Living with a wife and two daughters, I am the only man in our household. Not that you needed telling this, the mathematics really isn’t too difficult.
Over the years I have had to face the occasional remark about “wanting a son” or something about “wanting a boy to play football with”. Such remarks are understandable, although I’ve always found the idea that I must want a son more than a little insensitive.
I honestly don’t care about being the only boy at home. It’s the way things are and I am quite used to it.
Although I am happy with this scenario, I do have some concerns about it. What worries me is that I could be letting my daughters down because of my lack of feminine knowledge and experience.
Am I, for instance, doing enough to prepare them for the sexism they will face in the years ahead? I frequently stand up for men’s rights and speak out on issues affecting us guys, especially, men such as myself who are the main caregivers within their families.
I am, nonetheless, equally interested in women’s issues and rights. I really worry about the casual sexism my girls may face from elements of the male population as they get older, not to mention the sexism they may have to deal with in the workplace (I think we’re still a long way from dealing with women fairly when the have kids, for instance). Without first had experience of such things, I hope I am preparing my girls for what the future holds.
A more down to Earth issue, and one I think every parent struggles with, is the minefield of friendship dilemmas. Wow this is a difficult one.
My eldest child has reached an age where friendship fall-outs are getting more serious. While she doesn’t solely socialise with girls, her core friendship group is female and the dramas and jealousies are nothing like I experienced when I grew up.
This would turn into a ridiculously long blog post if I told you how I react to these scenarios. Suffice it to say I try to react with patience and understanding and sometimes I merely listen because that’s all she wants and needs. I do my best to be emphatic and can simply hope that I’m saying the correct things. Girls’ and boys’ friendships are very different and I can but hope I’m getting it right.
Daft as it may sound, flippant even, but I also worry about my girl’s appearance, specifically their hair. I’ve learned a huge amount about girls’ hair care over the years but styling it? That’s out of my league.
Have you ever seen the comedy movie Blended? There’s a scene where single dad Jim, played by Adam Sandler, admits that his daughter has a dreadful haircut because he always takes her to a men’s barber shop. It’s what he knows and is comfortable with and so that’s what his daughter gets.
No, my kids have never gone a barber’s shop. In fact, I’ve gone to great lengths to source a fantastic hair salon for my kids. Having spent my whole life living as a man, however, means my French plait, Dutch plait and fishtail plaiting skills are truly shocking.
Despite my lack of experience, Helen is just awesome at styling her hair. For Christmas we bought her a hairdresser’s mannequin, so she could practice creating different hairstyles. She really is fantastic at it, although I do wonder if she was inspired to ask for this as a gift because I can’t do much more than a common-or-garden pony tail. I know there are kids at her school who benefit from having older sisters and hands-on mums who love doing amazing things with their daughter’s hair and I can but look on in awe.
I possibly wouldn’t have these concerns if I wasn’t Helen and Izzy’s main carer. If this household ran along traditional gender lines, mum would be dealing with more of this stuff and she could relate to her own experiences, experiences I don’t have.
Even so, I think lack of experience can sometimes be a benefit. I’ve long held the belief that when it comes to the most sensitive issues, dad are in a superb position to wade in where mum isn’t always comfortable.
The prime example here would be periods and menstruation. This is often treated as a taboo subject and women aren’t raised to discuss it freely.
I’ve been talking to my kids about periods for years. Don’t misunderstand me, Mrs Adams does talk to the kids about the finer elements of menstruation, but she doesn’t find it easy. I, on the other hand, have no menstrual baggage and am more than happy to launch in and answer any questions they may have.
I suspect any mum or dad might have these concerns if their offspring were only of one gender. I guess it’s issues like this and how our parents deal with them that, ultimately, make all of us unique individuals.
I love raising girls, I really do. I just hope, as the only man in the house, that I’m doing the correct things for them.