Boys and girls are different. They just are. It’s no good people saying treat all children the same. By all means love them equally but good parenting is about knowing when to adapt your style to better influence the child. Throw gender differences into the mix and it’s a whole ‘nother story.
Very early into parenting The First Boy I understood the differences between boys and girls. It was evident from the playgroups and toddler birthday parties. School only served to amplify the differences.
At birthday parties the SMOGs (Smug Mother of Girls) could be seen sitting together serenely discussing recipes and breastfeeding tips while their daughters linked arms and pretended to be Disney characters. Meanwhile the MOB (Mothers of Boys) hovered nervously over the whirling dervishes masquerading as their sons; afraid to sit down or even take a potty break lest Junior choose that exact moment to attempt some gravity defying lunacy.
SMOGs arrived at playgroup/parties/play dates well-dressed and on time. SMOGs wore make-up. The MOB on the other hand arrived late, harassed and dishevelled; inevitably chasing after the fiends who escaped their grasp as soon as they arrived at the destination.
The MOB had well developed cheek muscles. That’s because we spent so much time talking through gritted teeth. SMOGs wore nail polish. SMOGs had no concept of chasing a toddler half-dressed around a clothing store because the little monster slid under the changing room door just as you got your kit off. Or yanking your cherub out of the ornamental pond at a wedding – ruining your outfit in the process – because he just HAD to see how deep it was.
You’d think after acquiring a daughter I’d become a SMOG. But no – you can’t escape the MOB. Membership is for life. Womb to tomb, as a friend of mine often says. As the children grew older the MOB reassured me that it wasn’t just my child – male children have an innate appetite for mayhem and chaos. They are gifted at finding themselves in the most bizarre situations that defy logic or reason. Hospital emergency rooms? Know them well.
By the time The Second Boy appeared I’d gotten over the shock of the first but the parenting experience has been no less eventful. As my boys grew into teenagers I discovered a fundamental truth. The male body has sufficient blood supply for only one head at a time. Inevitably the big head loses out to the small one. When you think about it, this explains EVERYTHING.
I’m not saying The Only Girl hasn’t given me cause to grasp the vodka bottle but such instances have been few. I’ve grown to dread telephone conversations which begin with the words “Are you the mother of insert boy name here?” It’s never good news. I have heard tales of angelic sons who never give their parents a moment’s worry. I have never encountered such a creature. I suspect I’d have better luck finding the Holy Grail. But when I do I’ll be sure to buy a lotto ticket and put money on play whe mark 10 (monkey/boy child).
Some years ago I attended a lecture given by psychologist Dr Diane Douglas. She said “When you have children, cut down your shame tree. Your children will do embarrassing things which can cripple you if you focus on the shame. Focus on the child instead” This has been especially true of my boys. There have been times when one or the other has done something particularly stupid and I wondered aloud “What the hell was going through your head?” But then I remember. Absolutely nothing – no blood supply.
I have been blessed to parent two boys and a girl. All three have enriched my life in ways I could never have imagined. I am not saying girls are better than boys or vice versa. They are just different. Only by recognising and embracing these differences can parents truly understand and guide their children. Or something like that anyway. When all else fails pretend they’re not yours. Works for me.