My Son Plays With DollsEmily McClements
My son is definitely a boy’s boy. The difference between having a little girl and little boy are amazing to me. Of course I know that boys and girls are different, but I just didn’t realize how different they would be so early on in life.
My son loves balls, trucks, tools, and trains. He loves to “work” on stuff, and help his daddy. He climbs and runs and jumps and throws as best as he can. My husband and I often look at each other, smile and say, “He is such a boy.”
I believe that most of our gender differences are innate, something we are born with. And I believe that boys and girls are different. But, I do think that we do our kids, and ourselves, a disservice when we hold too tightly to gender roles.
So, when my son wants to carry a baby doll in a sling that I made for my daughter, I let him. I actually encourage him in that kind of role playing. Hopefully, someday he will be a father and I hope that he is a strong enough man to wear his baby. Baby wearing has so many benefits for both the baby and the parent and a dad wearing their baby is one of the sweetest things ever – at least in my book.
However, one day I walked out of the bathroom to find my son sitting on the couch with his shirt pulled up, holding a baby doll up to his belly, while he said, “Feed baby, feed baby.” Then, he wanted me to put the baby underneath his shirt and asked, “Put baby in my tummy.” What was I supposed to do with that?
Those are roles that he will never be able to have. He won’t be pregnant and he won’t breastfeed a baby.
But, instead of telling him no, I helped and again encouraged him to play in this manner. I don’t view it as a distortion of gender roles, I see it as his way of acting out what it means to care for a baby. This is how he sees me, and other moms around him, caring for their babies, so why should I be surprised that he is mimicking this behavior?
I want to raise a son who understands what it means to be loving, caring, and nurturing, even though those are viewed more as feminine characteristics. I don’t buy the whole “boys should be boys” idea, the concept that boys should be strong and insensitive. Not that there’s anything wrong with boys being strong, but I think we hurt our little boys when we don’t teach them how to be sensitive. And this also hurts their future children when they become fathers and don’t know how to be loving, and caring, and nurturing towards them.
So, I’ll let my boy play with dolls, wear babies in a sling, and even nurse his dolls and pretend he’s pregnant. He has the rest of his life to learn what it means to be a man. And I hope he becomes a man who is full of care and compassion toward others because that is a human characteristic, not a male or female one.
What do you think about gender roles for little kids? How should we help boys learn to be caring and nurturing?
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