gender roles

gender roles
We were trying to get out of the house for karate camp this morning, karate camp being a program for kids from 8 a.m. to noon for a week at the studio where Zeb has his lessons. Melanie was already gone for work, the boys out in the garage, ready to go.
Except for the reefs, those Velcro sandals I’d told Zeb to put on before we ever got outside.
“But Dad,” he said, “we’re barefoot in the studio. We don’t have to wear them.”
Then, for all the various and minuscule transgressions that already had been visited upon me this day-when I let the dog out this morning to relieve herself, she made a beeline to the house under construction next door and the discarded chicken bones the framers leave there each day; Zeb and Jake argued before a single light had been turned on about who got to use the bathroom first when they woke up; I had to tell Jacob four times to comb his hair; I had to tell Zeb three times to clear the breakfast dishes; the sink was full of pots and pans from the dinner party last night; Melanie was already gone-for all these terrible facts of the day thus far, I blew up at Zeb.
I yelled. I shouted. I threw my hands up in the air, ranted about obeying your father; ranted about the fire ants out there on the grass where we park the old VW Bug we drive, those ants just waiting for bare feet and the opportunity to bite; ranted about never listening to me; ranted about and about and about.
I yelled the first 10 minutes of the 15-minute drive to the studio, my stomach churned up now about how little writing I’d gotten done the day before in preparation for the above-mentioned dinner party, about the deadline for a book I’d missed by a month already, about the 22-page story I was about to trash because it had died suIDenly the day before yesterday. All of these concerns, translated into a language that involved only words about Velcro sandals, about fire ants, about the idea of obeying your father.
My world and its woes boiled down to “Why can’t you just listen and obey me without making me yell?”
The last five minutes of the drive we passed in silence, me feeling the stupidity of it all, my yelling about things finally that had very little to do with these two boys. Zeb, next to me, only looked out his window, as did Jacob, behind us, the two of them wondering, I imagined, if they dare speak.
But when we parked in front of the studio, Zeb with his door open, ready to climb out, I reached to him, put my arm around his neck, pulled him to me. I hugged him, said, “I’m sorry I yelled. I shouldn’t have done that.”
“That’s OK,” he said into my shoulder.
“Can we go to Wendy’s for lunch?” Jacob said from the back seat, sensing this window of opportunity, his father contrite.
Zeb pulled away, smiling, and I turned, looked at Jacob. He was leaning forward, grinning.
“Sure,” I said. “Wendy’s,” I said.
Then I looked at Zeb, standing now and pulling forward the seat back to let his brother out.
“Zeb,” I said, and he looked at me. “You have to wear the reefs so you don’t get ant bites. OK?”
“OK,” he said, and smiled again.
By this time Jacob was out. He slammed shut the door, and they turned, ran along the sidewalk to the glass door of the place, disappeared.
Just like that.
There are days like today. Days with no story, really, other than the misstep, the idiot words and gestures, the sincere belief for a moment, however blind, that all this yelling actually might do some good, when the world and Velcro sandals seem somehow malevolently aligned against you. Then the right word, the right gesture. The lunch at Wendy’s, atonement after confession.
No story, really, other than that of being a father.
there is the question:
Both of our essays today deal with gender roles. Judy Brady explores the idea of being a wife based on other people’s expectations. Bret Lott explroes being a father based on his interaction with his children. How do you define gender roles like husband, wife, mother, father, son, daughter? How do you decide what you are supposed to do within these roles?

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