“Make sure you hold the door open for that lady,” I told my four-year-old son.
“Why?” he responded. “She can do it herself.”
True, she could open the door herself. But I’m trying to teach my young sons that they should do things for girls. Why? Because, while we women can do things on our own, we still appreciate displays of respect from the men in their lives.
Don’t get me wrong—I am all about encouraging women’s independence. I used to be a state park ranger, a job that was denied to my mother’s generation. My sister is a captain in the U.S. Army, flying helicopters into combat missions—another impossibility just 50 years ago. My other sister and my mom are weapons and home defense instructors—surely not something that Martha Washington would have been encouraged to do.
Even though women seem to receive more respect as members of the workforce than ever before, I believe that many women are not treated with respect in their own love relationships.
I cringe to think of what my kids will be exposed to in only a few years. You know what I’m talking about—“bitch this, and ho’ that.” I don’t know about you, but I feel angered, demeaned, and deeply disrespected by such labels. If little boys aren’t taught to respect women, how on earth are they going to grow up to respect a girlfriend, fiancé, or wife?
Of course, seeing that kind of respect modeled in their own homes is the best way for young boys to learn how to respect a girl. My husband treats me as an absolute equal. But he still manages to set me apart as a particularly valued member of our team.
My sons see us work side-by-side, but they also see him do those extra little things for me that show an added level of respect. My husband always makes sure my car has a full gas tank at the beginning of the week. Can I do it myself? Of course. But it makes me feel feel loved because he cares enough to do it for me.
We chop wood together in the fall, but he always offers to push those last few full wheelbarrows up to the house. It’s not because he thinks I can’t. He’s demonstrating to me the extra-privileged status I have in his eyes by saying “you don’t have to.” It’s his way of showing he cares about me.
My personal favorite? My husband baits my hooks for me when we go fishing. I promise, I really can do it—if I absolutely have to. But what thrills my heart is that now my boys want to help bait my hooks too. They see how loved I feel when Daddy does something extra special for me, and they want to do it too.
Respect is a crucial component in a love relationship. I want my boys to grow into men that have dynamite love relationships. I want them to have a rock-solid understanding of what love and respect look like so that their homes will be truly happy ones.
My hope is that when my little boys are men, they will take some special girl fishing, and they will stop to bait her hook. Not because she can’t, but because they want her to feel extra special, respected, and loved.