Monday, March 21, 2005

Men and women and raising boys

A post at Welcome to the Nut House got me thinking. (Thanks to Dr. B. for sending folks over to the Nut House.)

The nut had this to say: "Mother's Day. There is all this great stuff for moms to do with their daughters, but nothing for moms and their sons. So I have decided to crash a tea party this year or something similar and see how it goes. It's kinda how there are matching outfits for moms and daughters, but nothing for moms and sons. It's almost as if it denies that there can be any real link between us because we are not of the same gender....or assumes that there is an ever-present father in these rapidly shrinking 'traditional families' so the son automatically wants to emulate the male gender."

I'm a married mom with a son who's almost 5. While we don't have matching outfits (and I daresay if I had a daughter, we'd be staying far, far away from the matchy-matchy thing), Ben does like to emulate me just about as much as Daddy. My boy has several purses (handy for putting Hot Wheels cars in), and he has about as much interest in makeup as I do (which is very little). He probably puts skirts on* more often than I do (which, again, is very seldom).

It's tough, though, because as the stay-at-home parent, I do get stuck with the bulk of the household work, and I don't want my son to grow up thinking that housework is women's work. As much as I'd love to delegate all the laundry to my husband, I'd much prefer that he spend his evenings and weekends interacting with Ben. At least Ben likes to be helpful and grown-up, and he enjoys helping out with household chores (except for cleaning up his toys, of course). He does an excellent job pouring the laundry detergent into the machine. So there is hope that he'll grow up knowing how to do these things and understanding that household responsibility is unisex.

Turning my attention to TV, do you watch "Arrested Development"? There's a close mother-son relationship on display there, between cold Lucille and dysfunctional Buster. Looking at the movies, there's Norman Bates and Mother. In Robert Munsch's** disturbing kids' book, Love You Forever, the mother totally invades her son's personal space while he's asleep. Enviable fictional mother-son relationships aren't coming readily to mind. Can you think of any? I want to remain close to Ben when he's grown, but I don't want it to involve matching sailor suits at the Motherboy dance (demonstrated to hilarious effect in "Arrested Development"). Where's something I can aspire to?
*The skirts are from the dress-up bin at school. My feminist credentials do not include having princess dresses and glittery shoes at home for Ben to play with. Is that a bad thing? Am I stifling him? Are princess dresses a feminist no-no for girls but a must for boys?

**Munsch's other books tend to be fantastic and funny, with a strong anti-authority streak. There's one story about a girl who colors her whole body with permanent markers. And a girl who invites all the kids from kindergarten through sixth grade to her birthday party and orders, like, 200 pizzas. A boy whose dad sleepwalks, so the boy finally devises the solution of chaining him up at night. The Amazon reviews of Munsch's books often include one by a teacher, parent, or librarian who is utterly appalled at the inappropriate messages put forth, plus a bunch more pointing out how much kids love these stories (they're smart enough to get the humor without copying the purportedly antisocial behavior). Munsch uses a lot of repetition of phrases, so his books are great for emerging readers. If you haven't seen these books and you have a kid aged 4 to 8, I encourage you to pick up a couple for your kids (and yourself).


thenutfantastic said...

See, it's strange. It's not like I really want to do any of those things but it would be nice to have the option because then it shows society is picking up on the gender dynamic that makes up our world. You pointed out mostly psychotic relationships between mothers and sons and that's how I feel. It's almost as if it's Freudian somehow for a mother/son to have a close relationship like a mother/daughter or father/son are supposed to have. Not even the father/daughter connection is beaten down as bad because then it's just giving the daugther a postive male role model.

And how my son loves to put one of my nieces dresses on and wiggle around as he says, "Look at me, I'm a girl, I'm a girl." It's cute though, because he can't pronounce his r's so instead is sounds like 'geyl.'

bitchphd said...

I actually do think the mother-son bond is Freudian, but I think that's okay. PK is totally in love with me. And like you say, Orange, that means he imitates a lot of the things I do: he gets into my makeup, he likes me to paint his nails if he catches me doing my toes (once in a blue moon), he loves to put on my boots and prance around (fucking hilarious, since they cover his entire leg).

We don't have sparkly princess dresses, btw. You're good there.

Mothers and sons in books. Hmm. I'll think on that one.

Orange said...

Before Ben wanted to marry me, he wanted to marry Daddy. Hey, the boy's got good taste...

thenutfantastic said...

Yep, peanut has done that whole "I'm gonna marry you mom!" thing. Now, him and my niece play "marriage" together. They even tried naked wrestling just a few weeks ago (luckily my mom caught them before they could even begin).

Once, when we were in Food Lion, he was sitting in the grocery cart in the actual chair part (he's too big for it now) and all of a sudden swoons, "I think I'm in love!" and gets this dreamy look on his face. It took me completely off guard and I laughed so hard. So did everyone else around us as at that.

We kept running into this same guy throughout the store, too, (on at least 3 different occasions) and peanut quickly picked up on the "I think I'm in love" thing causing the guy to chuckle and repeated it everytime we saw him.

Have either of your sons' made a verbal list of men in their lives that have penis's then goes through the list of women in their lives with vagina's? For almost the whole age of 3, peanut did this every.time. we went into a public bathroom. I could hear the ladies snickering in the next stall, seriously. I was never go glad for my mostly non-embarassed easily personality in my adult life.

thenutfantastic said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
thenutfantastic said...

Just to let you know, that delete was mine bc for some wierd reason, it posted twice.