gardenin girl-stuff?

sahara_waApril 23, 2002

Hello you all, I have a 5-year old boy who I want to raise with an interest in gardening. I always have him helping me in the garden, planting and playing with dirt. He seems to enjoy it as long as I let him do whatever keeps his attention. My husband does not want to have any part in the gardening/yard-business. So, here we go, my son and I to nurseries, picking out plants, etc. Recently he decided he wanted a blueberrybush and we got one - which is now his responsibilty and he is doing great (son and blueberrybush ;) ).

Here comes my concern: recently I asked him if he told his friends in school about the blueberrybush. His answer was a surprised and definite "no mom"!! He followed up by saying "and you can never ever tell them"! Now, I am a little curious and I probe him more. His answer is that gardening is girl stuff and his friends must never find out that he is doing "that" - he actually said to me that this is our "big secret"! Oh, no. Of course I told him that there are many "big, strong men" that just love to garden, but didn't really have a real world example at hand. So, this weekend I will take my son on a trip to nurseries and try to find some "strong men" that like gardening ;)

My questions is: does anybody have a similar experience and should I be concerned? Or, will he eventually get over it and continue garden with me. More importantly, will he grow up not gardening (since he wants to be like Dad when he grows up)? Is this just 5-year old talk?

Thanks for all your thoughts on this.

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katybird_PA(z6 PA)

I would say it is largely a five year old thing. Five year olds are under a lot of pressure to adhere to sex role stereotypes. Just look at how gender specific the toys become at that age. Have the same issue kind of in reverse. My daughter is a matchbox maven in a Barbie world. Secretly she plays with her brother's matchboxes and he plays with her Barbies.
At this age I would think it is more about appearances than actual interests.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2002 at 11:04AM
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Dont worry, I too was just like him. My mother would plant a garden and I would help. I enjoyed it, but would never tell my friends. Now I am grown with two kids and we still have a garden every year. I still enjoy working in the yard and whenever I'm out there it brings back the priceless memories of my mother and me in the yard together.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2002 at 1:32PM
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I would make sure you take him with you to visit nurseries and other retail plant/garden places. My experience is that they usually have a LOT of men running them. I would casually point out things like. "Let's go ask him, he must be the owner or the head gardener" When you visit public parks and garden spaces, make sure he notices all the men who work on plants: "What do you think that guy is planting/pruning/digging over there". If you live near a large city, many parks have garden programs for kids. I feel pretty certain that many of the participants would be boys. Here's another angle for gardening that might impress his more macho friends: Worm composting! You can buy or make boxes that contain 100's of worms that you feed kitchen scraps to and drain off the castings for super fertilizer. My daughter loves hers (don't tell your son that!) but she complained that when her class studied gardening all the other kids were terrified of the poor worms. Good luck! He really is laboring under a great misconception.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2002 at 10:07PM
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Bill_MO(z6 MO)

If he also likes computers, you might want to do a search of famous male botanist, such as J. I. Rodale, G. J. Ball, or Paul Ecke and bookmark the pages for him to read.


    Bookmark   May 13, 2002 at 7:22PM
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tell him not to worry..gardening is definately not just for girls
I have 4 sons whom all get in the dirt and help me with the flowers and whatever I need planting. there is also a major part in our cubscout book on gardening where the pack has to plant a flower bed and grow grow some sort of vegetable garden and I never hear a thing out of any of the 30 of them
they think its great, just tell him...that they would probably just want a blueberry bush for themselves.
sherry :)

    Bookmark   May 14, 2002 at 7:36AM
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I'd talk to my hubby...obviously your son has heard "someone"..(possibly dear old dad)..say that..My 5 year old LOVES to garden..(he's a boy too :-)
good luck,

    Bookmark   May 14, 2002 at 7:46PM
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Thank you all for your responses. I hope it is just a phase - I think the most important thing is the memories we're building and even if he isn't "into gardening" when he is 16, he might come back to it when he is 26.

Katybird, I think you are right. He also likes to cook and play house, but hasn't figured out that that is girl stuff as his friend also plays these things.

