My first child was a girl, and I was a girl when I had her at 18, truth be told. Having a girl child made being a young mum feel pretty effortless. I naively deduced that because she was the same gender as me, she would be a lot like me*. I expected it all to go great. I was positive from the start, buoyed by this perceived sameness and familiarity and the optimism of youth.
It’s a … boy!
When I became pregnant with my second child, 7 years later, it was a less familiar story. A tiny someone who, I figured, wouldn’t mirror me so much was about to enter my world.
A baby boy.
I was no less optimistic, but I figured the boy thing was a bit of a game-changer in the parenting department. Boys were different to girls, I was fairly sure.
I based this deduction on the highly non-scientific evidence from the Pip Institute – that my brother was different to me. I figured this difference surely must be a gender thing – all that reading of Dune, tinkering with electronics and watching Alien when we were kids. Ugh.
I (a GIRL) was reading Sweet Valley High and watching Pretty In Pink, blu-tacking pictures of Duran Duran torn from Smash Hits to my wall, snacking on Milky Bars, sipping Spiders.
He (a BOY) was down the hall, carefully hanging his collectable Star Wars posters and snacking on things I did not understand or like.
The pregnant-with-boy me braced herself for the impending years of parenting and finding out more about those boy-type people. I was in for a steep learning curve, I was sure. I lay awake, wondering if I would cope with all the Sigourney Weaver, Lego and confusing man-ish sandwiches.
It turned out that I knew more about boys than I realised. Any differences were tucked neatly under a comforting, universal human sameness.
Here’s what I learnt:
Boys are actually just regular people!
I know! Well. I know this NOW. Granted boys can sometimes manifest their passion in areas that make no sense to me (hello dinosaurs, I like you, but I don’t need to know all of your names or where you live), but this is because they have diverse interests, not because they are another species. Girls do this too!
Boys are just as easy to ‘maintain’ as girls
I don’t want to get too specific here, because my kids are going to murder me for talking about this, but let’s just say that all equipment requires maintenance, regardless of gender. Same but different. This was a surprising relief to me. I had been worried about the equipment, but it all turned out fine.
Boy meltdowns are just as heartbreaking as girl meltdowns
All kids freak out a little bit now and then. We know this. I was pretty sure that boy meltdowns would be more turbo-charged than girl ones. I was thinking boy tantrums would be airbrushed with a giant sparkly picture of an angrily snorting bull. I suspected flames came out of boy tantrums, even. I am happy to report that boy/girl freakouts are equally bracing and I handled them just the same. Because both are humans. Yep. There were no sparkles. There may have been snorts. No bull.
Boy chats are just as insightful and interesting as girl chats
All of the kid chats are pretty great because there is the wonder of listening to your kids’ insight on the world around them. Whichever human is chattily pondering life before you, you can scarcely believe that you’re lucky enough to have this home-grown person in your life. That they form ideas and thoughts way beyond you. That they are their own people. This awe is universal. Both boys and girls are equally capable of sparking this delight. And not just when they’re talking about dinosaurs.
Humans are my favourite
Parenting boys is just like parenting girls: exhausting, confusing, rewarding and life-affirming.
YES – boys are different to their parents and siblings. They are simply mirroring the diversity that exists everywhere in life. But they are also just the same as us in so many ways, too.
Putting personality quirks and characteristics down to gender only serves to promote outdated stereotypes. Much better to love and accept kids for whoever they want to be. Yay for all the human children, whatever sandwiches they may like, I say.
(If only I had known not to worry about the sandwiches.)
*She’s a bit like me
PS: If your boy is the one with the airbrush bull tantrums, I am very sorry to hear it.