Insights from the hood
(Parenthood, that is) / 2
A lesson in the difference between boys and girls
By Mona Andrei
If we haven’t all read the book, we’ve at least all heard of it. I’m referring to John Gray’s, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. As indicated in the sub-title, the book is a “practical guide for improving communication and getting what you want in your relationships”.
Clearly, there’s a difference between how men and women express themselves and how we understand each other. I mean, there’s a whole book written on the subject.
But here’s the truth, folks. I remember noticing a difference between boys and girls long before the book came out, when my girls were still very young and much before they would start worrying (or even thinking about) how best to communicate with the opposite sex.
… I naively believed that the difference between boys and girls was a conveniently made-up myth.
Here’s how that story goes …
Before earning my black belt in raising kids, I naively believed that the difference between boys and girls was a conveniently made-up myth. Convenient for whom, you ask? Why for parents, of course. After all, how could such a small and undeveloped section of the human anatomy dictate such a big difference between the behaviour of children? Grown men and women, I could accept (if not understand), but children?
At the time, I was the mother of two young girls who were from my point of view, shy, sweet, and well-behaved; at least when visiting other people’s homes. As far as I was concerned, all children were the product of their environments and parental influences. Babies were born neutral and the gender difference was something that was imposed upon them according to parental and social expectations. Possibly with a little subliminal brainwashing.
Ah yes. I was extremely clever back then. In a corner of my 20-something mind lived the scientific explanation behind the expression “boys will be boys”. In laymen terms, it was nothing more than an excuse for parents with lively children (read: boys).
Then one day a friend of mine came to my apartment for a visit with her two young children and completely splattered my bubble of how I understood and looked at the world. It would be my first witness of the very real and very staggering differences between the sexes.
‘In a corner of my 20-something mind lived the scientific explanation behind the expression “boys will be boys”… it was nothing more than an excuse for parents with lively children (read: boys).’
It was a Sunday afternoon and I had invited my friend (we’ll call her Mrs. Was-Never-Invited-Back) for tea. At the time, I thought that a play date was a great idea and what better way to spend a rainy afternoon, right?
My girls, ages 7 and 4 at the time, were the same ages as Mrs. Was-Never-Invited-Back’s boys. Even as I write this, I realize that there’s no way I could have seen what was coming. (Spoiler alert: what was coming was a HUGE life-lesson in human behaviour. Also, an after-effect we’ll call a chaotic mess.)
My daughters, still so sweet and polite in my memories of them as children, loved to put their ‘babies’ (dolls and stuffed animals) down for a nap on the kitchen floor while I cooked. Although adorable, this was also the cause of the disappearance of all my tea towels, since this is what they used to gently cover up their babies. After all, no one naps without a ‘blankie’.
Enter my friend with her two *cough* boys.
Within ten minutes of walking into my apartment, the boys noticed the sleeping babies in a corner of the kitchen floor and ran over to abruptly wake them up by throwing them in the air and kicking them against the wall.
“They started karate lessons last week,” my friend explained nonchalantly.
‘… the boys noticed the sleeping babies… and ran over to abruptly wake them up by throwing them in the air and kicking them against the wall.’
As you can imagine, my girls were horrified and began to cry at the cruelty that had befallen their napping babies.
Luckily, children have the attention span of a squirrel because not long after, the kitchen scene got boring and the kids all decided to play in my daughters’ shared bedroom. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t welcome the quiet. I’d also be lying if I didn’t admit my concern for my girls’ safety. Although I knew that my friend’s boys were just children themselves and would never intentionally hurt my girls, I was afraid of someone (my girls) getting in the way of a rambunctious Rambo move.
Confession: Even though the visit was planned as afternoon tea between two friends and play date for said friends’ children, I do remember looking to see if I had any leftover wine hiding somewhere in the back of my fridge. I did not. Deep breaths of courage.
While Mrs. Was-Never-Invited-Back and I sipped our tea and chatted about the latest in whatever was going on at that time, I remember my girls coming to me several times, crying because ‘someone’ had broken a toy or because they had been accidently bopped in the head.
Meanwhile, words like “Boys, be nice”, “Stop playing rough”, and “BOYS!!! You say you’re sorry, right now!”, travelled from my kitchen to my girls’ room like interrupting sirens.
Finally, the visit came to an end. Although, it was a long end. As my girls and I patiently waited to say our ‘good-byes’, it felt like three days had passed before all shoes and jackets were found.
‘The girls were anxious to show me “what the boys did” and I was reluctant to investigate. The bedroom looked like the aftermath of seven hurricanes.’
After promising to “do this again soon” and closing the door on our visitors, the three of us walked towards their bedroom. The girls were anxious to show me “what the boys did” and I was reluctant to investigate. Standing in the doorway all I could do was blink in silence. The bedroom looked like the aftermath of seven hurricanes.
I closed the door and the words, “Let’s take care of this later”, stretched out of my mouth like broken soldiers. Then the three of us climbed into my bed. Not used to the boisterous nature of boys, we needed a nap.
My lesson that day?
Babies are not born neutral. There is a gender difference. And it begins way before the development of the human anatomy.
From Mona Andrei’s forthcoming book, SUPERWOMAN: Confessions of a Single Mom, a funny, messy, reflective look at single motherhood.
Mona Andrei is a digital copywriter, writer, and social media strategist with over 20 years of experience, both on the advertising agency and corporate sides of the communication spectrum. When she’s not working on client projects, she likes to write irreverent posts for her personal blog, Moxie-Dude, where she writes about life updates gone wrong. Or right. She’s undecided. You can connect with Mona on Twitter or email her at Mona@MonaAndrei.com