Photo by Mikael Stenberg
As someone who likes to consider himself as ‘on the path to woke’, I thought that, when it came to writing an article about the differences between raising sons and raising daughters, it would be a pretty short piece.
In my mind, there were none. With my six-year-old son, I bake bread. We talk about emotions. We colour and draw. We dress up (him more than me, but still). And with my one-year-old daughter? We rough and tumble. She loves being thrown around. We play drums together. It’s all very loud, and very in-your-face.
But ‘none’ is oversimplifying the issue. And – as I’m discovering – it’s not strictly true. Here’s an example.
At the weekend I spoke with my mum. Christmas is looming, and as she’s in Tier 3 lockdown she wants to sort the presents earlier this year. ‘Would Xanthe like a little pram with a doll that she can push around the house?’ my mum asked.
It was hard not to dive straight into a monologue about how impressionable kids are, and what kind of message we are sending – even if only subliminally – to our daughters if, before they can talk, they’re pushing miniature versions of themselves around. Hey sweetie, this is what you’ve got to look forward to, so better start early.
However, I didn’t do that. Instead I politely said no, and suggested I follow up with a few ideas in the week.
If I’m honest, it caught me off guard. I’m so conscious of trying to raise both of my kids to believe in a world where either can accomplish anything that I expected everyone to be doing the same. News flash: they’re not.
I realised that in order for me to make sure my daughter has the best shot, I have to double down on messages and actions that I wouldn’t even consider with my son. I have to protect her from societal expectations about ‘what girls do’.
That. That right there. That’s the difference between raising sons and raising daughters. The horrible realisation that to create a level playing field for my daughter I need to make a conscious decision to do so.
I’m hopeful that in the future when people think on the differences between raising sons and raising daughters they’ll come to the conclusion I originally envisaged: that there are none, obviously. We’ll get there. One positive thought, one positive action, at a time.