There is a common misconception among amateur parents and people who have never raised children (but curiously always seem to know an awful lot about how other people should raise theirs) that boys and girls behave differently due only to parental programming and societal propaganda.
There is a premise that the differences among the genders are based completely on nurture (how you raise ’em) rather than nature (an innate difference between males and females). Let me tell you, I used to think so, too. Then I had a son.
Difference. The moment our 10-month-old scooted himself across the floor while making engine noises without ever being “taught” to do so, I knew my theory had some holes.
When he sidestepped my domestic disarmament policy by turning every sweet baby doll, cuddly stuffed toy and piece of toast into a weapon, I had to concede that there might be a little something to this innate gender difference theory.
Our daughter, born two years later, would prove to be a girl who loves art, glitter, stuffed animals and pretty things. In short, she is a girlie-girl Yet, she is also an athlete. Strong. Tough. Fast.
Forget the weaker sex. She would truly have to have a bone sticking out or be actively on fire to stop what she was doing and seek aid. After her last soccer game, she reported quite nonchalantly that a member of the opposing team had stepped on her hand. She hastened to assure us that “It’s OK because he didn’t mean to do it. He was trying to kick me when I was laying on the ball is all.”
Oh, well, SURE. Girl power indeed.
This is not to say that some gender stereotypes aren’t rooted in truth.
Style. Our daughter on any given morning will manage almost effortlessly to put together a fetching outfit. At 6 she had no wallet, no makeup, no cell phone, no money, yet had a purse to match nearly every outfit. Most she had purchased herself at yard sales, so committed was she to accessorizing.
On any given day her shoes are cuter than mine. Somehow, through no effort on my part, I managed to give birth to a child who, from her earliest years, had a pretty good eye for color coordination. I’ll concede that I think she came that way.
Our son, despite my YEARS of attempting to teach him self-sufficiency, will stand outside my bathroom door nearly every single morning and shout “Mom! What colors go with brown pants?”
Ten years into dressing himself and he is still sincerely without a clue as to what he can wear that will not get him laughed out of the fourth grade (not that the other BOYS would notice if he dressed himself like Bozo the Clown, but the girls are growing more discerning every day).
He can get straight As, read Treasure Island in almost one sitting, beat virtually any video game known to man, and yet still cannot discern that green stripes and blue plaid are best not worn simultaneously?
Honey, that is all man.
I like to think that someday my lovely daughter-in-law will roll her eyes, exasperated, as she must help my son – her husband – dress himself. I will share at that moment such a bond with her because I’ve been dressing my husband for years.
Before any occasion requiring him to dress even slightly better than what is required to do yard work, he will stand in our bedroom and announce, “So what am I wearing?”
This is not an idle “Gee, what should I wear today?” muse such as that a female might utter as she peruses the possibilities. No. What Mr. Wonderful means is how am I, his wife, planning to dress him?
This cuts out all the time wasted with him dressing himself and my asking pointedly “You weren’t planning to wear that, were you?”
Now we just go right to the point. Khaki goes with black but not gray. Black slacks are not worn with brown shoes. White socks go with nothing. Thus I know all too well that my son cannot help it. He’s male. He will probably be asking some woman what color shirt matches his pants when he dresses for my funeral in what I hope is 50 years.
Thus, I have learned that genetically, a child is a unique package of possibilities. Boys will be boys and girls will be girls and there are strengths inherent in both.
That said, if I’m ever unable to do so myself, I’m letting my daughter pick out my clothes.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt likes khaki. And plaid. She welcomes comments c/o email@example.com; P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460; or http://kymberlyfosterseabolt.com.)
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