“Fatherly Advice” is a weekly parenting advice column by the experts at Fatherly. Need hard-won insights and scientific facts to resolve a parenting dilemma or family dispute? Email email@example.com. Need justifications for parenting decisions you’ve already made? Ask someone else. We’re far too busy for that nonsense.
There’s a boy who dresses like a girl in my 2-year-old’s preschool class but gender-identifies as “he.” Do I need to help my son understand anything about this? I imagine it could be confusing and I imagine the other boy is going to have a tough time later in life. I don’t want my kid to contribute to that in any way, but my kid also may not be aware of gender. What should I do?
Brooklyn, New York
If there’s one thing I truly love about preschoolers, it’s that they are their own people and give zero shits (aside from the occasional accident). I mean, I identify as a “he” as well, but if I could just chill around my neighborhood in a breezy caftan, I would totally do that. And even though nothing is stopping me from doing just that, as an adult I give far too many shits about my neighbors’ wary glances. All of which is to say, the very laissez-faire preschool attitude that allows this kid be who he is will probably allow your kid to accept him, dress or no.
Essentially it all boils down to this: Until your two-year-old starts asking questions there’s really no need to talk about another kid’s differences. Will your child be curious? Maybe. Maybe not. But that curiosity, if any, will be revealed while at preschool. If you are at a school worth its salt, the teacher should be able to field these questions in a professional way that doesn’t diminish this boys differences or your kid’s curiosity.
It’s important to note that some of the fear you feel about this is probably built on a lifetime of your own adult gender context. That’s a context your kid doesn’t have. So you can relax a bit and know that anything your kid might say or do in preschool likely won’t ruin the life of the boy who loves to wear girls clothes. Am I telling you to punt on the issue and leave it to the preschool teachers? Not really. When your kid does bring you questions about a boy wearing girls clothes, then just answer honestly and age appropriately. Don’t make it a big deal, and remind them that manners don’t change based on who they are playing with.
Finally, much of the way your kid will build their ideas about these issues will be based on the way you behave in similar circumstances. They’ll pay attention much more to what you do than to what you say. Clearly your empathetic for the boy who wears girl’s clothes. Awesome! Make that empathy visible and normal and your kid will follow suit.
I’m married with older children. My wife and I are finally in that stage of parenting where we can get time to have sex without worrying a kid will interrupt. But one thing kind of bothers me: I’m always the one who has to get things started. Can you help me find a way to change this?
I get where you’re coming from. I’m an older dad and I’ve been married a long time and it gets more and more difficult every year to think of myself as a sexy beast (though I have photos to prove that I was once very pretty). When my wife leads me to our marital bed without my prompting, I feel young again. It’s the best. And, happily, my wife does do that. Is it because of my natural appeal? I don’t think so. Here’s my secret: I talked to her about it (also, I cook dinner).
At some point, Andre, we have to trust our spouses enough to believe that we can tell them our desires without negative repercussions. And if your marriage is built on honesty and good communication your spouse should be receptive to hearing what you want. Obviously, you’ve done well enough to raise an independent kid or two. That’s no easy task. It requires trust. So… trust your wife.
That said, it’s important that you not air your grievances in an accusatory way. That comes off as whiny, which will be a turn-off or exactly the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve. The better idea is to slip it into flirtation or bedroom talk, maybe during a date night. Something like, “Hey, you know what I think is sexy? When you try to seduce me.” Hopefully, that will open the door for a sexy conversation. At the very least it should put the idea on her radar.
Here’s the thing: Your wife is not biologically primed to initiate sex. Studies have shown that women don’t develop the desire to have sex until they feel aroused. It’s exactly the opposite for men who often feel the desire well before the arousal. Thanks, hormones! So, foreplay is your friend. But, importantly, foreplay doesn’t need to be relegated to touchy-feely stuff. Your wife might get there if you take some tasks off her plate that contribute to fatigue, like dishes or cooking. Having a moment of zen might help her realize how sexy you are.
After all, as my wife frequently tells me, “A man in an apron is the sexiest thing in the world.”
I live in a community that has a swimming lake at its center and I have a 4-month-old daughter. My wife and I are at the lake often, but the more active our kid gets, the more anxious we are about her knowing how to swim. When can we start teaching her?
There’s something really important you need to know right now, Sam. Teaching your daughter how to swim as a baby does not necessarily protect her from the possibility of drowning. I know that a hard thing to hear out of the gate, but it’s something you need to internalize. Regardless of how well you kid swims early, you need to be around to supervise the fun. With that dire warning out of the way let’s get to your answer.
Swimming is an awesomely delightful activity that you can start with your kid right away. Honestly, getting babies used to the water is a fine idea and can happen in the earliest months. But can you really teach a baby how to swim? Nope. Water is great for helping them develop muscles and balance, but they’re not retaining information about how to stay afloat. They are simply acting on reflex.
Formal swim instruction can wait until a kid is around 4-years-old. This is when they’re ready to follow instructions and can chain skills together to actually swim. When the formal lessons roll around, your kid will practice blowing bubbles, getting her face in the water, floating on her front and back, and maybe some basic strokes. No need to worry if she doesn’t progress past a doggie paddle on the first go round. But that’s a long way off. For now, the key is getting her used to the feel of the water. Whisk her through the shallows, bounce, have a good time.
One important thing to remember as your kid gets older: You may want to avoid the floaties and life vests when their playing in the shallows. While you’ll obviously need to use them, as required by law, when you’re boating or doing other water sports, life jackets and floaties may be counter-productive for casual play in the shallows. That because the devices may not allow them to understand their own buoyancy, making learning to swim more difficult in the future.
The upshot is, get in the water with that baby. But even if she looks like a proficient swimmer, never let your guard down until she’s older.