My Sons Know Nurture

This morning, I peeked in on my 2y8m son playing quietly alone. Finding him breastfeeding his babydoll, I tiptoed out to get my phone so I could capture it. He heard me in the hall and followed me. I didn’t get to catch the breastfeeding, but I did catch the babywearing (at least, until he figured out he was being recorded.)

Both of my oldest sons toy-wear and breastfeed their toys. Especially if a toy gets an “owie,” they’ll soothe it with some pretend breastfeeding or wearing. They also bring things to me to breastfeed like trucks, legos, and swords-their most prized toys. I have breastfed Jedi, but haven’t nursed any Sith except Darth Vadar so far.

I like that my so-called “all boy” boys know it is fine to pretend to cut one another to ribbons on the battlefield then turn around and cook play food, nurse sick toys, and swab the deck with the floor mop. I owe much of this to their father whom they observe fulfilling any task necessary in natural partner parenting and householding.

I know they are beginning to understand gender stereotyping because I’ve started hearing “that’s for girls/boys” statements every now and again. We talk about it and I leave it up to them to decide whether they want to accept the limitations that those labels provide. My goal is that they will get in the habit of thinking about a presented idea critically then decide whether to keep it or toss it aside. This can make for some parenting challenges because the critical thinking and questioning transmits into every area. I’ve got to be confident in my reasons and I’ve got to be willing to be flexible when questioned by my kids.

It takes a lot of patience and truthfulness with myself. It would be easier and faster to simply override them and decide everythingwithout input from the citizenry. But, I try to remember that I’m not raising children, I’m raising people.

I don’t want to raise tyrants. I want them to grow into compassionate, self-contained, capable adults. This means equipping them with the skills to question authority figures and ideas, while being respectful and empathetic.

When I’m in the midst of the barrage of questions, it sometimes feels like I’ll never get through it. But, then they’ll be a moment when my fumbling for lost connection stops because one of my children will pick up the connection and hand it back to me. It’s in those rare moments that I know it’s worth it.

Which brings me back to their imaginative play time. I often see them modeling our reflection sessions, when we talk simply about earlier disagreements without judgment. Obie Wan and Darth Vadar are often negotiating empathy during play time. All out mêlée is often talked down to training mêlée level, which to the untrained eye looks just as pretend deadly but is actually saber bashing with pre-agreed compassion. I notice they discuss things with each other more and actually end up using more creativity because they vibe off one another.

With all the rambunctious activity going on, I like to remember these quiet, nurturing moments of play. It pleases me immensely to see them taking what they observe and using it in their free, imaginative play.

Do your children enjoy play nurturing like they see modeled to them? If so, what are their favorite toys to nurture? How are you defining or undefining gender roles in your family? I’d love to hear from you

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry (and probably while NAK in the dark)


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20 thoughts on “My Sons Know Nurture

  1. Finally making it over from the NP Blog Party! 🙂 I know that we are crossing paths again tomorrow. Love this post. My 2 year old sits her her rocking chair and gives “milkies” to her babydoll Rosebud. She also always offers milkies to her little stuffed kitty too. So sweet to see her rock and sing to her baby!

    • Thank you for your comment, Jennifer. That is so sweet.

      I look forward to popping by everyone’s blogs this month, too. I’ve been following your and several other blogs that are on the list, but there are some new ones for me I’m excited about as well. I’m hoping to finally get my “get to know you” post up asap. I’m doing a screen-free time thing this week as negotiated with my family, so it’s taking me awhile.

  2. Wonderful, wonderful post! Like you, I really hope above all that I can raise a child who will think things through critically and decide on what to accept and what not to, as well as what behavior is acceptable.

    My daughter is still a bit young, but recently a child at the park shared her baby doll and my daughter carried it around for a good thirty minutes, kissing the top of its head. No nursing, and there weren’t any slings available, but I’m sure that will come 😉

    • Thank you, Melissa. That is lovely. It’s funny about the babydoll, too. I didn’t buy him for my boys. He’s the doll I call “Yogi” that I use to demonstrate baby yoga & baby massage. He’s received a lot of good energy.

  3. Noah proudly sports his pink and purple goggles with pink lenses at swimming lessons 🙂 And he is super compassionate with Faith, always asking if she’s okay and hugging her. He definitely plays cops and robbers with his playmobil guys, but he also loves to play veterinarian and take care of sick stuffed animals 🙂

  4. As a stay-at-home mom, I realize that I’m sending messages about gender stereotypes simply by staying home with the kids while Daddy goes out and works (well, usually…). I try to take on other leadership-type roles and my husband does other householder tasks (dishes, cooking, vacuuming on occasion) so we can show them that mommy and daddy are doing these things by choice not because of our gender.

