My parenting journey started with 2 sons, born 18 months apart. I wanted to raise thoughtful, kind, compassionate boys and I think I did. As they grew to be the teenagers they are now I wanted them to grow to be aware of the world around them. I want them to make it a better place. I want them to be aware that as intelligent, white, males that they have huge privilege. I want them to use this privilege well. I want to raise good men.
Parenting is no walk in the park be that daughters or sons, we all know that. It’s a long, tiring, emotionally draining slog. I don’t need to say it’s worthwhile though do I?
Well it is!
I may be looking through rose tinted spectacles but I never felt parenting my sons a particular challenge. There were challenging times certainly, but they gave me confidence I was getting this parenting lark right. At 15 and 17 now they are respectful of boundaries, know how far to push them and know what behaviour won’t be tolerated. I know it appears I’m making these boys seem like the world’s most perfectly behaved children. I’m not and they’re not.Raising the boys so far though has been a relatively calm experience.
When my eldest daughter came along it was a shock to the system from the off. Where the boys as toddlers would stop what mischief they were up to at the “No” word,my daughter would laugh and carry on. She’s always identified boundaries then taken a run up and leapt over them. She questions, she talks of unfairness and gets frustrated when she sees it in action. She shouts and argues and needs to say her piece at all costs. So much so she is happy to take any consequences that come her way such is her need to be heard. I feel I should say here that she’s not shouting that she doesn’t want bolognaise for tea or just being obnoxious. In her mind the things she argues for are hugely important to her.
Her little sister shows similar traits of identifying how girls and boys are treated differently in school sometimes and she does have a moan in a way that a 9 year old can. It makes me wonder if girls just inherently know from a young age that they will always need to shout louder to be heard, will have to work harder to be recognised, will always have to fight for every bit of space they want to take up.
In the same vein, maybe my boys know that they can afford to be laid back and a bit lazy as there are so many fights that they’ll simply never HAVE to fight.
Maybe I’m over thinking. Maybe I just have 4 unique individuals and their personalities have nothing to do with sex. I’m doubtful of that though.
My eldest daughter talks of being in the top maths set where when boys finish first they get extension work, whereas if she finishes first she’s asked to help those struggling ( what with girls being all nurturing obviously!) She’s been told off for questioning this, but as long as she’s polite she’s my backing.
She’s written letters to sports shops because she had to buy shin pads for football labelled boys as the shop didn’t label any girls or children’s. It was boys or nothing.You can read her letter here
I’ve been in a shop with my daughter when she’s witnessed a dad tell his daughter she couldn’t have football stickers as they were for boys and to get Hello Kitty ones instead. I saw how she wanted to ask him why? I saw her biting her tongue but really not wanting to (I regret speeding her out of the shop that day. I should have let her ask him why)
Faced with all this and only 14 (I know she’s a whole ton of misogynistic crap to deal with yet) there’s no wonder she’s frustrated. She’s way more aware of the world and sexism than I was at her age. Feminist mum will do that for you I guess. It’s going to make a person question and want to stand up for themselves and others.
I know my daughter will be labelled stroppy and mouthy and feisty (yuk), words never used to describe her male counterparts who behave the same way.
If we can channel her spirit though, surround her with strong females who do listen to her, who don’t hush her or tell her to behave more ‘like a girl’ (something I’ve been picking people up on all her life) I’m hopeful that these daughters of mine can and will try to change their world for the better and that can be no bad thing.
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