Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mars and Venus Revisited

What’s the difference, besides a chromosome and a few body parts, between a boy and a girl?

Is it sugar and spice and everything nice? Toads and snails and puppy dog tails?

Is it just physiology?

Is it hormones?

Are our brains different?

Do we think differently?

Is it socialization?

Do we raise them differently

Are there different expectations and assumptions?

Are we just different species?

I have wrestled with these questions a lot as a woman and a feminist. For the most part, I have consistently denied all differences but physiology, mainly because I don’t like the consequences for women, historically, for assuming that men and women are different.

Generally, I don’t like some of the stereotypes that circle popular culture about how men and women are different (like the book referenced in the title). I realize that there is a wide spectrum of “girl” behavior and “boy” behavior and that there is a lot of overlap.

But I am ready to make a concession: after having a boy, I can say, almost for certain, that he is a different kind of beast altogether.

(N-eating dirt)

Let it be known, first, that G is not a girly-girl (much to my secret relief). I have tried not to influence her much as far as likes: I don’t encourage or discourage typically girl or typically boy things. I want her to like what SHE likes. And yet, she likes dinosaurs more than dolls. She likes sticks and bugs and frogs. She loves to run and jump and climb. She prefers to be buck-naked (underwear is usually our compromise) rather than don a pink sequined tutu. It is still early, she is only 3.5 and kids change so much, but for now, she is somewhat of a tom-boy.

So it is not that there is a HUGE contrast. I don’t think I am overly-willing to interpret Nico’s behavior as “all-boy” just because he is, in fact, a boy. He does a lot of the things that G used to do…

But he is all rough and tumble and cacophony. He hits. He bangs. He grunts. He climbs. He clangs. He whacks. He throws. He makes a raucous everywhere he goes. He routinely carries drumsticks, mallets, and sticks and beats and bangs everything that crosses his path. He loves to throw big toys on the floor to hear the satisfying crash and to see everyone’s startled reaction. He is mischievous beyond measure and makes sure you are watching as he creates the havoc he knows you are trying to avoid. He laughs with a sparkle in his eye when we are stern with him or tell him “no!”

He even walks with a cocky little man-swagger, holding on to his little pot-belly. He is a late-talker... as in, he doesn't talk yet--which might make one think he is getting an early start on that "real men don't talk" stereotype. He communicates all right: he points and grunts when he wants something and he bangs on the fridge with his little fists and runs to his high chair when he is hungry (about 8 times a day).

It is still early, he is still little and kids change so much. But if things continue on course, given his current behavior, here are some of my predictions, in no particular order, for the near-future:

Nico will…

*Finally succeed in eating a rock
*Eat a bug
*Get stung by a wasp
*Sit on a mound of fire ants
*Give me a black eye
*Head-butt hubby in the groin
*Require stitches
*Or a cast
*Throw a rock through one of our windows
*Chip one of his two teeth
*Somehow manage to climb onto the roof and possibly fling himself off

I might be ready to concede that there is something different about a boy.


anymommy said...

I absolutely agree. Well, since my daughter isn't biologically mine and my sons are, I guess it's not a perfect experiment. But, I swear I've treated my two three year olds (one girl, one boy) the same, they play with the same toys, etc. And they are so different - she likes pink, princesses, dresses. He loves racecars and concrete. They just soak up the culture around them I guess.

bernthis said...

I volunteer in an ER and it seems as though it is a rite of passage almost that all little boys get stitches somewhere near their eyebrow, or underneath their chin, above their eyebrow and most definitely a chipped front tooth. Rare to see a girl in that position, at least in my experience

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I have a four year old boy and two year old boy/girl twins. At 18 months apart, they are definitely playmates and since we had a boy first (and there are two boys to one girl) we have SO many more boy games and toys around the house. Because of the total chaos that they create, there hasn't been much time or thought put into girly things for the girl. She is surrounded by boy stuff. YET...she prefers skirts to pant, calls herself a ballerina, bats her eyelashes, shows zero interest in roughhousing or trucks and cars, and is my only child who routinely puts on my shoes and walks around the house. So I think you must be right about this.

Danielle said...

What a great post! I love it. So funny and entertaining. My favorite part was picturing N doing his little man swagger holding his pot belly. Adorable! I think it's great you're not trying to make G a girly girl. It's better to let her be herself. You sound like a great and loving mom.

mosey along said...

My daughter runs like the wind, picks up any kind of bug (slugs included), climbs trees and holds her own in soccer games with boys. But she also will ONLY wear skirts that twirl, refuses to wear jeans, and put on a princess costume the minute we returned from vacation. She's definitely a dichotomy and I love it. Vive la difference, and the fact that at this age, they can do/be it all.

Wendi said...

This was so well put. As the mother of two boys, I'd just advise you to stock up on Band-Aids. :)

Sara said...

Well, some of it is just genetics i think, but my parents definitely raised me and my brother differently, so I think that account for the fact that I am much more assertive than my brother. He's much more sensitive.

mrs.notouching said...

Wow, Nico is a copy of our Leila! And now I cannot wait to meet our little guy :-) Between the two of them... our house may not last.