Over the weekend, I stumbled upon an online conversation about whether boys are underperforming in school because single mothers are unequipped to raise them.
As a single mother myself, I am intrigued by anything that pins a certain problem to a parent’s marital status, and this discussion was no different.
The discourse first appeared on a blog that belongs to Annie Murphy Paul, a columnist and learning consultant who reported on a University of Georgia and Columbia University study that says girls get better grades than boys because they show more “non-cognitive skills” like attentiveness, organization and persistence.
Her report triggered a lot of reactions, including a comment from a reader who identified himself only as “Coach.” Coach said that the real problem is too many single women are raising boys.
“Boys learn through physical contact and real-life scenarios,” he wrote. “Women are not equipped to cope with them on their own.”
Here’s a news flash: Nobody is equipped to raise sons. Or daughters, for that matter. Whether married or single, we all become parents wholly and thoroughly unequipped. As our babies grow, we embark on a never-ending crusade of matching questions with answers, of seeing the problems and setting out to find the solutions.
In other words, it’s not about being equipped. It’s about getting equipped.
I have a six-year-old daughter. Her father and I divorced when she was two, and I’ve had full custody of her ever since. Angie loves superheroes and sharks, and she would claw my eyes out if I ever asked her to wear something pink or sparkly.
I’m not sure that’s the same thing as having a boy, but I don’t think it’s entirely different either. Kids are kids, and the biggest part of parenting is seeing our children as individuals, with certain qualities and interests and learning abilities, and finding ways to make those qualities bloom.
When Angie was four, she and I moved across the country. It was a huge, transformative step, one that would improve our lives in many ways. A few weeks after the move, Angie started getting angry. She drew pictures of me and crossed them out. “You ruined my life,” she said to me.
Her words and behavior knocked me for a loop, and I considered moving back home, even though the retreat would have set us back financially and emotionally. Instead, I made a list of psychologists and called them one by one, searching for someone who could navigate me through the fog.