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Dad attacked by wife when he parents son differently than daughter. 'Is this that big a deal?!' AITA? UPDATED 2X

Dad attacked by wife when he parents son differently than daughter. 'Is this that big a deal?!' AITA? UPDATED 2X


When this father is confused about his own parenting, he asks the internet:

"AITA for praising my son differently than my daughter?"

I (52M) am the father of 3 kids, 15F, 7F, and 7M. The last two are twins and are very close, having the tendency to copy each other. I love and adore them all equally.

My son is not a very masculine kid, and is less interested in some of my hobbies because of this. He has always preferred whatever his mother and older sister did, like baking or dancing.

I have no problem with this, I love him as he is, but to be honest, I’m slightly disappointed that we haven’t had the kind of amazing father-son bonding that I got to have with my Grandpa (my Dad died when I was pretty young) when I was a kid.

Since I’m at home almost all the time now, I’ve been seeing just how feminine his interests have gotten. Asking to help cook every meal, helping his older sister alter second-hand clothes, and playing pretend. He’s even asked to have his sister paint his nails. I’m not upset or bothered by it, but it isn’t typical for young boys.

I’ve been working out at home instead of at the gym because of our current circumstances, and when my son came in while I was lifting weights in the family room, he showed an interest in it.

He was excited about the idea of having big muscles, and tried out some of the 5lb ones. Even though he mentioned being like She-Ra (from some new Netflix reboot, I think?), it was still progress in my eyes and it seemed like he was showing interest in masculine hobbies. I praised him and did the whole ”wow, you’re so strong!” thing in kid-talk to encourage him.

When his sisters walked in, the twin (7F) joined in. Like I said, they have the tendency to want to do what the other is doing so she expected the same kind of “wow, so strong!” stuff.

When I wasn’t as enthusiastic with her and focused on my son, my oldest got annoyed and asked why I was treating them differently. I explained to her that because he hadn’t taken interest in these kinds of masculine hobbies before, I wanted to foster his own identity as a boy separate from his twin sister. She accused me of being misogynistic for this!

She then said that I was TA for making his sister feel weaker and implying that I didn’t approve of his feminine interests. I don’t think I’m TA, because there’s no reason for my daughter to be inclined towards this kind of thing, but my son should be developing a more masculine personality as he gets older.

When she told my wife (41F), she also blew up at me, saying I was acting like a cartoon misogynist. Both of them are pissed. So, Reddit, AITA?

skittycatcher writes:

Yes, YTA. Not for trying to help him develop interests as an individual separately from his sister, but for so clearly treating them differently on the basis of gender. You say his ‘feminine’ interests don’t bother you, but then you go on to say that you’re glad he’s developing interest in a more ‘masculine’ activity.

The way you’re differentiating between genders (inclination towards certain activities, which is complete nonsense) and the fact that you seem more interested in bonding with your son than your daughters, is going to cause your daughter to resent you later on.

Also, how on Earth is doing basic household chores like helping out with dinner ‘feminine’? It’s not 1950; boys should develop the same basic skills as girls, and that includes cooking and cleaning.

EDIT: also, the idea of a ‘masculine personality’ is just ridiculous. Personalities are just personalities, they’re not attached to particular genders.

EDIT 2: well done OP for showing some introspection and realising where you went wrong!

nakedandalaid writes:

YTA. You sound like my dad. I know longer have a relationship with him. He also tried to foster what kind of people he children should be based off gender too. Of course he never saw himself as a sexist or misogynist, he just saw things they way they should be based off our genitals.

Despite his insistence otherwise, I have always felt he loved my brother more because my brother followed gender roles better than I. I know he's more proud of my brother.

Biology and society was once the excuse for why whites and black were separated. We have moved on from that now and realize how absolutely assholish it was. It's a shameful part of our history. Gender roles are no different.

Get with the times and encourage your kids to find what makes them happy. You're right, society will criticize them and steal their happiness. Do you want to be part of that or do you want to be a support and give them courage to be happy in spite of what the world thinks?

knowncharacter writes:

There isn't anything wrong with wanting a bonding activity with your child, but that's not why OP is the asshole here.

