A chance remark from a local shop owner has got me in a tizz, and where better to sound off and see what others think than here on Parentdish?
The offending comment was made as Paul recounted the Saturday afternoon he and his wife had just enjoyed, now that his youngest boy is 15 and going out with his friends more.
"It was great – we went up to town and enjoyed a matinee show, which we followed up with dinner and drinks in Soho. Then we caught the 9pm train back to Brighton – and still made it home before the boys," he remarked.
"Wow," I replied in naive wonder. 'Where were they all the time you two were living it up?"
"God knows," he chuckled. "Messing about with their mates, hanging around the shops, eyeing up the local talent I expect. Of course I'd be so much more strict if I had girls – I'd be hanging around street corners watching who they were out with, where they were going and generally making sure they weren't going near the boys," he said. "And of course they'd have to be home by 7pm," he added, for effect no doubt.
As I put my card in the machine to pay for my purchases I stopped punching in the PIN and stared him straight in the eye. "It's boys like yours I'll be protecting my girls from," I told him with a steely glare. "And it's girls just like his sisters who I'll be teaching my son to respect," I continued.
Paul laughed, but I didn't.
I know he thought he was being funny, but his flippant attitude scares the living daylights out of me, and there was an uncomfortable moment whilst he realised I was deadly serious, and then the inevitable back-tracking began.
Silencing him with a wave of my hand, I warmed to my theme, allowing both Paul and other bemused customers in the shop the benefit of my opinion.
"It's attitudes like yours that have helped this country have one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancies in Europe," I continued, "and it's 'don't care what my lads are up to' attitudes like yours which make me really really cross," I continued.
I've come across this double-standard attitude before and it makes my blood boil. It seems some parents are happy to allow their boys to spread their seed far and wide, unchecked and without a thought for the consequences, but they don't want them bringing these same girls home later in life. And seemingly happy for their boys to learn about "life" they will warn off their own daughters – if they have them – from fraternising with such males.
As my dad, a father of six girls used to say: "there's no such thing as a nice boy".
And sadly I know Paul is not alone in his double standards. My friend Clare (I've kindly changed her name), recounted a story about when her 17-year-old son brought a girl home to stay the night and Clare wasn't sure what, if anything had gone on, not knowing her son's new amour had slept under her roof until the young lady appeared the next morning.
"I felt a bit uncomfortable," she mused. "I didn't want his two younger brothers bumping into her, and we hadn't had a discussion with our son about the etiquette of girls staying over before hand. But then again I'd rather my boy was safe under our roof than doing it surreptitiously somewhere else."
But what about the young girl who'd shared his bed. Had my friend any responsibility to her? Did her parents know where she was? And what would happen if a night of clumsy passion resulted in an unwanted pregnancy? Whatever the rights and wrongs, and however much some of us try and educate our boys, they can still walk away from a mistake – for a girl there's only tears however it's to be resolved.
So actually in our household my boy and my girls are all growing up being subjected to the same continual and repetitive on-going dialogue about love, life, responsibility and respect.
Do you think there are double standards about raising boys and girls?