Dougt, that gives me hope ;)

Acmesarah, I think I'll try the wormcomposting. That could be a great hit with him - one of the things he really enjoys when we are gardening is "collecting" spiders, ants, and wormsÂ

Bill MO, he is not yet into computers, but I am making it a point to point out that most of the books about gardening I get from the library are written by men. He still calls them "girls books" - go figure. (he still looks at the pictures, though)

Sherry3964, thanks for your support.

Pamspond, my husband "swears" he has nothing to do with it. I think sometimes kids pick up more by behavior than by talk. It is amazing how deaf they are at times, but copy everything they shouldn't (and none of what they should) ;)

Funny how my 5-year old insists that gardening is girls stuff (even though he likes to help in the garden) and then asks me if I could put nailpolish on his toenails ;)

Again, thanks to all of you and I keep you updated, in case I can convince him that guys do like gardening too J

    Bookmark   May 15, 2002 at 5:48PM
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nora_in_vancouver(8b Wet Coast)

Take your son plant shopping on your next trip to the nursery (a good full service one, not Home Depot). Make sure to get a male person to help you find things and ask him lots of questions, so you can say later -- "I wish I knew as much as that guy about plants!"

    Bookmark   May 22, 2002 at 1:04AM
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I think you're on the right track- if it makes you feel better,I have a B.A. in child care/development and your son is very much going through a normal identity phase.I think you just have to continue doing what you're doing and he'll come around; you've planted the seed (no pun intended!) Yes he may stray away from the garden but eventually he'll probably get right back when he's older and he tells his son,"when I was a child I had my own blueberry bush that Grandma taught me how to take care of..."-those seemingly small moments really do stick in their memories and are cherished in later years.
Unfortunately society has shaped our ideas of what is 'normal' for boys/girls to have interests in. Just as a boy who plays with dolls may someday become a nurturing father, a gardening boy may become a successful landscape business owner,horticultural author,or just a great parent who shares time with his own children in the garden...

My hope is that you can talk with your husband about fostering and supporting your son's interest. His views and actions (or lack of) about it influence your son too and although five yr. olds have begun definite sex role awareness, having a male role model support him may give your son more confidence to be a leader and not a follower(very important in today's society). Talk, talk, talk, to your kids about everything as well as nothing that's how you keep the communication channels open.Don't forget to listen as well! Isn't parenting FUN?

Another area of gardening which would be considered cool by five year old perspective is BUGS! It was briefly mentioned earlier.My son can recognize lady bug larva,and knows many of the beneficial insects in our garden-he took a plastic praying mantis to show and tell and explained many facts he learned about them from books and the internet. Maybe you can find ways for him to introduce his interests to his friends-invite some kids over and go on a nature hike(we even do this just in our yard and it's a hit). They also like to just dig and look for worms.

As a matter of fact I just told my son about your son and he wants me to tell your son it's ok to like gardening-because he loves digging in the mud too and his favorite store to go to is a local nursery that has a million plants and his favorite thing to see there is a stone dragon water fountain that he promises he's going to buy when he's a dad...(ok now he's rambling on & on--I guess he gets it from ME!) Good luck !

    Bookmark   May 22, 2002 at 10:42AM
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I have 2 sons (13 and 3). The 13 yo knows that gardening is not "girl stuff". He's found out the hard way that gardening is hard work for either gender. Not meaning to imply that "girl stuff" is easy, but gender roles tend to equate sedentary playtime (viz. sitting and playing with dolls) as "girl stuff" and active playtime as "boy stuff". My 3 yo and his 9 yo sister love to help in the garden.

I bought both of them some kid size real tools. A shovel, a hoe, and a garden rake give them tools their size and the tools encourage them to help. Plus dad is less worried about them hurting themselves or the plants with these tools. Maybe if you got your son his own tools (no matter what their age, all guys LOVE tools!), he would associate "manly" tools with gardening. I've found these tools at both Big/Odd Lots and Walmart.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 26, 2002 at 10:26AM
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My son is 10 and his class is growing a big garden this year. He is the only boy who volunteered to help make the butterfly garden. I asked him if the other boys teased him about this and he said, "Yeah- but then I told them that I got to play with bugs and caterpellers. Now they want to help to."
I think your son will be fine.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2002 at 1:37AM
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