Boys are different from girls. They come that way. I know there’s a huge philosophical debate of nature versus nurture in the child development field. One side, the nature side, claims that boy children and girl children are inherently different in how they behave. The other side, the nurture side, claims that parents teach boys to act like boys and girls to act like girls.
Don’t get me wrong. I encourage my boys to play dress-up (with crowns and wands, mind you), to play with dolls, and to craft with me – a lot. My husband has my oldest boy help with cooking. We’re trying to let our children decide what they like and what they want to do.
But, there is a distinct difference between how boys and girls act, even with as much cross gender encouragement as we try to give them. Boys are more energetic. They like to run and run and run and run. They like to move their bodies in large and expressive ways. They like to rough house and wrestle. And they like dirt, mud, rocks, sticks, bugs.
On our last camping trip we shared our campsite with a large colony of red ants. We were camping with three young boys. All the boys, when they discovered the ants, had to go over really close to “look” at them. That evolved into stepping on them, and that evolved into an out and out attack on them – much to the chagrin of the boys’ respective parents. (Yes, we stopped the assault on the ants.) Now, I think this is an instinctive response, and one that I rely on with my own husband. If there is a large-ish bug, spider, creepy crawly in my house, it’s my husband’s job to hunt and remove the offending beast. It’s the same behavior my boys spontaneously exhibited, just a bit more controlled.
Contrast that with how the girls dealt with the ants and bugs on the camping trip. The girls’ response to seeing the colonies of ants was to stay as far away as possible. The girls wanted nothing to do with the ants, to the point of moving their camp chairs far outside the circle of warmth from the campfire. The girls didn’t want to see any ant, anywhere, at any time. We spent a lot of time explaining that bugs live outside, and that it’s okay for the bugs to be there. I see the same response in myself. I think bugs are great, but I really don’t want to see them in any form in my house.
An Ant Hill
The Boys (Stomping on the Ants)
Also, when my boys get bored of an activity, their go to activity is to rough house. We have had to talk with our boys many times about how we go up and down the stairs. And we’ve had to talk to them about using the front room furniture as a jungle gym. It seems like they have a built in desire to show how strong they are. Again, this is a trait that I rely on my husband for. Numerous times I have asked to borrow his muscles. He is stronger than me, and I’m so glad he is.
Contrast that with how my girls react to their boredom. They will usually find a game to play, or play house, or just quietly move onto the next activity. There’s no major destruction of property and no attack on the health of their siblings. My girls aren’t as competitive with each other, and don’t seem to have as much need to show off. It’s there a bit, but not to the extent that my boys show. Again, that’s something I see in myself.
One of the final differences I’ve noticed is how focused my boys can become on something. If they are involved in a task that they enjoy, there’s no pulling them away. It can be anything from drawing, to playing, to watching a show . . . they will be focused, almost determinedly so. Again, I see this same trait in my husband. When he is working on something, that is the only something he is focused on. This is great for his career and for Saturday cleaning. I depend on his focus, sometimes, to keep me focused too.
My girls, on the other hand, seem to focus for about 15 minutes before wanting to move on to something else. I think this is an instinctual response. I’ve noticed, as a mother, that I rarely have more than 15 minutes for a task. I’m constantly shifting my focus from one project, activity, or child to the next. It’s just the way I seem to be.
Boys are different from girls, and I think it’s because men are different from women. I celebrate my boys and their differences. I want them to be brave, strong, and focused, and above all, I want them to be themselves. I celebrate my girls. I want them to calm, multi-tasking, and clean. And above all, I want them to be themselves. Boys and men are different from girls and women, and this is a good thing. We need each other and each other’s differences so that we can all achieve what is best for our communities.