I used to be a semi-feminist. Okay well maybe I was a full-blown feminist. Who really knows? I mean, I never said anything like “girls are better than boys” or “girls can do anything boys can do, only better” – at least not out loud anyway. I can remember saying a time or two that I wasn’t a feminist, I was an equalist. I used to think there was no difference between boys and girls other than their private parts. Then I had kids. A girl and a boy, 23 months apart, and all my “no difference” gibberish went out the window.
The Girl came first; then, just before she turned 2, we had Boy Genius. Early on we started noticing some strangely innate differences between the two, differences that may or may not be attributed to their gender, but differences nonetheless. Some of the differences were so random and so stark that it was kind of funny. For instance, once they were both on regular table food, cleaning up always revealed the same thing — one plate would be completely devoid of all meat, with pasta left untouched; while the other would have no pasta remaining, but the meat untouched — veggies were always a crap shoot. Boy Genius would eat any kind of meat you put in front of him but didn’t like rice or noodles or potatoes. The Girl loved any kind of pasta but wouldn’t eat meat to save her life. The only real exception to this seemed to be chicken nuggets and French fries … that we could count on them both eating … needless to say, we ate A LOT of chicken nuggets and French fries.
A big difference between the two has to do with sharing information. The Girl tells every excruciating detail of an exchange between her and a friend, right down to the ums, while Boy Genius didn’t tell me for 2 months that he was in gifted and talented at school. There are days when I want The Girl to just stop talking but then I remind myself that one day very soon she likely will and I appreciate her details a little more. Getting information out of Boy Genius on the other hand is like pulling teeth. You have to ask direct questions and typically more than one or two to find out everything because he seems to enjoy answering in monosyllables only.
Another difference between the two was a bit more subtle, evident in the way they played. The Girl always wanted someone to watch her do something or play something with her. Boy Genius was perfectly happy to just sit and play on his own … he’d occupy himself for hours, adding sound effects to his toy cars and action figures and only coming out of his imagination to ask for juice or a snack. Once Wonder Boy came along and was big enough to play with the same kind of stories, I became convinced that the ability to make sound effects is innate in boy DNA.
The way they play is probably indicative of a more significant personality distinction. The Girl is still a more social creature than Boy Genius. She’s also more sensitive to other’s feelings as well. Boy Genius is sensitive at times but rarely shows it. He’s more concerned with getting a laugh, while The Girl is just more concerned.
Last night, The Girl wanted to get her Valentine’s Day cards ready for her class. She had a list of classmates and sat down with the box of candy/cards to address to her friends. I asked Boy Genius if he wanted to do the same for his class. He said no. Just no. I asked him why and he said he didn’t really like Valentine’s Day. He’s 8. What’s not to like?
Anyway, I debated for a minute whether I should make him hand them out. I told him he might be the only person in his class not handing out cards. “Won’t you feel bad then?” I asked. Nope. Really? I went on about this for a few minutes but he never wavered. So finally I said if he really didn’t want to hand out anything to his classmates for Valentine’s Day, then he didn’t have to. This morning, after they’d gone out to catch the bus, The Girl came running back to the door in a panic:
The Girl: (panting at the front door) [Boy Genius] doesn’t have his candy.
Me: I know. He didn’t want it.
The Girl: (huffing) But he has to.
Me: No, if he doesn’t want to I’m not going to make him.
The Girl: (near tears and stomping her foot … did I mention she’s a drama queen?) But he’s SUPPOSED to take it.
Me: If he doesn’t want to, he doesn’t want to, you don’t worry about it.
The Girl: (just standing and pouting, attempting to stare me down).
Me: Go catch the bus.
So after school everyone wanted to dig into their Valentine’s Day candy.
Me: (to Boy Genius) Did you get any candy from your friends?
Me: Were you the only one who didn’t bring anything for your friends?
Me: Did that make you feel bad?
Seriously? No twinge of guilt or embarrassment? Nothing? I guess my staring at him, mouth slightly open, nudged him along a little more:
BG: Somebody had an extra bag and let me hand it out.
Me: How did that make you feel? (Man, I sound like Dr. Phil).
About that time, Wonder Boy dumped his V-Day box of candy on the coffee table, cards and loose candy flying everywhere, thus saving Boy Genius from further amateur psychoanalysis.
Should I have made him take the candy cards and hand them out? Should I have told his teacher in advance that he didn’t want to bring anything? Should I have made a point of it so that he didn’t hand out someone else’s extra … maybe to induce that guilt or embarrassment I expected? I mean, isn’t that part of parenting, inducing guilt or embarrassment in your kids? Or I am just obsessing over nothing?