He's dismissive of the activities his son already likes. It's not bad that this kid likes to cook or play pretend. He can still do those things and to more stereotypically masculine things.

He's 7, and the scope of his interests is not set in stone for the rest of his life. OP could also easily bond with his son by engaging with him in those totally normal kid activities. Would it really be so damaging to OP's masculinity to bake some brownies with his kid that he can eat while they watch She-Ra together?

OP has 3 kids, not one. The fact that OP is singling out his son for bonding activities is pretty gross. It's really clear that OP favors his son over either of his daughters by the fact that he wasn't excited that his 7-year-old daughter wanted to join in on an activity that he enjoys.

I think the fact that you even needed to offer the advice of "there's no reason not to show your daughter the same enthusiasm" is enough to warrant a YTA instead of N A H.

It's sad that OP is emphasizing having a bonding activity with a child now when he's been a dad for 15 years. Realistically, OP is only digging his heals on this because this is the first time he's actually spent enough time around his family to really notice his kids' interests.

No, he can't control how much he works, but in this story, he clearly lays out that he can work out from home rather than going to the gym.

Reflecting on my own dad when I was the same age as OP's kids, he worked 80+ hours a week some weeks or would go several days in a row where he was sleeping all day and working 12 hour night shifts and not able to spend time with us.

My dad never, ever would have been surprised by what I liked, though. He might not have been home a lot, but he knew that I liked to play with Barbies and Hot Wheels and watch Rugrats, and it never took a pandemic for him to figure any of that out.

erinrenshaw writes:

YTA. First of all you say that you don't mind if he does certain activities, such as cooking, and yet you remark multiple times that they are not "masculine things". So what?

If anything, I'd be proud of him because he's willing to help and does something in the house, even if he's just a child. It doesn't sound like you don't mind. It's the contrary, more like.

Second, he's a kid. He has his interests. Even if they aren't what you'd consider "the norm" for a guy, let him be. He's not harming anyone, he's just painting his nails, baking a pie or dancing. He's having fun. He's a kid, let him be.

You talked about the amazing relationship with your granddad: even if you don't share the same interests you can still have a good relationship with your son.

Same goes for your daughter. She might enjoy lifting weights. Encourage her and treat her as you treat your son. Pardon the expression but this "it's not a masculine thing" attitude is plain dumb.

Let them enjoy their things in peace and encourage them if you see they're interested in something, whatever it may be. It's 2020, not the middle ages. There's no such thing as "this is a thing for boys only" or "for girls only"

Your son prefers dancing and cooking rather than football? Who cares! What matters is that you treat them both equally

And now, OP's updates:

Hey everyone. I was 100% TA. I appreciate that some people tried to empathize and say NTA or NAH to be charitable, but I’m in the wrong here and I knew it deep down while I was writing the post. Re-reading it, I feel ridiculous for writing that all out. I want to say thank you, because these comments where the objective kick in the ass I really needed!

I realize now that I was really out of line for saying that shit and making my daughters feel that way. I set up a stupid false dichotomy, and my daughter was very right, I was being a misogynist. No excuse for that. I apologized to both of them and my wife an hour after I posted.

I also shared this post with my little brother, who, as I mentioned in a comment, was teased for being effeminate as a kid/teen, especially after he came out. I think some people took me mentioning that as blaming him, which wasn’t my intention at all- none of my behavior is his or anybody else’s fault.

We talked for a while and that (along with many of the comments you guys left!) made me aware of how badly I’m treating my son. My Grandpa, who raised my brother and I for most of our lives, was a “manly” guy who I’ve always idolized completely.

Well, my brother made me aware that my Grandpa in particular made him feel shitty about his femininity and his sexual orientation. He would regularly say degrading, terrible things. I was oblivious to just how much that hurt him, and it seems that I’ve picked up some of these same ideas.

