“We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.”
My friend Kelly tweeted the above quote the other day and it really got me thinking. Then a Facebook friend Dave shared this piece and I was like: “Thank you universe! You’re keeping to theme”. The latter story about a little boy who liked to wear tutus and was ridiculed by a stranger for doing so, really made me angry. But what a hero is his Mom? That’s a fierce mama bear right there and she’s inspired me to write this blog post.
Because just the other week we had friends over with two daughters, so it was Ben and his older sister and then two other little girls. They decided to get dressed up, as you do. They were wearing tutus, Tinkerbell dresses, Elsa outfits, pirate eye patches and holding wands. They were flinging “powers” at each other and roaring like lions and playing hide and seek.
And so Ben, obviously, wanted his turn to be Elsa too – so I dutifully put the ice blue velvet Elsa dress on him (complete with cape). Then he wanted to be Tinkerbell in sparkly purple and lime green. Then he wanted to wear the tiara so he could have a turn to be in charge of all the little people (as of course he should). But it caused me to stop and think and wonder if other parents would think this was fine and dandy too. Because although we are encouraging our daughters to love Spiderman and become engineers and play soccer and conquer the world, it seems that society has not quite caught up with encouraging our sons to explore their more feminine sides. And I think this is where we are missing a trick.
It’s a constant battle though, as you realise immediately if you walk into any toy shop. The dolls are all in the “girls” aisle because heaven forbid that any little boys should practise caring for babies and one day grow up to be, Ah I dunno.. A FATHER! Boys are taught that they can’t wear pink or purple or anything sparkly, even though I say repeatedly to Rachel and her brother that look! Daddy wears pink shirts! (and also lumo orange and every colour of the universe because he’s never been a blue suit kind of guy).
I’m not saying this means raising our boys or conditioning them to be exactly like little girls – that would be a bit…unusual. I’m just saying give your son trucks to play with and balls to kick and muddy ponds to squish around in, but if he asks for a wand, a tutu, a doll or a toy pram, or to watch Barbie (Ben’s favourite!) or to have his toe nails painted (just like mom), then who are we to deny him those choices?
The world, and indeed this country, needs more men that are not afraid of showing emotions, expressing themselves and being who they really are. We need men with empathy, not more men eager to start a war. We need men that are loved and accepted and grow up knowing that they are safe to be whoever they wish to be, whether this is a sports-mad jock or a sensitive writer or someone who occasionally likes to wear a tutu. And this starts with us and how we parent.
Because it doesn’t seem fair to open up all the possibilities in the world to our little girls and tell them they can be anything and anyone they choose, and then limit our little boys to staying within the tight confines of what WE think it means to be masculine or male. I’m with Gloria on this one – what do you think?