Our last trip to the library netted us a book about a pig. I won’t name names, but let’s just say this female protagonist has a very precious item destroyed. Her mother tells her they can fix it, knit a new one, whatever. Logical solutions. For some reason, she still goes to her dad. He tells her he will not only buy her a new one but it will be the BEST THING IN THE WORLD. Oh, thank you, Daddy. You’re the best. Kiss kiss. Etc.
What kind of lesson is that for a kid to learn? Not only does it invalidate the mother, it also undermines any sense of personal responsibility whatsoever.
But it also plays right into that hackneyed Daddy’s Little Girl routine. Oh, don’t worry, darling, I’ll just buy you a new one. I’m Daddy, and I want you to love me at all costs.
Hey, Papa Pig, that’s not love. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but it’s not love.
There IS something different about raising a girl versus a boy, as evidenced by what I caught myself doing the other day. I looked over to see HP banging on one of the room heaters. It was off, but still.
“HPeeeeeeee…” I said, eyebrows a-furl. But there was something in the resonance, though, that lacked a certain oomph. It was more of a ‘Now, let’s not touch that heater-weater, Honeyscoots. I don’t want you to burn your little piggly-wigglies.’
Bub’s training went something like this: Bub approaches radiator, curiosity in his eyes. Daddy spies him from a room away.
“BUB!” Again, all about intonation. And this one had sharpness to it. Crisp, palpable tension with a sprinkling of fear and just a hint of anger.
There is a difference in how we parent boys and girls, I can already tell. There just is. And it’s not just me. My wife is also much tougher on Bub, I’ve noticed. Sure, he’s older and gets into more trouble. And HP is the second child, and gets the slack built into that. They are also very different personality types. And, she’s currently enmeshed in this mondo, colossal web of cute right now, which we never want to see her escape from. Yes, I’m rationalizing.
I think (hope) that this is normal. Coaches don’t coach all their players the same way. Teachers don’t teach their students all the same way. People have different learning styles, respond to different things. The point is that it must feel equal and just to the group. That’s one of the best things my parents taught my brother and I, and I hope to instill in my kids.
Everyone knows the adage that girls are harder to raise than boys. Maybe, maybe not. Those Daddy’s Little Girl trappings are right there for the taking, almost from the start. I started to take the bait myself. It’s easy to be superficially adored, like Papa Pig in that story. But I’d rather my daughter respect and trust me. Ask me for advice, not a pony. I’ll let you know how that all works out.