According to the doctors I was not supposed to be able to get pregnant â€“ and warned that if I did the result would be a tubal or a miscarriage. Eight children later, I like to tell people that I am an overachiever.
My first child was a girl, followed nearly three years later by a boy. At that point everything seemed to shut down and for the next seven years it looked like our family was complete. A girl and a boy â€“ the ideal family.
I was determined that my children would not have their little characters twisted and damaged by violent toys, sugar, or Barbie dolls. I wanted them to play with toys that would help them to grow into compassionate, honest, well-adjusted individuals. I would treat both of them the same so that they didnâ€™t pick up preconceived notions about gender.
I look back on that and shake my head. Geez.
It wasnâ€™t too long before my daughter was playing with dolls and soon after that Barbie dolls entered our household through an unnamed source (but I think it was Grandma).
My daughter would get her brother to play Barbies with her by promising to play Legos with him afterwards. I will say that my son played with a lot of Barbies but the Legos rarely found their way out of the box.
No matter. I got over my aversion to Barbies and took it in stride, but I was still determined that there be no violent toys.
All was happy in my little kingdom until one morning, I walked into the kitchen to see my son shooting my daughter with a banana. This was only the first of many times that my children would show me that girls and boys are indeed different â€“ and not just physically.
- My girls would make a doll out of anything. One of them carried crickets around and rocked them and crooned lullabies.
- My sons made guns, weapons, and motor vehicles out of everything from walnuts to, as you already know, bananas.
Obviously my theory was flawed.
Over the years I have seen young parents (usually moms) trying to maintain vigilance over their children to ensure that they donâ€™t fall into designated role ruts and become violent sociopaths because they are playing with squirt guns.
I try not to offer advice when I am not asked so I usually just watch, shake my head, and wait for the realization to hit.
Girls and boys are different.
I am not saying that a girl canâ€™t fix an engine or fly a plane. One of my daughters got a pink BB gun for Christmas that she was quite good with. I am not saying a boy canâ€™t enjoy shopping or cooking.
What I am saying is that, without too much variation, boys will be boys and girls will be girls, no matter what. You can read all the research you want, be as vigilant as you want, and argue your case as much as you want.
When it comes right down to it, the sexes think, act, and handle things differently.
I am happy to say that my children are free to follow their interests. I have two in the military, one working on an art degree, one photographer, and four that are still working on who they are and what they like.
All of them can cook, clean, do laundry, and handle a chainsaw when necessary.
If we are really determined that our children not be locked into a role or character that is not part of who they are, parents have to back off as well and let them find their own interests, even if that means your son plays with traditionally male toys and your daughter likes to play dress up.