They say mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery. When my son points his finger in my face and sternly tells me, "That's enough. And don't do that again," I should be flattered, yes? Likewise, when Owen tells Joel to "Stop squealing like a little girl," Paul should feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
I don't think there's anything wrong with squealing like a little girl. I've done it once or twice. Paul, however, does not like it when Owen's shrieks send dogs a 'howling. Hence, the slightly misogynistic admonishment to avoid shrieking like the aforementioned "little girl." And now, the torch has been passed, and Owen has passed on the message to Joel that being a little girl is a bad thing.
Way to go, Paul.
There is, I suppose, a reason that feminists have earned a reputation as humorless. I should just blow this off, instead of taking the time to think and write about the topic. But, as the only woman in this family ship, I feel the need to stay vigilant, heading off any misconceptions about gender roles before they become cemented into fact.
I know the real work comes not in words, but in actions. If I want the boys to see women as equal partners in a relationship, Paul and I need to show that partnership. I think we do a good job in that respect---Paul watches the boys when I go to work, and when we're both home, we're both changing diapers, preparing meals, wiping floors, and playing with the kids.
More importantly, though, we speak kindly to each other. We try to see the other perspective. We remember that words and body language matter.
The bottom line is, the boys don't give a rip about either of our careers, our dreams, or our aspirations. They just want us to be around and present for them. Yet, if we model the way that men and women should treat each other, we're giving them more than our time---we're giving a gift to them, our future daughter-in-laws, and our future grandchildren.
It doesn't hurt to make Owen do some traditional "woman's work," either:
Those walls can get filthy. Good thing Owen is able to vacuum them. Do I get bonus points for the toy kitchen? Laundry: The Gift That Keeps Giving...And, he does windows, too!