As I was driving through my neighborhood the other day, I saw something that literally made me stop the vehicle and turn around. A young mother was out on a walk with her son, who appeared to be about six years old. In front of each of them was a stroller. Mom was pushing baby sister while the young boy was pushing a toy stroller with some action figure or baby doll. Honestly, I have no idea what the stroller contained; I was too excited to see a mother fostering her young boy’s desire to nurture.
I stopped, my own boys in tow, and rolled down the window to share a moment of solidarity with the mom. She shared that her son is very caring and loves to pretend to be a Daddy. In fact, we didn’t get too far into the conversation because the little boy interjected that he even dresses like his own daddy, showing off his blue jeans and cowboy boots with pride.
My own boys, now 9 and 8, have always been nurturing. Though they grow impatient as any child their age would, they seem to draw from an endless well of patience when it comes to children younger than three, particularly with their baby sister. They change their tone when speaking to toddlers, squat down to get on their level, demonstrate the sweetest tenderness, and will tolerate the most destructive, typical toddler behavior.
My husband and I work to avoid forcing gender stereotypes on our children. Still, despite such avoidance, our two boys would be described as securely masculine, while our two girls are almost obnoxiously feminine. What I find fascinating is that children of either sex share a seemingly-innate desire to nurture. Yes, little girls hold babies and mimic feeding them bottles. But so do boys when not stifled. And it only makes sense when they have a secure, confident, no-less-masculine example of fatherhood at home modeling this behavior.
I know I seem late to the game, but I just wish someone had told me sooner that boys like babies, too.
Even when I was seriously dating my husband and broached the subject of future children, I was apprehensive that even discussing it might repel him. Now that just seems foolish. After we brought home our first baby, I asked my husband if the experience made him change his mind about the number of children he ultimately wanted. His response? “Yes. Now I want more.” This shouldn’t have come as the surprise that it was.
My own father was a great example of this. He fathered four children and enjoyed being a dad immensely, second only to being a grandfather. And no one, least of all his children, ever questioned his masculinity because of it.
So isn’t it only natural that boys see, understand, and even reflect this behavior securely? They don’t know any different any more than girls do. They see Daddy pushing the stroller around and beg to take turns doing the same. And we let them. This in no way challenges the parts of their personalities that want to play soccer or go camping or throw a football.
It’s not, nor should it be any secret that, just like girls, boys like babies, too.