My daughter is twelve now. She is into sports, studies well and most importantly she is growing up to be a confident girl. Off late she shared these funny incidents when boys in her class teased her, and she warned them sometimes and then challenged them to arm wrestling, thumb fight, etc. She won most of the times, and she shared the happenings with me proudly. I would share her fun, laugh along with her and leave it there. However, when she shared one such incident today and mentioned that the boy would neither give up nor agree that he lost, I started thinking seriously.
Many times I saw the campaign “Boys don’t cry” in which Madhuri Dixit acted. While I don’t acknowledge all aspects of that campaign, I wonder how many parents of boys would have got some message from it and acted upon it. While Parents like me are grooming their daughters to be self-confident and courageous, how can a balance be created unless the boys’ parents don’t reciprocate? I wonder if they are letting the boys cry and vent their fears and anger. I would have done it if I had a boy. I would let him cry, I would let him hug me when he is scared. I would tell him that fear is normal to any human being. I would tell him that these emotions need not be different between him and a girl. I would teach him to accept defeat and take it as an opportunity to grow. I would educate him that losing is losing and it does not matter if he lost with a boy or a girl. I would teach him to not ridicule if a boy cries.
Patriarchy has insisted that crying is the exclusive domain of women, it is better we start working against this notion. Sometimes, we as parents don’t even realise that we or some family member is doing it because we don’t do it deliberately. It has been ingrained in our society and culture since long. Parents who have both boy and girl have better chance to teach this. If they distribute household chores, gifts, studies and every other aspect of life equally between the boy and girl, the change will start automatically. Dignity of labour should be taught to children. When parents do not undermine each other’s work in front of the children, when parents show that work is work and it adds value to the family as a whole be it work at office or work at home, children will grow up to respect the dignity behind any work. A boy who grows up like this will never undermine a girl and will never make a girl cry. A girl who grows up like this will not feel insecure irrespective of her future choice of working or staying at home.
Children should be able to process their emotions irrespective of their gender and age. We should also resist the need to pressurise young boys to be strong and macho. Parents must filter the message children receive from TV and movies. Be their guide when they watch movies showing macho men with six-pack abs who becomes the only saviour for a girl in trouble. Discuss reality with them. Saving girl is good, but that does not imply a girl belongs to the weaker sex. Requesting fellow parents to grow boys into capable and responsible young men with good emotional and mental quotient as well. After all, my girl might look forward to one such boy in future.