Updated: Nov 3, 2019
Written By: Alexandra Howard
Last Fall, we held a gender reveal to find out the sex of our second child. Surrounded by family and friends on a sunny October afternoon, our son opened a box of bright pink balloons. From that day forward, the phrase ‘million dollar family’ was regularly thrown around in our day to day conversations; one son, one daughter, and two happy parents. A million dollar family, indeed.
As we awaited her arrival, we frequently encountered questions about our parenting styles and whether or not our approach would differ. My husband in particular was put on the spot: how did he feel about raising a daughter? Would his approach be different than it was with our son? Was he armed for the day when the advances of teen boys would surely arrive? No, he said, on all fronts. An affectionate Father, my husband vowed his children would be raised the same- but would they? Could they?
The mind of a Mother is fraught with worry. A child of an ICU nurse and former victim of bullying, I will admit that I bring to my parenting a particular set of anxieties ranging from fears of safety to fears for their hearts. Like many other women on October 15, 2017, I updated my Facebook status to “Me Too”; in my eyes, preparing a girl for womanhood is highly complex, cautionary yet no-nonsense. In the wake of #MeToo and #TimesUp, I asked a friend who is a Dad to a young daughter if he had been paying attention to the news- he had. In fact, he was listening with eyes and ears wide open, concerned for her in a way that differed from the concerns he had for his son. I can relate to this: while I fear most for my son’s spirit, I fear for my daughter’s body. Socializing my daughter to be less a people-pleaser and more confident, more worthy, would be a top priority.
For good reason, we are having to reexamine how and what we teach our children. Common epithets like ‘man up’ and ‘don’t act like a girl’ just don’t have the clout they used to; emotional nurturing breeds good young men and by extension, good fathers. Pressures brought on by traditional qualities like toughness and dominance are under fire: in her book, “Boys: What it Means to be a Man”, Rachel Giese discusses Toxic Masculinity and the important question of ‘what about the boys’? In reality, ugly truths are everywhere: never have our worries been so well-founded, so valid.
Our daughter arrived in the Spring. Like her brother, we will encourage her to climb, get dirty, and ask questions; while the colours of their room might be different (hers pink, his blue), our intentions will be the same but with emphasis on different things. Where the worlds collide is on our value system: hard work, integrity, and kindness to name a few. I want both kids to know that it’s okay to cry, that consent is a real thing, and that they are never, ever allowed to ride a motorcycle.