Despite my pink dreams and my Pinterest nursery ideas, we’re having a (healthy!) boy. There is joy. There is trepidation. And there is a strange phenomenon. Let me explain. I’m already mom to a spunky and sweet two-year-old daughter named Madeline. I have a younger sister. So raising a son, quite frankly, is uncharted territory. But no shortage of people–from family to friends to total strangers–have offered their thoughts on life with a little boy. “Get ready for trucks and trains!” “You’re going to know all about construction equipment!” “He’ll go non-stop!” Therein lies the strange phenomenon. I’m already well-versed in trucks, trains and construction equipment. And what two-year-old sits perfectly still all the time??
My daughter goes bananas for bulldozers, excavators and cranes. “Good Night, Good Night, Construction Site” is a favorite book at our house. She can’t wait to wear her Florasaurus Dress from Boden Kids. (The dinosaur and floral pattern on the dress are in bright pinks, blues and greens.) We play lots of train at our house, too. That’s why all those well-meaning thoughts on having a son rub me the wrong way. First, they make assumptions about my unborn son. Second, they make assumptions about my daughter.
I carefully choose books for Madeline. Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls Facebook page and the website for A Mighty Girl are often my guide. I love that both focus on developing smart, confident and courageous girls. The reading selections go beyond stereotypes to show girls there are no limits. I also try to stay in tune with Madeline’s interests and support them. The rapid home building in our neighborhood means we have front row seats to see construction equipment at work. That means we go on lots of walks and even camp out at our dining room window to catch all the construction action. We’ve driven all the way to Chattanooga for the “Day Out with Thomas the Train” because she can’t get enough of trains. I’m confident I’m no different than any other mom in that regard. We would do just about anything for their happiness and those smiles, wouldn’t we?
When I first found out we were having a boy, I panicked because I didn’t know how to be a mother to a son. I’d never done that before! After much thought, I realized the approach to raising a daughter or a son is inherently the same. (This probably sounds a little ridiculous to you more experienced moms!) I searched out articles and advice. That’s when I came across an awesome article in Psychology Today called “From Boys to Men: Raising Independent, Open-Minded Sons” by Peggy Drexler, Ph.D. It helped me focus my scattered thoughts (I blame pregnancy brain) on the issue. The article listed five main points. A couple of them jumped off my iPhone screen and smacked me in the head. One of the points, “Refuse to fall prey to gender-based expectations,” stated “children who are not bound by gender conformity seem to be better adjusted.” Amazing! That is something I witness in my own daughter even at the age of two. “Foster diverse interests” said “encouraging your son to participate in a wide variety of activities will enlarge his scope of interests, enrich his life, and help him appreciate freedom of choice for himself and others.”
Experiencing a wide variety of things enriches my life, so why not my children’s (boy or girl)?
Yet even with my awareness on the issue, I too fall for gender expectations. My daughter’s bedroom is pink and my soon-to-be-son’s is blue. If those aren’t glaring gender expectations, I don’t know what is! Madeline is never without a hair bow. She loves pretty clothes and playing dress-up (so do I!) and regularly tells me “I love your necklace!” I even heard her tell our endlessly patient dog Reagan that the hat she put on Reagan was “a good look.” Clearly, Madeline and I embrace her girly side.
My hope and prayer is that I will continue to try and balance gender expectations for both Madeline and my son. I know I don’t and won’t always get it right. But I do think it’s worth all the effort even if it makes me a little crazy. While we all take different approaches in raising our children–loving and nurturing their little hearts and minds in our own ways—our goal is the same. We want to give them everything they need to go out bravely into the big, big world.