Defying 'male' and 'female' labels aids well-rounded single parenting

As a single parent with an only child I have been especially concerned that my daughter not have a lopsided view of life. Fortunately I have rather varied interests myself, so the project of providing both the so-called traditional "feminine" as well as "masculine" experiences hasn't been difficult.

One can use the position of being a single parent to round out one's own experiences, both for oneself and to provide a more expansive vantage point on the world for one's children.

After my daughter and I take care of housework, anything goes if we both have time and ability to do the desired thing. If we want to do something we don't know how to do, we either read up on the subject and try it on our own or find some willing individual who will teach us.

We have packed up and trucked off on 4 a.m. fishing trips and camping trips, where my longstanding interest in and practice of campcraft have been shared with my daughter. She has learned that a mother can move a cord of hardwood inside in several hours, and she has watched while I split firewood quite proficiently.

She has also learned that girls can change flat tires in short order, along with spark plugs and oil. She knows that they can operate chain saws, drive trucks, glaze windows, put up storm doors, move a house full of furniture, and manage to build a fire without filling the house with smoke.

But she also knows that she can cut out and sew some rather nice clothing. She has met two young men who are very fine sewers, and we know another young man who delights in preparing elegant meals for friends. These contacts have provided a wider view on the so-called traditional things one can do.

She has learned to love baby-sitting, as well as soldering with my blowtorch and playing baseball with the boys across the street. She has also learned about alternative energy from my little working models of various energy-producing alternatives.

We just bought an engine-driven model airplane, and the neighborhood boys gathered around while mother and daughter tried to fly it. Well, we'll fly it tomorrow -- I think I flooded the engine while I was priming it! But the boys didn't laugh; they just asked excitedly if they could come back when we tried it again.

We've done a raft of other projects, from film processing and photographic printing to writing, from building electronics equipment to hard-cheese making, from song writing to preparing turkey feasts.

I'm convinced that any parent who is so inclined can surely do some of the role crossovers that we've had the pleasure of doing together. It continues to provide a rich and colorful life for both of us, and it has destroyed a sense of being helpless over the many things that have traditionally been tagged with "male" or "female only" labels. I thi nk well-rounded parenting is here to stay.

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