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Instead of repeatedly telling sons to respect women, they should be brought up with tenderness – like we do our goals. Anupriya Gupta shares her own transition.
I grew up in a household with no boy kids. We were two sisters in the house and our father pushed us really hard to achieve perfection in life. My upbringing was nowhere like those girls pampered by their fathers. During my teens, I resented the strictness and behest meted by my father.
One day during a heart to heart talk with my mother, I expressed my resentment to her. What she said then, made me see my dad’s constant pushing us towards bettering ourselves, from a new perspective. “He is only preparing you to take on the harsh world out there. You must grow up to be financially independent. And you ought to be bold and independent to brave through this man’s world.”
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At that point I argued with myself saying that a little bit of pampering here or some indulgence there could do no harm. Years later, rather decades later, now I understand his intentions where he was trying to instill life skills that would help us stand as equals in a male dominant world.
The comprehension about my dad’s parenting style, led me to formulate a notion which I surmised in one of my campus interviews for an automobile company as, “I have been brought up like a boy.”
I remember with acute clarity even today (around 13 years later) the amused look that my interviewer held at such proclamation from me. I took offence then, and went onto justify further that I have not been brought up delicately like the other girls around me. I have been tempered by struggles of being a girl in a male dominated society and hardened enough to survive alone without anyone to really look upto.
When I look back at that interview, I completely understand why the recruiter did not shortlist me. Who would want a fresh recruit with so much baggage?
Keeping that aside, the point here is that my early life had a lot to do with my perception of how parenting is different for girls viz-a-viz boys. This reminds me of another incident.
My best friend had a younger brother. Not too young though, just a gap of 2 years. But she often boasted about her father who was always protective of her and always took her side whenever there was a brawl between the siblings.
“She is your sister. It is your responsibility to protect her. That’s why she ties rakhi on your wrist every year.” The brother of my friend was further bogged down by the fact that he was dissuaded from playing with the girl gang, whenever we gathered at their house during the vacations.
“What are you doing among the girls? Go to your room and play with your Mechano set. You can play with your friends in the evening.” I also know for a fact that, he was extremely irritated with the constant reminder of what he could not do because he was a boy.
At this juncture, I am also reminded of a cousin of mine whose grandmother pampered him and favored him above his younger sister.
“He is going to be my buddhape ki laathi (support system during my oldage). He deserves this extra love and care.” It was amusing how she would always ask for an additional glass of milk for my cousin brother, because he needed that extra nutrition to prepare himself for the challenges of life as the pillar of the house.”
She also insisted that he be served meals along with his father and given the same amount of respect as he is the future bread winner of the household. She did not mind him bossing around his sister to do small chores for his. My cousin brother loved the extra attention he garnered by the day, and often faced flake from his sister for being the bossy brother who thinks he has the right to order her around.
Fast forward life by decade and a half, against all my wishes and prayers of having a girl child, I was blessed with a boy. Years of conditioning where the difference between upbringing girls and boys stared in the eye and started playing its role in my parenting style.
As my boy began growing up, I brooded over not having a girl child who I could pamper and be protective about. The resentment only peaked, as my boy grew up to be a hyper active toddler, who wanted to be on wheels of every size (tri-cycle, bi-cycle, Skates, Scooter, Gliders) and showed a clear preference for things that put him in physical rigor.
With the coming of my second son, I mused over the fact that I will never witness tiny girls playing with their dolls and kitchen set. Also I would never be able to swoon over their mehendi clad hands and in my life I would miss a girl’s constant fetish for dressing up and accessorizing her appearance. (Not that I did it as a girl, but then I was kept quarantined from such girly things). I was constantly running behind my boys and reprimanding them for tiniest of mischief. That’s how it is going to be with the boys. I constantly justified to myself whenever I rebuked at my son’s rugged behavior.
Why couldn’t I have had one girl who would sit with her dolls, teddy bears and her kitchen set in one corner of the room and remain busy on her own.
I spent numerous days whining about how my life is going to be only about wheels in all shapes and sizes, as that’s what they receive for gifts. Other than some educational toys and equipments, all that he receives are cars, trucks, bat and ball in various sizes.
When it’s time to buy clothes for my boys, it doesn’t take too much time. The best of stores dedicate 70 percent of their space to girl’s section and a small corner for the boys. Although a lot of boutiques are coming up with designer clothes for boys’ party wear, but for a regular wear it’s largely a t-shirt and a half pant or full pant. Then there are so many restrictions on the colors that boys may or may not wear!
But lately I have put my hands up and decided to give up on biased parenting practices towards my sons. The thing is that first we overlook the boys’ rugged attitude as a gender trait and then when they grow up with skewed notions of their rights and entitlements we call them chauvinistic (I am tempted to add the p** word).
So, I decided to pay attention to finer behavioral patterns of my parenting attitude and made a few changes in them to make it more gender neutral.
These are just a couple of things that I am currently doing to make my parenting gender neutral. As they grow up the gamut of issues will broaden and I will have to pay continuing attention to my parenting style to keep it gender neutral. I realize that using a gender neutral approach to parenting, will do more good to my boys than I can fathom in the current moment. No amount of telling them to respect girls and women is going to yield the same results than treating them at par, with equal tenderness and genteel.
This is just a beginning I have made. It is going to be a long patient journey before it can reap the fruits. But I am going to tread the path, nevertheless.
Image Source – Pixabay
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