I’ve been such a dick for so long, and now that I realize how absurd some of the ideas I’ve held onto are, I know how much of a disservice I’ve done to my boy. I shouldn’t try to make him change just to protect him from bullies. In this situation, I’m the bully as much as it hurts to think.

I’m planning on talking with him about this issue and apologizing. If we can this week, I want to let him choose something that he likes that we can do together. I’m not going to make the same mistakes my Grandpa did.

At my brother’s and some redditors’ suggestions, I’m considering trying out therapy or a support group. After a mistake (huge f up) like this, I think I ought to try to be the best dad (and big brother!) I can be and work to stop thinking that way, especially when I’ve already done so much damage.

I’m sorry about the extremely long edit, but thank you for your responses and helping me with this issue. I showed my wife some comments and she also thanks you all!


This will probably be the final update, but wow! I’m overwhelmed will all the responses, I wasn’t expecting so many. Thank you to everyone, I’m glad you guys were honest (but still encouraging!). I’m sorry I haven’t been able to reply to you all. I got a lot of really kind and personal messages and I want you guys to know I’ve taken it to heart.

Some people asked what I’m going to do with my daughters, since it seems like I focused more on my son in the edit. My oldest wants to try Krav Maga, so in the coming weeks we’re hoping to find a place that’ll accommodate both ages. Youngest daughter has wanted to learn how to roller skate too, so my 15 year old may have to teach us both!

I was able to talk to my son for a while this morning and apologize for yesterday. Talking about gender roles and all the trauma surrounding my Grandpa may be something I’ll talk to him more about as he gets older, but I got the message across that I support whatever he’s interested in.

I asked him about She-Ra (some commenters told me that it’s fun for adults too) and we watched a few episodes together. You guys were right! My oldest and I both thought it was very cute. I asked him what he would want to do together, and he mentioned trying to alter something.

I brought down a box of my old stuff from the attic and lo and behold- I found one of the 80s Hawaiian shirts my grandpa bought me (probably an effort to make me look like Tom Selleck).

With some guidance from my oldest, we’re going to try to make it fit my son with room for him to grow into it. I think it’ll turn out nicely, and because it’s “really vintage” my 15 year old loves it.

So everything is pretty good right now. I invited my brother over (lives a few hours away) for dinner so my son and I can make him something. I can’t believe that I was feeling upset about him liking baking and everything, I’m lucky that my boy wants to help everyone.

So, I’m definitely TA, but I’m slowly becoming NTA! Thank you all. I showed my oldest some of my favorite comments and she thinks they’re great and I should expect a “clown of the year” award for a father’s day gift, haha!

Readers continue to weigh in on OP's story:

This post absolutely sent me! Its so damn alien a mindset compared to my experiences growing up.

I was raised in an incredibly gender neutral home, my father was a stay at home dad and my mother was a nurse. My dad would toil away on cars, motorbikes ect in his shed and handled all basic household chores.

My mum has never worn a dress outside her wedding day. I've legit never seen her even touch lipstick or make up, she doesn't act tough or anything but is just a very pragmatic person.

Nothing growing up was for boys or girls, there were no gender roles, it legit did not exist in my world. My family members were individuals and people, not just the titles they wore (mum, dad, bro, sis ect).

My sister wasn't 'feminine or girly' for liking make up, she was 'prissy' to an extent but that's sibling stuff, my brother would play dress up with me and would want to do my make up more than I did, but was insecure about his height. I become the 2nd defacto son because I was such a huge tomboy.

My dad spent hours teaching me things in his shed and letting me help, he taught me drawing, painting, cooking, sewing, tool safety, woodcraft, resin mixing and all other crafts.

Practically all tactile skills I have, I learned from my father, I wasn't his 'little girl', I was his kid who wanted to learn anything and everything, like every kid does.

The idea of limiting yourself because you labelled a mundane hobby as gendered is absolutely mind boggling and it's great to see the OOP learn this, his kids will be FAR better off for it.

What do YOU make of OP's story? Any advice for him?

Sources: Reddit
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