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Alexander Residence: Boy Power

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Boy Power

My boy eats on the go, he hits, he wrestles, he defends his territory like a warrior, he sits on my head and farts, he loves cars, he turns anything into a weapon, he tries to sneak Bombay bad boy, and he likes nothing better than patrolling the house in his pants.

That's my two year old, not my husband.  (Our son tried his Dad's Bombay Badboy once, at his own request, and asked for more, please don't think its something he eats regularly).  But this list makes we wonder about what we do encourage and discourage, because he is a boy.   I like to think I have discouraged gender stereotypes, no mean feat in these stinky pink and bold blue times.  Perhaps though, having a girl and a boy makes that job slightly easier.

The world has finally accepted that nature and nurture are both at play.  In some ways however, this makes the job doubly challenging.  I know I want to discourage gender stereotypes, but how do I encourage and channel characteristics which seem so inherently male, that they seem alien to me.  Sometimes I just find him too boisterous, too demanding, yet my husband loves these traits.  Similarly my husband struggles to understand why my daughter gets so emotional.

As me and my son were wandering round the toy shop together this week, without his big sister, I was suddenly stuck by the enormity of the job ahead.  Raising a boy.   As a woman, as a feminist.   As he picked up water pistols, trucks and diggers.  As he clambered to be on my knee in the cafe afterwards. Always so eager for affection and closeness, unlike his sister who has always been content to hug and run.  Suddenly the difference seems vast. And when his sister goes to school in September it will be just the two of us.

Beneath his male bravado, which gets us in whole heap of trouble, is a boy who is easily knocked by the world around him. He is easily angered by other children and defends his toys like an Alpha male defending his territory.  He is the one who tries to creep into our bed at night. Something his sister never does.

I am realising being a boy is a whole heap of stuff I need to get my head round. Like how do I nurture him so that he can be a successful man? How to balance that with my feminist agenda, how do I make sure he values and respects women?  What do I encourage?

In a drunken conversation with my brother's girlfriend recently I demanded to know that my brother was pulling his weight with housework. My mum would have been horrified if he hadn't been. We were expected to do the same jobs around the house.  I'm not so sure that's the same for all men. So that's a big one on my parenting agenda.

I think I can be a better role model.  It's all very well preaching equality but if parents don't also demonstrate it, I think the message gets lost.  So I need to stop deferring jobs that involve tools and technology to my husband. And he needs to take on more cooking and washing.

This may sound like small fry, but I think the domestic labour debate is still one of the hugest stumbling blocks in the path of gender equality.

I also think teaching children to name and express emotions is huge.  Emotionally intelligent children grow into adaptable and receptive individuals.

I am looking forward to my journey with my boy.  Any tips or reflections on raising boys though, very gratefully received.

The very inspirational Melaina at Transatlantic Blonde started this train of thought, with her Feminist Friday linky.  Melaina and I have exchanged a few tweets about all things gender, clothing, toys etc.  I am glad she has started this linky, it's great to inspire intellectual debate in the community.  This time the focus is on raising feminist children.  I love what Melaina says about not letting motherhood define you...

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At 11 June 2011 at 22:49 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

any tips you get = please pass on!

fabulous post as always penny,

cant wait to meet you in two weeks


At 12 June 2011 at 06:54 , Blogger Kelly Simmonds said...

This is so interesting Penny, as I am also starting to think about these things. You must be a year on from me though as my son is almost a year and my little girl starts school next September. So far I haven't noticed alot of difference in my son's behaviour being boy. I have put down his more affectionate side to him being a different child, not a different gender but maybe it is just the mummy's boy thing. I sooo agree with being a better role model and not leaving certain jobs to my husband. I cringed when I read this as I have been known to say, 'Oh that's a Daddy job', ah! Also so with you on the importance of emotional intelligence. Good luck!x

At 12 June 2011 at 07:12 , Blogger The Alexander Residence said...

Thanks Jane. Really looking forward to seeing you too. Aghh only two weeks?
Kelly - Really interesting to hear your perspective, you are right to highlight individual personality too. I wonder how much personality and gender are at play too. Recently it's become more obvious there is a gender influence I think.

At 12 June 2011 at 13:51 , Blogger Melaina25 said...

I think one of the biggest things we can do to raise feminist children is lead by example and correct the misinformation broadcast to them by the media and larger society.

I think even just being aware that we need to does these things is a great first step! Thanks for taking part and I hope you enjoyed it! Please do read the other posts and comment when you get a chance; a big part of Feminist Fridays is the building a virtual feminist parenting community!


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