For the most part, I have always been the mother of girls. When my oldest daughter was born more than 18 years ago, I actually felt unprepared to mother a daughter. Then, as the years passed, I couldn’t imagine not having girls in the house. HA. Parenting a son was a foreign concept.
I instinctively taught my girls about being female. You know, not sitting “criss-cross applesauce” when wearing a dress in circle time, what to expect as they approached puberty, how to use a tampon, and the best hairbrush for smoothing their tresses when blow drying and styling, among other things.
While I wasn’t looking, my daughters (well, at least one of them) secretly observed how to apply lip gloss, figured out which shoe to wear with a casual outfit and noticed when I polished my nails or got a pedicure.
My younger child was too busy building Lego fortresses and imagining life on a Bob the Builder construction site. She preferred super-hero sneakers to glittery sandals and monster Halloween costumes over the latest Disney princess attire. As the older sister was shopping for just the right gown to be Miss America, the little one was figuring out if she would be able to see out of her “headless horseman” costume while trick or treating.
Let me just say that parenting is certainly meant to be shared and dads certainly have a role in teaching their daughters…girls learn how to be treated by watching the way daddy treats mom. They learn about relationships and self-respect from their dads (or other significant, important male figure in their lives).
Recently it dawned on me that we needed to teach our son how to be a man…not just what it means to feel male but what is expected of men in society.
Now, I look to my husband. He needs to be in the driver’s seat here. The spotlight is now on him to teach our son what it means to be a man, what the responsibilities are. I believe that a man should hold open the door, let a woman go first, have a firm handshake, stand up and greet someone by looking them in the eye and so much more. One could argue that much of this should be expected of woman as well. Humor me for now.
For a trans boy, being a man takes on a whole different meaning. There are behaviors that belong to guys such as the way they walk, the way legs are crossed, the way hands are shoved deep into their pockets, etc. Boys don’t squeal with delight the way girls do when excited about something. The male stance is different. Their body language is different. Their voice is different. These are things that a trans male learns by observing and studying other men.
For Hunter, a FTM trans male teen, there is a lot to learn. He watches YouTube videos and tries to deepen his voice so as to sound more like a GUY. He walks with a swagger that can only belong to a GUY. He dresses like his GUY friends. For the first time ever, he loves to shop. This was my child that hated to go into a store…refused to try anything on…carried on like he was being tortured.
I am learning what it means to have a son, to parent a boy. It’s not so bad – most of the time.