When I was first pregnant with my first child it felt like hundreds of people asked me, “Do you want a boy or a girl?” which is a totally lame question to have to answer. Because if you say you want a boy and you end up with a girl, then everyone thinks you’re sad that you have a girl, which we all know is usually not the situation.
In my case I wanted a girl. More than I probably let on. I didn’t know anything about boys. I had never known much about boy children except that they were often dirty, they didn’t have ponytails (usually), and everyone claimed that their clothes weren’t as cute.
For me, one of the reasons I wanted to have a girl was because I thought it would be really cool to raise her in a world that was getting more accepting of women, in a world where the glass ceiling was a little higher than it had been before. I wanted to raise a little girl who believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that she could do anything she wanted.
But I’ve found out one of the advantages of having boys: I get to help raise the kind of man who respects women, who encourages women to do anything, who tries to raise that glass ceiling some more.
I don’t know yet what kind of men my guys will be, but we’ve started the process of trying to raise respectful boys. “No means no” is such an axiom in my house that my oldest will say “no means yes” in the same way he’d say “my hair is purple” to piss his brothers off.
Early on I threatened my husband with his life if he ever said to my son, “You’re the man of the house while I’m gone. Take care of your mother,” or any variation thereof. (And to his credit, I probably never had to threaten him to begin with.) We’re teaching them that, yes, men are strong. And women are strong too.
We try hard to give equal props to all kinds of families: moms who work, dads who work, moms and dads who work, adoptive parents, two moms, two dads, grandparents, dads who stay home, moms who stay home, and whatever else we can think of.
So I was really pleased when my oldest son brought home from school the book he’d chosen from the school library last week: Seven Brave Women by Betsy Hearne.
It’s not that I think my six-year-old is a feminist because he chose this book. I’m just happy because of the teaching moment it inspired and the illustration of my son’s character that it illuminated.
This book is about several generations of women who made a difference, each in their own way. Each woman is strong and doesn’t follow the given path for women of her era.
My son had some questions when we were done reading, and I took the opportunity to talk to him about the way women were looked at in the past, and sometimes still today.
When I told him that people used to not believe that women could do the same things men do, the look of incredulity on his face was one of the best parenting moments I’ve had.
There’s a lot of years between now and his adulthood, but it is a wonderful thing to have a son who is old enough to talk to about feminism. It is a wonderful thing to have a son who doesn’t understand why someone would think a girl can’t have a job. It is a wonderful thing to have the potential to influence these boys, these boys who will grow up to be men. Men who respect women.
This is cross-posted at Stimeyland.