My Daughter Can Open Her Own Door

The problem with raising strong, independent girls is that they’re, well… Strong and Independent.

The other day, on the way into preschool, Bea got in an altercation with a little boy who wanted to hold the door. She wanted a turn and was grumpy that he wouldn’t move. The grandma looked at me and said, I’m just trying to raise gentlemen. She should say “thank you.” I half smiled and replied, And we’re trying to raise independent girls.

On our way out of preschool, we happened to leave at the same time as this same boy and his grandma. And again, he opened the door for us and refused to pass it off. This time Bea flipped out. I had to carry a screaming, independent girl to our car.

What I wanted to tell this grandma was that she’s not raising a gentleman, she’s raising a chauvinist. If he’s only holding the door because we’re women, that’s not ok. If he were a real gentleman, he’d recognize Bea’s feelings and share.

We got home and processed how to respond to situations like this. On the one hand, I told Bea that we have to take turns – that’s life. (And ultimately, for the kids, that was at the root of this interaction. They each wanted a turn.)

But because of the grandma’s comment, we also delved into how we respond to boys raised to treat girls as people who need to be helped. We talked about how, if a boy wants to do something for us that we don’t want or don’t feel comfortable with, we say no.

In hindsight, we should have pulled aside and let the boy and his grandma leave. It may have meant waiting a bit longer to leave school, but what do I ultimately want the lesson to be? I want Bea to retain her independence, to feel empowered to help her family, and to not feel pressured to thank a “gentleman” for something she didn’t actually want.

It may seem like a small thing and, again, the root of the issue was more the inability to take turns. But, I also recognize that if I don’t seize these opportunities to empower Bea, I’m losing to the chauvinists. If this little boy is hearing at each door that women need him to open it, then I need to counter that with allowing Bea to open it herself.

By making this choice, I’m probably inviting more screaming exits. But I’m also inviting more opportunities to discuss how to handle these situations. Hopefully I’m inviting my daughters to gracefully decline help they don’t need.

Moms of Boys, Do you teach them to hold doors for women? What’s your perspective on this?

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9 thoughts on “My Daughter Can Open Her Own Door

  1. There’s nothing wrong with being independent. One day though, she may be trying to get through a door with a double buggy and a boy will have been told one too many times that girls are independent and don’t need help and will just walk through that door leaving her with a major struggle.

    I think it’s nice and it’s polite to help and to hold doors and it’s something that I’m seeing less and less and I’m left to struggle through a door or up or down stairs because everyone is being independent and selfish.

    So strong and independent yes, but not too much. Because we’re still humans and we still need help and to be dependent on others. God created us to be dependent. On others, and on Him.

    1. Exactly, Anna! I think that’s what I wanted Bea to take away more than anything. We all need help and we all need to be helpful, regardless of gender. I just got ruffled when it became about gender roles rather than politeness…

  2. I have a bit of ambivalence with this one. I don’t interpret someone’s holding a door open for me as my need to have it opened. I offer to hold doors open for people, men, women, out of kindness and that’s what I figure is offered to me. I’m around mostly men throughout my day. Some will hold the door for me and sometimes I say, I’ve got it. They’re good with that. To live in community is to be interdependent and that can be a hard one to navigate at times.

    I was reading 1 Corinthians 12 today about the gifts God gives. Maybe God is gifting Bea with the gift of leadership and the boy with the gift of helps 😉 Or maybe they’re both just preschooler’s wanting their turn. 🙂

    1. I think it was more the grandma’s “She SHOULD say thank you” that bugged me… I definitely need help and hope Bea accepts it… Recently, I flipped out over finding a dead mouse – a total “girl” moment. Maybe I need to write a follow up post about the need for men when it comes to icky things? 😉 Such a balance!!

  3. As a mom of two girls & a boy I teach all of them to be aware of others around them, part of that is holding open a door for anyone. I have found myself often telling a man he’s welcome to go through the door I am holding open. It’s a matter of being considerate and courteous to everyone, no matter they are male or female. I will admit though it is nice while on a date with my hubby to have a door held open for me.

    1. I do love it when Frank holds the door for me, too. Something romantic about it… 😉 And, I’m trying to find that balance for Bea – to accept an offer graciously but to also be confident in what she wants.

  4. This may be where we have to agree to disagree. I’m from the South where our boys are trained to be gentlemen. Not because girls aren’t as smart or valuable, but to honor and cherish a woman. Kind of like the Biblical mandate for husbands to treat their wives “as the weaker vessel” (I Peter 3:7). A gentlemen treats her as a weaker vessel knowing she isn’t. A chauvinist (what we southerners call a douchebag) treats a woman in a condescending manner because he thinks she is a weaker vessel in need of his rescue.

    Yes, Bea needs to learn independence, but not so much independence that she goes through life being ashamed of her femininity and thinking she doesn’t need help from anyone. (Not saying that’s what your doing).

    A small example in my own life? I’m the bass guitarist at my church. Bass guitar is not only a “masculine” instrument, but a heavy, cumbersome one. It would be nice of the men at our church would open doors for me instead of watching me struggle to get the thing through the door (it’s nearly as tall as I am and one end is heavier than the other). However, they don’t. I suppose the instrument intimidates them, or maybe I do without meaning to.

    It’s a small thing, but it turns into a big deal later.

    1. I totally get it. I remember struggling with a heavy bag and a man said, “I’m not going to get the door because I know women don’t like it.” Not the point at all!!! I appreciate help and love it when others are considerate – both men and women. I want Bea to have that attitude as well – to graciously accept help and to offer it as well. Because everyone needs it.

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