When one of our boys was nine months old, he discovered our daughter’s toy tea cup. He spotted a row of her stuffed animals and slowly meandered over to them with an adorable grin on his face. “How sweet,” I said. “He’s going to give the animals a drink.” When he reached the first animal, he slowly raised the cup and – BAM! – smashed it over the teddy bear’s head. Then he wiped out all of the other animals with a sweep of his arm. Tea party over.
Having a girl first allowed me to ease my way into motherhood. I heard other mothers tell tales of their sons’ adventurous nature – how they loved to climb and explore. I would nod my head in agreement about how our girl also loved to be adventurous. Then I had boys.
Our boys seemed intent to accomplish one goal: bring down the house. (Is there something I can pull down, knock down, tear apart, or mangle? Is there something dangerous I can climb up, roll off, jump from, or throw?) It didn’t take me very long to discover their MO. Seek and destroy.
Our little girl could be left alone all day in a fine china shop, and everything would remain in place. The boys could destroy a rubber room.
Even though they were raised in the same environment, our boys never seemed to catch on to the concept of “gentle.” To them, being gentle means the difference between whacking a plant and pulling it out by its roots. They tried things that our daughter never even thought of, from pulling the tablecloth off the table (with dinner on it), to knocking down the fireplace gate. Many days were spent scrubbing couches, walls, and floors, and taping things back together.
Once our boys became mobile, they avoided being captured at all costs. Diapering became an exhausting effort. Despite my efforts to minimize their sugar intake, they were still hyper and constantly active. Together, they made a formidable team.
Many parents who do not acknowledge gender differences try to influence and change them. These are the parents who try to force girlie dolls and tea sets on their boys to get them “in touch” with their feminine side. This is a noble but futile attempt: Boys will play with dolls, too – by ripping their heads off and throwing them down the stairs. Then they might play catch with the headless doll corpses and laugh while the girls watch and scream. They don’t exactly wait with bated breath for an invitation to the next “tea party.”
The key to dealing with gender differences is to appreciate all of them. Even though boys require more work and clean up, their adventurous spirit is to be admired and nurtured. Their sense of fun is infectious. Sometimes moms need to relax a little and learn life lessons from the bold and daring escapades of their sons. They can teach us that life is not always what it seems. What we may think is only a box can be a car, rocket ship, or whatever we want. We may even learn not to always be uptight about being orderly and clean. Boys are an affirmation that it’s okay to live life to the fullest and have fun.
Girls can teach us to appreciate the fine details in life. They usually prefer to slow down and observe the beauty of nature: sunlight reflected on water or shadow shifts on the moon. A mother might be thinking of something that needs to be done, and her girl will focus on a particular shade of the sunset that pleases her. A cloud that looks like a bunny’s tail, a rock that looks like a chunk of the moon – nothing goes unnoticed by little girls. They tend to be the first to find a rainbow after a storm, both literally and figuratively. In this fast-paced and overwhelming world, girls are a constant reminder to slow down and appreciate the raw beauty that surrounds us daily.
No matter what you do, there will always be differences between boys and girls. You can’t change these inherent differences, so just learn to appreciate them.
Just remember this simple Gender Equation:
Girl = china shop; Boy = bull in china shop.