The value of same-gender role modelsWritten by Mike Klumpp
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I’m not certain if it was when I threw the football through the window (from the inside of the house), or when I realized my older daughter had nothing in her pajama drawer to wear but my old T-shirts and her brother’s boxer shorts. But somewhere in between the two, I realized that an all-masculine house left little room for the feminine development of my two little girls.
As a single dad, I knew I needed to rebalance our household and obtain some outside help from the opposite gender to preserve and strengthen my daughters’ feminine identity.
I began to search for information and turned to one of the moms in my church family. I knew Linda had a daughter the same age as my youngest girl. I thought she might be willing to give me some pointers; what Linda gave me was so much more.
Linda reminded me of a few lessons my mother had taught me as a child: No running indoors. Actually, that’s an oversimplification, but she reminded me that some activities (like throwing footballs) are better left to outdoor play.
She advised me that the common areas of my home needed to be gender-neutral. Not only would it be more equitable for the girls, but they also wouldn’t be embarrassed to bring friends home.
Then Linda offered to do a walk-through of the house. Somehow, I knew she was going to disapprove of my Vin-Diesel-meets-Chuck-Norris decor. But I figured that a critique of my decorating was important for my girls.
She made several suggestions for softening the male atmosphere that had prevailed since my divorce. In fact, when she was through, my son breathed a sigh of relief and commented, "Dad, it’s kinda nice having a woman’s touch, isn’t it?" I had to admit he was right.
Next Linda offered to take a look at my daughters’ wardrobes. "No nightgowns?" she asked.
Who would have thought?
Linda pointed out that my daughter was often embarrassed about her nightwear when she spent the night at someone else’s house. She mentioned that if I would give her a budget, she’d pick up some clothes for the girls next time she went shopping. Then she offered to take my daughters along. What a saint!
As the weeks progressed, our friend continued to enhance my daughters’ lives and our home with her feminine ways. She suggested tender things I could do for my daughters. She invited my younger daughter to join her and her daughter for tea. Linda was a wonderful guide whenever we needed her.
Later, I learned that the lack of same-gender influence for children was a common problem among single-parent families. Several moms I met who were raising their boys alone had the same concerns. So I offered to help some of them by taking their boys along on outings with my sons. In exchange, these women helped me with my daughters.
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Looking back on the experience, I discovered a few things. As single parents, we often feel as though we have to prove our parental worth, so it’s easy to be resistant to suggestions from other parents. But by being vulnerable and asking for help, I was able to support my daughters’ identity needs.
Children need same-gender models. My daughters understood that the gentle women who lovingly guided them were not a replacement for their mom. Because of the influence of those gracious Christian women, my daughters embraced their femininity, and a healthy male-female balance was re-established in our home.
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