There appears to be a difference between how men and women view the raising of boys. Or, perhaps it is only my observation based on the experiences I have been engaged in. Regardless, I perceive a trend, or trends, between the way the two genders handle the discipline, education, and interrelationships.
Mothers nurture and Fathers strengthen. That about sums it up. Mothers protect their sons. Men strengthen them (or try to). We (or at least those men I have observed, including myself) tend to feel that it behooves our offspring to be capable of dealing with the harsh effects of reality. Mothers, on the other hand, seem to want to protect them from its harshness by blocking it on one level or another. They’re more like “raise a shield!” where men are more like, “here’s a sword kiddo.”
As a father – and maybe a bad one – I like to expose my son to things that his mother opposes in a variety of ways because they are dangerous. Take paint-balling as an example. She was not highly pleased with the prospect of allowing my 11 year old son to go paint-balling with his friends, and was naturally quite concerned. It took the actions of other parents to override her concerns, for she does not appear to trust my judgement much of the time when it comes to safety or the potential lack of it.
Guns are another issue. I would love to take my son to a gun range and run him through the safety courses and then let him try firing a few weapons. It’s an indoor range, and the personnel there are very safety conscious. Many other fathers have taken their sons there to fire weapons (daughters too for that matter). But my wife generally opposes this for safety reasons.
Scuba lessons are another one. I want my son to take scuba with me. But my wife is far too concerned that he might drown, despite the assurances of the trainers that everything will be carefully observed, and that the training takes place first in a pool prior to swimming in the ocean.
But it goes beyond activities. This “coddling” of my son also occurs whenever I attempt to discipline him. She immediately jumps to his defense. My punishments (mainly the removal of privileges like television or internet access) are viewed as too harsh. We never engage in corporal punishment, so that isn’t an issue. But my restriction that homework must come first before video games or television is frequently overridden. She doesn’t back me up – or at least seldom does – and states that my “tone” is frequently the problem. Apparently I’m too harsh, or I yell, or speak too loudly, and then I hurt his little feelings.
Hurting a boy’s feelings is okay, in my opinion. But apparently I do so in a way that can damage self-esteem. I’m not sure how that actually happens. I don’t recall telling him that “he” was stupid. But I will certainly point it out if I think he’s done “something” that was stupid. I might even say, “that was stupid.” OMG! I’m a bad father. I might say, “think about what you’re doing next time before you do something like this. Plan for what could go wrong. Use this experience as a guide to avoid it in the future.” But apparently this is damaging to self-esteem because I used the word “stupid.” Don’t use the “S” word! As a father, I find this restrictive and ridiculous. If he lies, I might say “that’s crap.” If he’s lazing around procrastinating after he’s been told to do something several times, I might yell at him and tell him to “get off his butt and go DO IT!”
I’m not out to destroy self-esteem, and the boy is far stronger than she thinks he is, and therein lies the problem. Becoming immune to the river of insulting crap he’s going to encounter means occasionally encountering it, learning to understand it, learning to filter it, and learning to deal with it. Just because someone states you did something stupid doesn’t mean you are stupid, it means you made a mistake. My son and I have talked about this before. He fully understands that I know he’s very intelligent, and that I view him as such and expect him to operate accordingly. Heck, the kid gets straight-As in school. He’s very well adjusted. He gets along well with others. And he’s aware of a variety of pitfalls in life. Personally, after having spent time with many of his friends, I can safely say that he’s the one I’d pick as a son. I haven’t even met another kid I’d want as my son other than him, and I’m very pleased and happy to have him – so far. (Although there are certainly times when he could be less irritating and push people’s buttons to a lesser degree). This is something he NEEDS to know. There are boundaries when interacting with other humans, and he needs to know where and what they are. These are social boundaries, and have to be learned. If they were instinctive boundaries, they’d be the same across all societies, but they aren’t.
There are many times I think I’m a bad Dad. Sometimes I think I’m a bad Dad for not opposing my wife’s over-protective nature when it comes to his safety. Sometimes I think I’m a bad Dad for not spending more time with him teaching him something useful. Sometimes I think I’m a bad Dad for hurting his feelings – although to be fair, my wife is responsible for this far more than I am. When SHE says something critical, he tends to freak out. When I say something critical, he just takes it in stride, and she freaks out at me. I suppose it’s in her nature to protect him, but as I have pointed out, she doesn’t need to protect him from ME. It’s damaging to the relationship between my son and I.
I sometimes wonder how normal this is, and if it’s typical for Mothers to get in the way of Fathers having a decent understanding exist between them and their sons. Sure, sometimes Fathers can be assholes, but I’m not THAT much of an asshole. And my son gives as good as he gets. She needs to take a chill-pill. And my son agrees with me on this issue.
Oddly, she’s much harsher about disciplining my daughter, and there the roles appear reversed. Although, in that regard, I back her up far more than she does me when it comes to enforcing my daughter’s restrictions. Weird. What do you think? Do Mothers coddle sons more than daughters? Do men coddle daughters more than sons?