they are stereotypical boys or whether they go against the grain in someway, I don’t mind so long as they are true to themselves, but there are some things I do hope they will grow up to know/do:
1. Know that being sensitive doesn’t make you ‘girly’ or less strong. It makes you a decent human being.
Just the other day my baby lost his balance and banged his head with a thump. It must have really hurt. But it was my eldest who cried the loudest. “Mommy! He banged his head. It’s ok little one” he said, concern showing through his tears. He has always been sensitive. As a baby, sad music used to send his lip wobbling and his eyes would fill up and brim over. I love him for it. And I hope as he grows, he doesn’t change one bit.
2. Know the pleasure of losing yourself in a good book.
Reading is as much for boys as girls although sadly, it isn’t always seen that way. Lose yourself and discover the world (or other worlds even) through fiction. The real world can suck sometimes – it’s nice to escape.
3. When you are older, if you marry or find yourself living with a woman, NEVER offer to ‘help’ with the housework or children.
‘Help’ implies housework is her responsibility and that they are her children somehow more than yours. ‘But she stays at home’ you say? Great. But her working hours are the same as yours. The rest is for sharing.
4. If you become a dad yourself, know that pregnancy and birth is beyond exhausting. Also recovering whilst feeding around the clock isn’t easy. It takes time, and hormones are sneaky little buggers that do strange things. She will get there. But in the meantime, be patient. And provide chocolate. Lots, and lots of chocolate.
5. Know that you don’t have to like or be good at football. If you do, or are and you enjoy it, awesome. But if not, who cares. Also know that football is for girls too.
6. Know that it isn’t your job to have all the answers to life’s problems. Sometimes just listening is enough.
7. Know that we don’t yet live in a world where men and women are seen and treated as equals. Yes you are a boy, but if you think this is wrong, then know that you are a ‘feminist’ too.