But I am a TEACHER, this is what I do for a LIVING!!!
I am a woman with no brothers who married a man with no sisters.
He doesn’t understand guest towels or why I need seven pairs of black shoes, and I don’t get the big hoopla over the direction in which the lawn is mowed.
We have two boys and a girl who keep our marriage so far on the back burner that these sources of misunderstanding seldom crop up. Just as there are differences between women and men, there are differences in raising boys and girls. Birth order plays a role along with parental experience, expectations and anxiety levels. The more kids you have, the less worried you are about caring for them, meaning that you can enjoy them more.
However, if you had no sibling of the opposite sex, you may have a steeper learning curve than others.
The research for this piece was done in highly sterile surroundings such as soccer sidelines where I was supposed to be cheering, school concerts that I was supposed to be admiring, and car rides that I was the proverbial fly on the SUV wall.
As an infant, my daughter would lie down and stay quiet when she went to bed but both my boys were screamers until they were asleep and a little noise could awaken them and the drama would begin anew.
She talked, sang, and then drifted off to sleep.
They took a great deal more soothing for less of a return.
They are the reason we created a double-sided tape of the vacuum cleaner and they are how so much laundry got done because they slept in their chairs on top of the dryer while one of us leaned against it. Vacuum noise still makes me sleepy.
Boys are louder and more physical; they run, they fidget, they emote. All that hollering seems to spring from an inner well.
Girls can get loud and shrill and silly. Don’t buy it? Think of the one or two loud girls you know- they seem to be the exception which is why you can call them to mind easily. Once they get started, though, the screaming of excited little girls can do more damage than Ford Motor Corp has yet to realize. A minivan is really just a small room on wheels. Can they make them with taxi Plexiglas for the poor slob doing gymnastics carpool duty?
I have a female student who exhibits classic ADHD symptoms associated with boys and who is unable to control the motions of her body with her will. I know she wants to be ‘good’ and sit still when the class needs to be sitting still and be quiet when we are being quiet, but you can see her jerk around and it makes me think of jumping beans. She is never quite in focus- she vibrates and twitches, poor baby!
Because I have boys who can’t get through a meal without mini dinner theater; usually a reenactment or improvisation of some inane thing from school or a movie, I am more used to that brand of restlessness and better able to see that she is at the mercy of that differently wired brain.
My daughter seemed to need to touch me and be touched by me in order to settle down and that still comforts her. Most parents I know say that girls are affectionate; willing to cuddle, snuggle and kiss.
A boy I know explained it this way, “Moms always want hugs and kisses and all that loving junk, so sometimes I give her a hug with a little pat on the back or a very brief rub. I fake like I am going to let her kiss me and turn my head just at the last second, but I make a kissing noise and that gets me off the hook.” When asked why boys hate kissing so much “All that lip goop is too disgusting!”
One area where differences seem clearly drawn and have no bearing on the type of parent one is, is school. Girls will voluntarily share more about their lives. They can talk nonstop, tell every detail of the day, giving all the news about who was bad, good, sick…The word summarize seems not to exist in their lexicon, whereas with boys the missing word is elaboration.
When my third child, a girl, went to kindergarten, I learned all manner of things that the boys omitted. I pumped them like a FBI agent and here she was coming clean without prompting or threats like an informant.
Relationships with peers are very interesting to watch from the adult distance. Girls tend to take things to heart and really anguish over what to do about so and so who did such and such. Boys get over it and decide if they hate you or like you- none of which means they won’t want to come to your birthday party.
So conversations with your boys about arch enemies go something like this: Upon the occasion of receiving an invitation in the mail to a birthday party at a classmate’s home
Mom: ‘I guess you will have to call Tommy and tell him that you can’t go.’
Mom:‘Because you two don’t get along.’
son: ‘Mom, it’s at the bowling alley and there’s paintball and pizza- why wouldn’t I go?’
Mom: ‘You said you always hated his guts because he always hides the flag during capture the flag at recess plus he used to lick all the celery at snack so nobody else would eat it in preschool.’
son: ‘Yeah, but it’s a party’.
See what I mean?
Once we just admitted that we had no idea what we were doing with these characters despite three decades of teaching experience combined, we were better off. We just wait to see what happens next.