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How I Put Down the Hammer & Stopped Being Such a Tool

Photograph by Getty Images

“Mommy, I want to be a boy so I can grow up to be a daddy,” my daughter reported from the backseat of the car. I craned my neck to the rearview mirror so I could meet her eyes. Was she serious or just pushing my buttons?

“What is it that dads can do that you want to do?” I asked, wondering what she would say. I was braced for whatever it was, having noticed her burgeoning interest in gender.

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“I want to be able to use a hammer so I can, you know, hammer things.”

Hammer things? That’s what she sees as so great about being a dad?

I’ve got this, I told myself. I assured her that plenty of mothers hammer stuff all the time, then I tried to think of a single example. I came up blank. “I love hammering,” I said without conviction.

“I’ve never seen you with a hammer,” she said. And she’s right. My husband is the chief construction officer of our house, and he’s never met a home improvement project that he couldn’t conquer. It’s not surprising that my daughter wants in on the joy she sees in my husband as he hums through Home Depot finding just the right doohickey to fix the thingamajig that's making noise at the bottom of the garage. Holding a hammer or giving the wall a good spackle is his happy place.

I couldn’t pretend to love hammering just so my daughter would understand that mommies can do almost anything that daddies can.

Worried about how I’d betrayed my gender by not hammering stuff, I vowed to start hammering things, or to at least ask my husband where we keep our hammers. The memory of the conversation with my daughter felt like an imperative, like something was wrong with her worldview that I had to fix it. It was my job to teach her that mommies can hammer just like daddies can.

So that's exactly what I did. Kind of.

I’ll spare you the full details, but let’s just say that I found our hammer and concocted a craft project wherein my daughter and I hammered two boards together. We muddled through, but I didn’t have the joy or the aptitude that my daughter rightly saw in my husband. I couldn’t pretend to love hammering just so my daughter would understand that mommies can do almost anything that daddies can.

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I’ve decided that instead of faking that I love something to prove a point about gender, it’s more important to support her in doing the things that she loves. And she’s the one who loves hammering, not me. It’s not my job to pretend to be something I am not; it’s my job to support her passion and interests. So, next time we hammer, I’ll cheer her on and engage with her around her passion and not pretend like it’s mine.

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