    My daughter (nearly 6) went through a nursing-and-babywearing phase, and still exhibits nurturing behavior often, although now it’s mostly with her little brother and through acting out her stories. My son (20 months old) has just begun to hug and care for his toys, but he’s much more into throwing balls and coloring and playing music than he is playing with “creature” toys (he did nurse a stuffed elephant once, though). He exhibits great amounts of empathy for real-life people. When a friend gets hurt, he shows his concern with a look or a touch or a hug. When his sister cries, he immediately hugs her. When I’m angry, he hugs me, too. And he loves giving kisses.

    • Thank you, CJ. That is a good point about just being at home/work can contribute to teaching gender roles. My husband is an excellent chef, whereas I’m a barely passable cook. So he does the majority of the cooking. I’m good at baking and crockpot/casserole-type dishes. He can just whip-up delectable dishes. So, my boys get to cook with both of us and experience two styles of cooking. It’s partially life-skills, but mostly because we use the strategy of: if they grow it, pick it and/or cook it, they’ll probably eat it, rather than exploding gender roles.

      I love that your kids are so nurturing and empathetic (and how did ds get to be 20mo already?!) From your blog, your dd seems closely keyed into her emotions and expresses them. If you are willing while respecting her needs for privacy and your own, I’d enjoy reading more about how her stories serve her, etc.

  5. That video was so sweet – thank you for sharing!

    I love that I am learning these lessons now from people like you Zoie – I consider it such a great preparation :D. I’m sharing this one with my husband too!

    • Ah, reflection sessions are when we take a few minutes to sit calmly with one another and play around with solutions to conflict. I had no idea this word work with kids as young as mine, but they come up with good stuff. I’ll speak to those soon here. I think “How to talk so kids will listen…” book might mention them. I’ll have to verify sources, though. Parenting passageway blog may have some things or the NVC ed site.

  6. Yes! My little guy has just started to fix his toys’ owies and feed them some of his favorite snacks. He often tells me that something needs a band-aid. He won’t nurse his toys because, after many attempts of trying to get his daddy to breastfeed him, it’s now pretty much a given that boys don’t have “boobin'”, only nipples.

    He usually only goes for the toys that have living characteristics – bears, dolls, puppies, etc. Every once in a while, his favorite truck will fall off of a table and he’ll talk to it, petting it, and then give it a kiss.

    *I have an award for you. Hope you haven’t gotten it yet! http://mccrenshaw.blogspot.com/2011/04/i-won-versatile-blogger-award.html

    • Thank you, Alicia. Love that nurturing story! Funny how they can’t get the daddy milk even when they try, isn’t it? My oldest used to say, “daddy milk is too furry.” Lol

      Aw, that’s so kind. I haven’t received any awards-new solo blogger, you know 🙂

  7. That video was so sweet!! Your boys are going to grow into amazing men!
    I love the way they play together. I wish I could have given that to my daughter. I’m one of 6, hubby is a single… I like the chaos of lots of little ones. (or at least I did as one of the little ones!)

    • Thank you, Teresa! One of 6, wow! I’m an only child. So, all this sibling stuff is completely alien to me. I research the heck out of it so the “experts” can tell me what to do. Then, I have a standard I can choose to agree or argue with. Ha!

  8. I have breastfed any number of toys. Usually though for my girls it is a legion of stuffed animals and baby dolls. That isn’t to say they don’t have toy trucks or dinosaurs. My oldest daughter especially rejects any attempt to pigeon hole her. At one and Three we are still working on empathy. It is an uphill battle. But one that we work on daily. Still they LOVE to take care of their babies. And I love to see baby wearing and breastfeeding going on with their toys. I like you, try to remember I am raising a person.

    • Thank you for your comment, Melissa. I can’t shake the idea that they are a little bit different from birth as far as attraction to specific types of toys and play. I think it’s the parents’ job to facilitate them to have wide choice to experiment and play without judging “this is girlish/boyish. The US, at least, seems so hyper-gender focused right now, it’s cartoonish. But, it’s to the detriment of us all because we lose our freedom when our choice is so limited by arbitrary rules.

      Since “meeting” you, I know you are a critical thinker about everything and I’m sure your girls will pick that up from you.

I love comments and try to reply to each one. I look forward to connecting with you. Namaste

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