My husband and I seem to parent our children differently based on their genders.
I read a post by blogger Janelle Harris today in which she discussed the difference between her and her boyfriend’s parenting styles. Harris’s tween daughter wanted a piece of candy and to shut down the back-and-forth debate that ensued when Harris said no, the boyfriend just took the candy and ate it, making the argument a non-issue.
This made me laugh because I immediately identified with the boyfriend. My oldest daughter was seven when my husband and I had our second child, so for a long time, she was an only child. The two of us parented her very differently—he was a pushover; I was the strict one. Sure, sometimes I resented this dynamic, but I grew to accept it.
He caved when she batted her pretty blue eyes, and I swept in with a punishment. It amounted to a fairly balanced approach as a unit, and we all knew what to expect. She’d push the limits, my husband would try to look stern, she’d put on her “Daddy’s Princess” face, and I’d have to come in to regulate as my husband melted. Why It Helps To Play Good Cop Bad Cop When Parenting
Sure, the boyfriend’s response in Harris’s anecdote was a little on the jerky side. But it was immediate, conclusive, and, let’s admit it, rather funny. Like I said; I’m usually the strict one. Momma doesn’t mess around. But I stopped mid-chuckle because suddenly Harris’s story brought to mind another situation, one in which my toddler son (the addition who dethroned Daddy’s Princess) was hell-bent on getting a Hershey’s Kiss before dinner. Ever conscious of my children’s nutritional intake, I steered him toward an apple.
He wasn’t having it. He handed me back the apple, trotted his diapered behind right back to the pantry, and retrieved the Kiss, which I’d made the rookie mistake of placing back within his arm’s reach. I took a breath and braced myself for the battle sure to ensue. Kiss in hand, he waddled back to my side…and wrapped his pudgy little arms around my leg in a ginormous hug.
He threw his head back so he could look up at me, smiled broadly, and in his baby English, said, “Mama. PLEASE?” And before you could say “heartbreaking,” the foil was scattered across the floor and my son was delightedly licking his prize from his fingers. From the living room drifted a single word from my husband: “Sucker.”
What happened to our dynamic? My husband, ever ready to yank my son from whatever height he is precariously navigating and give him a timeout once back on solid ground, is still totally at my little girl’s mercy. (If you need proof, let me just say that there may or may not be photographic evidence of my manly man playing a fantastic board game called “Pretty Pretty Princess,” in which wearing pink-colored bling is most definitely involved.)
As best as I can identify, our parenting styles were affected by the introduction of a tax deduction with a Y chromosome. My husband and I seem to parent our children differently based on their genders, a tendency I never expected, being the enlightened and empowered woman I am. (“Roar” and all that.) Once we had both a boy and a girl, though, this tendency became obvious. My husband is very quick to regulate when it comes to my son, and when I asked him why he thought this was, he explained it like this:
“I was raised to treat women right. My mom had me opening doors for women when I was a kid, and my dad took teaching me how to be a good man seriously. But it’s a man’s job to take care of women—not that you need me to take care of you, babe, just because I want to, because I love you—so I want to teach our son that, and I want to treat our daughter like a lady, too. I guess that’s just how I see my job playing out.”
OK, I get that (and thanks for teaching him right, mother-in-law!)
So what’s my excuse for being harder on my daughter and a softie with my son? Is it because my parents are Yankees and my husband hails from the South? That my dad was a military Colonel, ensuring that I’d have a bit of a hardcore streak? Is it because I was one of three girls and my husband was one of three boys? You got me. I’m a writer, not a shrink, and I’m doing my best to figure out this parenting thing as I go along. I’m just really, really, glad that I’m not always going to have to be the strict one anymore.
Let’s just wait and see how the dynamic changes when my daughter thinks she’s ready to start dating. That should be interesting.