Call me old-fashioned. But few things annoy me more than seeing an elderly couple or uncomfortable-looking pregnant woman standing in a crowded lobby while fresh-faced twenty-somethings slouch on the benches, fiddling with their iPhones.
*visualize indignant mom-glare*
Now, I’m hardly a stickler for manners. I don’t care if my kids put their elbows on the table or blow bubbles in their chocolate milk. But there are some social niceties that spring from kindness and common courtesy, and I encourage my boys to live by them. Offering your seat to your elders, and not letting the door slam shut in the face of the person behind you, are simple, thoughful gestures that show you are aware of the other person’s existance and care about their well-being.
And besides, little old ladies smile really wide when a six-year-old boy holds the door open for them.
Maybe that’s why I found this article on cross-gender rough-housing, posted on friend and fellow boy-mom Valerie’s Facebook wall, so interesting.
“We don’t play wild with girls.” The author, Lyn Lenz, was lamenting the very words that I have said to my boys on several occasions, making them out to be an un-feminist way of sidelining females.
But are they really?
I’ll admit, not only have I warned my boys about not playing rough with girls, both my husband and I have made it very, very clear that being unkind to a girl is about the worst thing they could ever do. Now, this may seem sexist at six or eight, when a good-sized girl could (and perhaps would) flatten them. (If, you know, my boys didn’t happen to be blond behemoths whose arrival off the school bus puts one in mind of the Viking invasions.) If you’re just raising boys, why make unnecessary distinctions?
But ultimately, we’re not raising boys who need to get along with girls. We’re raising men who need to get along with women. And the reality is that men usually have a huge physical advantage over women.
So, at what point are boys supposed to learn to treat their female friends with a bit more caution and consideration than their male peers? When they’re lanky, clumsy pre-teens who don’t know their own strength until they accidentally hurt someone?
I suppose that’s one way of doing it. But it’s not how I was raised, and it’s not how I’m raising my children.
I’ll admit to feeling the occassional twinge of guilt when I ask my fourteen-year-old to lug heavy things for me, because “I need his muscle.” In reality, we’re about the same size, and I’m not sure if he’s stronger than me yet. I don’t want to downplay my competence to build up his ego.
And yet, there is little question that within a year, he will be bigger and stronger than I will ever be. That throughout his life, it will be exponentially easier for him to carry in that second-hand chair from Goodwill, sling bags of garbage into the dumpster, and open stubborn pickle jars than it will be for the women in his life.
What is he going to do with that strength, that advantage? How is he going to use it? How should he use it?
So, what do you think? Is it offensive to acknowledge a physical advantage by treating others differently–by giving up your seat, offering to carry a heavy package, or suggesting a game of tag instead of tackle football? Or is it respectful? How do you feel when people make these concessions for you? How do you feel when they don’t?
I really do want to hear your thoughts on this, so please, speak up!