As my child climbed onto the table, barrel-rolled off of it, and then ran like a linebacker into my husband’s legs, I knew that the adage of “boys will be boys” was completely wrong. My two year old daughter is boisterous, loud, and lives life on the edge.
When she was 16 months old, my husband found that she had climbed onto the back of the couch, then onto the window sill, and was precariously standing pressed against the window yelling “HI!” to every car, person, and bird. He likes to say, “She’s a menace!” Many parenting websites would like to tell you that boys are naturally more aggressive and physical; girls tend to be quiet and gentle.
But I would like to seriously contest the idea that little boys and girls are hard-wired so differently.
We don’t need to raise our babies differently and I would like to encourage us all to look past the “blue vs. pink” in the way we identify traits in our children. Make a quick online search for “toys for boys” and you’ll see cars, trucks, building toys, dinosaurs in mostly blue and red. Do the same for girls, and we find a wall of pink, blinding and saccharine.
As an English teacher, I have a strong innate urge to cite multiple sources (I’ll resist for now) about how important it is that we encourage our boys to play with baby dolls so they grow to be empathetic and nurturing, and our girls to play with building blocks to develop their spatial reasoning. How, up until the turn of the century, children wore white gender neutral clothing until they were six, and how pink for girls and blue for boys was completely determined by clothing manufacturers in the 1940s.
When I was pregnant, I didn’t want to know the sex of the baby. I wanted it to be a surprise. I also wanted to start thinking of my child as just my miracle baby, and not determine their identity based on if they got a pink or blue hat at the hospital. Nowadays, do I love putting my daughter in every cute dress and headband I can find at Target? Duh. Do I also love buying her construction tools and watching her pretend to fix a toy car? Yes!
My daughter sometimes has a death wish climbing on everything, but she also loves to rock and sing to her babies. She loves climbing on her big brother’s back and wrestling with her dad, but she also loves to quietly paint in the backyard. Kids are just kids. Some are more physical and some are more quiet. Some are into smooth jazz, and some are into softball. Some enjoy playing dress up, and some like to jump from the couch, jackhammer their dad in the stomach, and then laugh maniacally. The most well-rounded ones are into a little bit of both.
Their sex doesn’t need to determine their personality. We don’t need to enforce gender roles on our babies when they’re still learning how to just exist in the world. I’m not a #boymom or #girlmom. I’m a #mom.
So, is it really more difficult to raise boys or girls? I think it’s just difficult to raise kids.
If you’ve ever seen Jurassic Park, then you’re probably familiar with that moment where the velociraptors learn how to open doors and they’re suddenly so much more dangerous. We don’t care if the velociraptor is a boy, girl, or anything else. We just know it’s terrifying. My child has recently become that velociraptor, and will ominously sing the ABCs and carry a toy dump truck while doing it. She’s well-rounded.