Raising sons as daughters?

There’s a lot written about raising strong, independent, educated girls. However, now I have both BabyBoy and BabyGirl. And the article extracted below raises an interesting question – we spend a lot of time raising our daughters to be more ‘like men’, but are there attributes of raising daughters that we are neglecting to pass on to our sons?

For my 21st birthday I was given a cast iron skillet by a family matriarch….The reason that the cast iron skillet was a big deal is that it was a symbolic passing of the torch from one generation to the next. There is a recipe for English Toffee that has been handed down from one family member to another for generations. For some reason, it can only be made in a cast iron skillet. In addition, it is not something that you can make from written instructions. You learn it experientially from standing next to the stove and watching your grandmother or mother make it year after year for the holidays.

Making your first batch of toffee by yourself is a rite of passage for women in our family and being given your own cast iron skillet is being welcomed into womanhood. The challenge for me has been how to hand down this family secret. I tried to teach my daughter, Kassie, how to make it. But while she loved eating toffee, she never had patience or interest in standing beside me to watch for the micro-signals that tell you if the heat is right and when to move to the next step…So I backed off a few years ago when I started learning a bit about feminism and discovered that learning to cook was not a requirement for becoming a mother, let alone a woman.

Making toffee during the holidays is the only true family tradition we have….Given its significance and how much my family looks forward to it each year, I worried about what would happen if I got hit by a bus…Then this past year, the recipe passed from my generation to the next flawlessly and without the use of any recording equipment. It started when my son said, “Hey, Mom, I was wondering if this year, rather than hassling Kassie about learning to make the toffee, you would teach me?”

I literally smacked my head. It had simply never occurred to me to ask my son if he wanted in on this family secret. What blew me away even more was that it didn’t take years for him to learn how to do it. He was a natural. While we stirred the toffee, we talked. And that was when I realized what a huge mistake I had made in my parenting.

He was born when I still thought of men and women as fundamentally different and nearly incapable of understanding each other. My ideology has changed, but it has not fully trickled down into my relationships. I had treated my son as if he were fundamentally different from his sister and me. I had encouraged him to bond with my husband. But I assumed that he would be utterly uninterested in my world…I had never considered the possibility that I would have a relationship with my son as emotionally connected and mutually supportive as I had with my daughter…

…I love how my son is challenging all of the gender assumptions I didn’t even know I still had. I love that somehow, against all odds, I managed to raise a guy who cannot have his masculinity threatened because it does not reside in what other people think of him. I love that he does not see me as an alien species and that he is willing to forgive me for all the years I treated him as if he was…

…My son’s birthday is coming up in a few weeks. I am giving him a cast iron skillet. It is time to pass the torch.

Full article by Lynn Beisner can be found at Role / Reboot

5 thoughts on “Raising sons as daughters?

  1. North to South to Mama

    In my significant others family his father was the one to take up the torch from his grandmother to make the traditional holiday layer cakes.
    I grew up in a family that worked in fine dining. My stepfather is an accomplished cook. It’s never been anything but inevitable to both my SO and I that all our children will learn to cook, be they male or female. While we don’t have those same assumptions I watched my mothering law balk at the idea of getting our son a play kitchen.cinsteda insisting that what I meant to say was a play tool bench.

    1. multimummy Post author

      I can see the same issues arising with the more ‘traditional’ members of our families as BabyBoy grows up…. Any tips on handling this gratefully received!

  2. Valerie

    I think it’s important to teach qualities and skills to both genders. Some will be used more by one gender (we are NOT the same, after all!) but they should be shared with our children regardless. My daughter is pretty girlie-girl and that’s fine with us but we still expose her to “boyish” things like buiding birdhouses, science in school, watching Daddy change the oil, etc. And with our son, I have taught him to bake, crochet and cross stitch (of which he loves baking the most!) but he is the most rough-and-tough boy you’ll ever meet too! So, it’s a balance, I think.
    My husband wasn’t taught how to do any “girlish” things and it’s a shame. He can’t cook or mend a button, but he easily could have learned (and still could) but now he has no interest because he wasn’t introduced to these things.
    Great post!


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