Last night I spent a half an hour with my 2.5yr old son tying a rope around his waist because he wanted to wear his doll in a baby carrier just like we do with his baby sister (expect we don’t use rope). Watching him care and comfort his doll, as I’ve seen him do with his teddy bear as well, made me think about how we raise our sons.
In the past 40-50 years it seems the way we raise our daughters as a society has changed a lot. There are still huge issues with our emphasis on princesses and ponies and focusing on our girls’ physical beauty rather than their inner qualities and characteristics. But we also tend to see a lot more encouragement for girls to enter into spaces that were previously considered the territory of boys. Whether its soccer, basketball, math or science it seems far more acceptable for girls to explore these interests than it was as recently as a generation or two ago.
During that same time period the change in the way we parent boys doesn’t seem to have shifted in the same way. We have accepted that in order to raise healthy girls we need to give them confidence, strength, knowledge and freedom to explore their world. What we haven’t done is given boys permission or support to develop into nurturing, caring, empathetic and emotionally literate men.
As I watch my son’s face light up every time his baby sister wakes up or reaches a new developmental milestone I can’t help but feel that he has the capacity to communicate his feelings, provide love and support for others and be tender, gentle and kind. Why is it so difficult to affirm these attributes in boys?
Perhaps as dads its hard to encourage these things in our boys because they weren’t encouraged in us; because we lack the capacity to do things easily and comfortably. In order to raise a generation of compassionate, positive men we need to start with ourselves and question the way we model these values and qualities. If not for ourselves then for our sons.