My children are all QUITE different. In personality, likes and dislikes, attitudes, development, all of it. But there are still--ahem--boys and girls. Mind you, I knew it all about gender roles and all that when I was a 20 year old college student. Of course I did. Bad parents bought their girls barbie and their boys swords and if I just don't do that and hey maybe for good measure swap out some "he" for "She" in the old fairy tales, save a few Princes along with Princesses and buy primary colored clothing and bikes and bedding then voila! A perfectly modern feminist gender neutral child would be created.
Now before you get all nervous and squirmy and start clinging defensively to your sons' wooden nesting dolls or your daughters' robo-technics building kit, please know that this is still a well intentioned idea, and that kids now more than ever need and deserve a safe sane environment to get a mental break from the extraordinarily hyper-sexualized, stereotype limited toys and movies that are in the mainstream. SO DONT GIVE UP ! .....just dont be surprised if it doesnt do as much as you may have anticipated.....
I have been hard pressed to find ANY commercials on tv that are for Slinkys, Legos, Playdoh....and the ads I have seen show boys only playing with boys and racing and aggression and girls playing only with girls and collecting and adorning pastel animals....I tried and still do try to not allow any of that yucky gimmicky commercial stuff in the house, and frequently point out to the kids why that stuff is not cool....and I really do think that alot of parents, at least in the younger years, do somehow manage to find their kid stuff like wagons and fingerpaint and bowling sets and teddy bears and nesting blocks, and then the kids really do just show a preference for stuff and if youve got a little gun kid he/she will play powpowpow with an organic banana, right in front of Grandma......and if youve got a lovey dovey nurturer, he/she will cuddle and pretend to breastfeed a can of soup, right in front of everyone in the grocery store, shirt lifted.
And this is what I really wanted to mention---Eska, at ten months old today (Happy Bday angel!) crawls and digs her way through 5 kids' lifetimes of toys collections, and scrounges until she finds anything that resembles a kitty or a baby and just coos and giggles and beams at it--even hugging it, no matter how tattered tiny or old, if she thinks she has found a kitty or a baby or anything with a face on it, she just goes into coo-ey cuddle mode! She stares at it and says "Naaaaa....Naaaaa" and even lays on top of it, smiling.
I havent seen that behavior since.....baby Greta!
Also, the difference between Eska and the boys at that age, but that Greta did, is that she stays by me. The boys seemed hell bent on mobility for the sake of going far away. I can crawl now, BYE BYE! It isnt that she is clingy fearful or shy, its that she is oriented towards people, and really does sit there and hang out with you. She wants to be by you, playing with and examining little dollys (we hardly have any dolls, per se, guess Ill have to get some, but she has found the little felt-folks from our doll house and Lego people and stuffed animals) and chewing them, and coming up to you and patting you and singing little songs "Dadada-Babababa-Mamamamama-Yayayaya" and making proclamations while showing you her little spitty doll "A-Ba!" "A-Ba!".
She does not want to disassemble the VCR, take plug covers out of the sockets, climb the baby gate, pry the door open, or do any type of destruction--ahem--curious hows-it-made stuff. My past three babies (BOYS) sure did. If Eska sees a fine tower of blocks, she doesnt instantly smash it.
And as much as I love and adore my boys, I am not a boy, and dealing with their ways has been a big challenge for me. It is so clear to me now more than ever why boys have so much trouble in elementary school, and how girl oriented the idea of sit still and produce fine-motor-creations to please the nice teacher----that just is all so contrary to everything (my/many) boys are into. When the sitting is torture, the hands arent ready for the writing, and you cant sit still for more than 5 minutes and pleasing the grown up just isnt tops on your list, where is the hope for "success"?
Greta liked nothing more than to color. She would sit with me at like age 18 months until--well, we still do it--and we'd just chat and have a nice little dish of cookies and color and talk. Contrast that with the sweating, disheveled lunatic that being the mother of a boy from age 6 months until--well we still do it---and you find a very humbled psych student who is the proud Mama of 2 girls, three boys, and for whom the real differences are a source of smiles, tears, and a grimace for the know it all that I used to be, but also learning everyday.
I do know some wild, wild, WILD little girls, ones you cant even say Hi to without them bucking out of your arms and up onto the refrigerator. I also know some gentle, people oriented little boys, who really do want to sip the tea and do Beatrix Potter coloring sheets and converse at length. But for my kids, raised by 2 parents and homeschooled with very strict access to tv and movies, there is still a big big difference in how they move, how they play with the exact same toys, and what they do with their mobility skills as they grow. As babies, the girls are quite chilled out, into cute stuff that is cuddly, and seem very oriented towards interacting with me and showing me little things and staying nearby. As babies the boys cried and cried and cried, and I have videotape to prove it,it was an angry cry not a sad plaintive cry, were very into getting far far away, climbing, and touching and breaking every and any thing in the room that was not for them and generally wild and very very difficult to take places due to destruction, running away, and complete inabilty to "get" that "we dont do that here" (Library, Grocery store, etc)
I LOVE my children, I LOVE my boys so so so so so much, please dont get me wrong. They are so hilarious and adorable and life-filled and sparkly and great, they are just so great and so free. But its physical work, and emotional work--the actual keeping of them can be outrageously exhausting, (and remember mine were BIG, big boys, all over 20 pounds by THREE months old -- the size of little rosebud Eska now) and emotionally, its alot of helping them to "get" the social cues that I completely took for granted when raising Greta, the little stuff like thinking about others, and how-do-you-think-that-makes-so-and-so-feel, its just different. I have tried to read those books about raising boys but they creep me out and upset me, seem very anti-wholistic and just seem to hyper scrutinize everything to the point where I get paranoid and fearful and thats when I throw the books down and love my child, just hold them and kiss them in the middle of the living room, in all their dissasembled electronics and their plain pasta and their it hurts when you wash my hair and their refusal to wear chapstick and their legos and their dominos and they are my dear babies, my huge dear babies and maybe none of the other stuff matters. But it is harder than raising girls. so far. for me. For us.
As theyve gotten older, its amazing to see how their babyish ways have changed into very interesting and diverse interests---I look forward to writing about this soon!
Any one out there wish to share their adventures, myths and truths about raising a boy or a girl or many of them? Did you, like me, "know it all" until you actually had one of your own?