Daddy Issues: How Can I Keep My Daughter Loving Science?

In our Daddy Issues series, a father of a young daughter seeks guidance, hoping to raise a strong woman. He looks to feminism—and readers—for help.

My wife and I were in a toy store the other day, picking through the science experiment section while our 4-year-old daughter, Emmeline, tinkered with a set of display Legos nearby. A lady pushing a baby boy in a stroller called her young daughter to the science section, saying, "Abigail! Don't you think these will be just perfect when Jared gets older?! We'll have to remember to buy these!"

I wanted to strangle her.

Why couldn't she buy them now? For her daughter?

I stole a glance at Emme. Thankfully she didn't seem to hear. I'd hate to give her the impression that science and math is really great ... for boys.

Right now, she lives for our local Academy of Science. She loves learning about planets and dinosaurs. She practically turns our house into the Brady Bunch on a weekly basis with all the homegrown volcanos that magically appear in the kitchen sink. I couldn't imagine telling her to just keep playing with dolls (the toys in the woman's hand cart) while some future brother got all the kick ass science stuff in a few years.

This kind of gender-pigeonholing pisses me off but also kind of scares me. Right now, my kid's in preschool a few days a week and most of the stuff she learns day in and day out happens at home, with me. And what can I say? It's fun to throw blue dye in the toilet just to watch a sudden infusion of all-natural yellow turn the water green.

But then I hear parents like this in the toy store or read stories about boys outnumbering girls in science professions or girls dodging answers in class to appear less intelligent or boys outperforming girls in scientific reasoning. (I recall the teen talk Barbie, the one that said "Math class is tough!" and then promptly went mute after the public outcry.) And that's when the fear starts to set in.

I don't care if she wants to be an astronaut (her future chosen profession of the moment), a professional poker player, actor, teacher, nurse, natural gas saleswomen of the year or an at-home parent, like me. I just want her to be happy. But I also don't want the deck stacked against her, should she ever decide that a life in the sciences is how she wants to spend her days.

I'm assuming all kids — boys and girls — are jazzed for science and math and technology at an early age when its all volcanos and dinosaurs and colored toilet water. So my question is: What happens? How and when and why does this gap develop? Do you remember having a falling out with science?

Mike Adamick writes at Cry It Out! Next week, it's all about the mani/pedi.

Image via OtnaEdur/Shutterstock.