I went back to the Facebook post that I was frustrated with yesterday, and I followed the breadcrumbs back to the page from which it was shared.
Turns out, there are multiple permutations of this list- in addition to what moms should say to sons, there was what moms should say to daughters, dads to sons, dads to daughters. I felt sort of silly at first. Like maybe I had jumped the gun. Maybe they covered more ground than I had initially thought. I should backtrack, pull down my quasi-rant about the list I had seen.
But I found myself even more annoyed than I was originally. Again- there was a lot of good stuff to be gleaned from all four of these lists. But they were all based on some basic assumptions about moms and dads being women and men and thus able to provide specific insight that the other just couldn’t. And the basic assumptions that our daughters and sons will be girls and boys in need of gender specific training of some sort.
And I gotta say that outside of the sorts of things I would put on the internet (because I am a prude of sorts, not because I don’t think it’s already on the web), there is very little that is true of people strictly because of the way their bodies present sex characteristics.
My husband was so much more able (and for a while willing) than I to hold and cuddle and nuture our infant child. If only he’d been able to lactate… but I digress
He wasn’t an athlete; between poor eyesight and asthma, he probably wouldn’t have been much of a soldier, either. But he also loves to be outdoors, camping, riding his motorcycle, drinking beer with his buddies (but not before riding) and yelling on the sidelines for his teams.
What did he whisper into our child’s ear while they were out for their morning walks? Or over his shoulder while driving our little bundle around?
- He introduced the pantheon of Classic Rock (making sure the kid could ID Neal, the Boss, and Bob by 18 months) and other important music.
- He extolled the virtues of coffee – and the importance of finding the good stuff
- He talked about love- how much our child was loved, how much we loved each other and what it meant to give up the stuff you want for someone else’s good.
- He talked about the Red Sox, the Patriots and the evil empires against whom they fight
- He made sure that our kid got to know Fred Rogers, the Sesame Street gang, Clifford, Arthur, and the Simpsons.
And I’m positive that our child’s gender had nothing to do with any of those conversations. Nor have 90% of our conversations about how to grow up to be a person of integrity. Nor has our amazement at our child’s compassionate heart and dizzying capacity to argue about darn near anything.
Sometimes I wonder if we fetishize the daddy-daughter relationship while we worry about the Oedipal effects of the mother-son relationship. I’m much more interested in seeing whatever parents a kiddo has doing the hard work of knowing their children as individual people with quirks and gifts, talents and weaknesses, delights and annoyances.
Then and only then will we know the 20 (20,000?) things our own children need to hear, so that they can be the people they were born to be.