I’m the only child of two older parents – my mother was 38; my father, 45, when I was born. Looking back, I often think of my childhood as one in which I was my mother’s daughter and my father’s son. Ballet lessons on Saturday mornings. Weekends helping to clear the back half of our one-acre lot in New Jersey. However, I wasn’t allowed to wield the chainsaw.
I was incredibly envious of my “cousin” (ok not officially my cousin, but we’re Greek, so we have a lot of “cousins”); he’s a year older, and he got to use the chainsaw. It wasn’t because he was older; no, our families made it clear that only boys got to use them. This enraged me. And not that I’m bitter, but one of the best gifts my husband ever got me (besides the awesome pin) was a drill set.
Given my parents’ age, I’m sure they knew that I was the only child they’d ever have. Was my father disappointed that he didn’t get a son? I have no idea; certainly he always made me feel like I was the light of his life. So did my mother, mostly, with a few notable exceptions.
Anyway, with the perspective of adulthood, I look back on the activities my parents involved me in and realized that my father raised me like he’d raise a boy, while my mother raised me like she’d raise a girl. Thanks to Dad, I knew every baseball stat in the history of baseball (the World Series ticket above is a priceless reminder of that incredible day with my father); thanks to Mom, The Nutcracker is one of my favorite holiday traditions.
From “En Pointe” to “Left Hook”
Not that they respected each others’ choices. Years later, my mother told me how, after she’d dragged my father to the ballet, he’d return home to our apartment and pretend to be a ballerina. She was not amused. Nor was she thrilled by my impressive left hook, which my father taught me when I was probably about five, “just in case you ever need it.” To this day, I have an impressive left hook. And, for the record, overall I had a great childhood. As I got older, and met more and more people who had such sad stories, I realized how lucky I was to have the parents I did.
I loved – and still do – ballet and baseball. Fancy handbags and chainsaws. And why shouldn’t we? All of these serve different purposes; they enrich our lives, make clearing back lots easier, entertain us, and sometimes are just plain fun (including chainsaws).
Here’s what I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, as the War Between the Sexes rages on, unabated: I’m beginning to believe that all of us should be raised as if we’re the only child our parents will ever have. Not in the dreadful “only child” way, but as if sex doesn’t matter.
If everyone was raised this way, maybe some of the stigma around “boys in ballet” would disappear. And maybe little girls wouldn’t grow up still seething with rage that only boys get to use those fun power tools.
So, parents, take your daughter to a baseball game. Teach her how to use a chainsaw. Take your son to the ballet. But you may want to hold off on getting him a fancy handbag until he’s old enough to make that decision for himself. Just sayin’. And as best I can tell, the world probably needs more chainsaw-wielding ballerinas, if only in the back lots of country houses.⧉