In a few months, I’ll be able to once again hold a newborn in my arms. This time, a sweet little boy. I’m looking forward to the moment I get to meet him. But being the planner I am, I needed to make sure I felt prepared for what that meant. I knew how to be a dad for a girl, but could I do so for a boy?
As someone who’s taken a deep dive into feminist issues to be more conscious of how to raise our daughter, I felt a little intimidated by what it would mean to raise a boy.
When I bring that up, everyone tells me raising a boy is easier or it should come so much easier for me to father a boy than a girl. A 2018 Gallup poll of Americans even said 2-to-1 that they thought raising a boy is easier. But if that were the case, would men’s mental health issues be as prevalent as they are today? Doesn’t the way society dictates gender norms have a lot to do with the commonality all men feel in our resistance to sharing our true emotions?
I know how much impact toxic masculinity can have on a child. I know its effects can stay long through adulthood. I’ve worked on my own traumas relating to that in order to make me better for my family. But how can I prevent my child from being damaged by this and repeating a cycle?
I don’t know the answer yet. I suspect the reason this is even an issue is we are quick to box what we expect from each gender at such an early age. I’m doing it now, but I am trying to learn to parent without expectations of who my children will be. We have to let kids be.
We need to be careful not to persuade them to like certain things simply because they are male or female. As responsible parents, we must give them the environment to explore whether it’s playing in the dirt or with dolls. Kids like what they like (I tried preventing my daughter from liking princesses, for example, but she’s all about it now).
Also, I know that the learnings I’ve had regarding feminism and raising my daughter should only be amplified for my son. Raising a child on empathy and respect should be a priority, regardless.
Finally, I know that there’s so much more to learn. I’ll need to keep up my self-education. By learning more about men’s health, feminism, gender identity issues, and doing more self-work, I hope that I can continuously be better, for both my son and my daughter.
A version of ‘Raising a Boy’ first appeared on Being Papa. Photo: © kieferpix / Adobe Stock.
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