A father has spoken about how her “mind spiraled into darkness” when his 2-year-old son demanded that he only wear T-shirts with tractors on them. Writer Jay Deitcher began to fret that his son would fall into a world that was “stereotypically manly.”
A Life of Sports Cars and Muscles
Deitcher talked about how he “catastrophized worst-case scenarios, such as a life of football, sports cars, and macho fights. He said that while he always felt trapped by masculine expectations, he contemplated the stereotypes forced upon men when his wife gave birth to his son. He recalls his wife joking that she “ had a connection to our new baby that I could never attain because men couldn’t bond with babies like women could.”
Hearing his wife talk about how women bond with babies much more naturally than men struck Jay. He reflected, “To me, femininity was connected to empathy and kindness while masculinity equated to being frosty.” He looked at the world around him and noticed that men didn’t hug or show affection and showed aggression instead. Jay was determined to be a better dad and create a close bond with his child.
Jay Gave up His Job to Be a Caregiver to His Son
The conscious decision was made for Jay to give up his social work job to stay at home and look after his son while his wife went to work. He says this made more sense as his wife earned more money, and he wanted to embrace life as a father who was present for his son. Lots of cuddles, co-sleeping, attending “mommy and me” playgroups, and fighting off claims that he was taking part in “daddy day care” ensued. Jay noted that he would cringe as the stereotypes banded around about men but knew there was some truth in it all. He said, “I shuddered at jokes about men being incapable of figuring out how to work a diaper, yet I felt most couldn’t.
Footballs Were Hidden
Jay’s world was full of talk of plaid, tools, cars, and John Wayne, all of which made Jay shudder. When Jay’s son was given a football by his grandmother, it was stashed away in a closet, never to be seen again. Life was like this until the tractors came along.
Social Media Influence
On the days when parenthood felt a little too much, Jay would put “Cartoons.” on YouTube and let his son listen to the songs on the program. Quickly realizing that he liked the tractor songs, Jay’s son would ask for more videos about construction and eventually asked for shirts with images of tractors on them.
A True Dilemma
Jay says he was left with a dilemma: “I had to make a choice: buy him clothes with pictures of heavy machinery on them and make the kid happy, or force him to wear shirts emblazoned with fuzzy animals to appease me.” He says he tried encouraging his son to watch different types of videos and bought him some non-gendered clothes. In the end, Jay says, “I took on being an at-home father because I wanted to bond with my son, and I realized that meant I needed to let him discover his own interests.”
Jay Is Not on His Own
It’s common for parents to want their children to reject harmful stereotypes, but it’s important to remember that children are individuals with their interests and preferences. Supporting their interests is essential, even if they don’t align with your expectations.
It’s OK to Like Tractors
If your son loves tractors, that’s great! There’s nothing wrong with that. There are many things to love about tractors. They’re big, powerful machines that can do many amazing things. They’re also essential for farming and agriculture, which are significant industries that provide food for all of us.
Keep Talking To Your Sons
You can still encourage your son to reject harmful stereotypes, even if he loves tractors. For example, you can teach him about the importance of gender equality and respect for all people. You can also show him that people of all genders can enjoy tractors. There are many female tractor drivers and farmers and many tractor toys and books that feature girls and women.
It’s also important to remember that stereotypes can be harmful, but they don’t have to define us. Your son can love tractors and still be a kind, compassionate, and respectful person.
Tips for Talking about Gender Stereotypes to Your Son
Here are some tips for supporting your son’s interests and teaching him about gender equality:
- Talk to him about his interests. Find out what he loves about tractors and why he enjoys playing with them.
- Show him that people of all genders can enjoy tractors. Find books and movies that feature tractors and female characters.
- Teach him about the importance of gender equality and respect for all people. Explain to him that everyone deserves to be treated with respect, regardless of gender.
- Encourage him to be himself. Let him know it’s OK to be different from others and have his interests.
Remember, the most important thing is to support your son and help him develop into a kind, compassionate, and respectful person.
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