I’ve always assumed that raising girls would be hard. Not for one moment have I ever thought that parents of daughters have it easy. Sure, I know there are tonnes of gender stereotypes out there about girls being quieter and more particular about personal hygiene, etc, but I genuinely don’t believe that that can be true of all – if any – of them. I’m fairly certain there are some girls out there who have never heard of an “inside voice” and who have to regularly be reminded to brush their teeth and wash their hands. Hell, maybe their parents have to yell “WIPE!” on a daily basis too. Because they are CHILDREN; not GENDER.
So, no; I have never thought that girls were in any way easy to raise. But I have always believed that the teenage years with a girl would be tougher than with a boy, and that is not only naive, but it’s also kinda sexist.
See, once a girl gets into her teen years I reckon it’s fairly natural for parents to worry about their daughters being mugged or raped if they’re walking home a bit late in the evening from the bus stop one night. It shouldn’t be natural, of course, because nobody should have to worry about that shit. But, nonetheless, this is the messed up world we live in right now and these things do happen. So I’d imagine that all mothers and fathers worry from time to time about such atrocities befalling their daughters and I can’t begin to imagine how terrifying that must be.
But I have the opposite problem. Because I have boys, and boys grow up to be men and men are more often than not the perpetrators of mugging and rape. So I have to raise them in such a way that they know unequivocally that those behaviours are wrong and unacceptable. And how will I know if I’m doing a good job? Should I be worried if one of them slyly thwacks the other when he thinks I’m not watching? Should I be concerned that sometimes they climb on me when I’ve told them no? Should I stress myself about the fact that [every so] often they lie about who ate the last Smartie?
These things sound trivial, but I often catch myself worrying about the bigger picture they could add up to. So when people say to me, “Ah, boys are challenging when they’re little, but so much easier than girls when they’re older” I have to wonder if maybe those people just aren’t worrying quite as much as I am about who their kids are going to grow up to be.
Let’s get one thing straight:
I don’t care about my boys’ sexuality.
I don’t care about how they look.
I don’t care whether they decide to go to university or not.
I don’t care what jobs they do.
But I do care about who they turn out to be inside. Because I want them to be empathetic and compassionate. I want them to stand up for the less fortunate and be the voices of the voiceless. I want them to be good people who do good things. I want them to be in touch with their emotions and know how to express them appropriately whilst also knowing that those emotions do not make them “weak” or “girly”.
Well, I’m not sure if I’m doing an adequate job. And, of course, that job is not made any easier by the men we regularly see in the media. Donald Trump. Harvey Weinstein. Powerful men in powerful positions who treat women with an appalling lack of decency and, in the case of the former at least, get away with it. When a man can “joke” about “grabbing [women] by the pussy” and go on to become the president of the most powerful country in the world, what hope is there for our children? What hope is there for instilling in them the moral fibre to treat women – or individuals from different cultures who practice different religions, for that matter – with respect and compassion?
It goes without saying that I will not give up. I will always strive to raise my sons to be good people. I will teach them about boundaries, about respecting the word “no” and their right to use it themselves. I will continue to teach them that we all have the right to decide what happens to our bodies and who gets to touch them. But even I must accept that there will come a day when my influence on them is overtaken by the influence of their peers, and when that time comes I can only hope that I have taught them well and that they choose their friends wisely.