“The difference between boys and girls? Boys blow stuff up, girls get mani-pedis.” - G.B. Kim
OK, clearly I have a way to go when it comes to educating my middle child on gender stereotypes. Or do I? This past week I spent time with my son and his friends, with no girls included. I didn’t count; I’m a mom, that’s different somehow. And I spent an afternoon with my daughter and three of her friends in a boy-free zone.
First, there was dinner with the boys. Don’t get me wrong, my son and his friends are for the most part, polite and respectful. They both said thank you for dinner, they managed to use their napkins and didn’t burp the alphabet. But they are boys. And boys blow stuff up. They spent much of the time at the table engineering weapons from the napkins and straws. I believe a spitball might have been launched, but I pretended I didn’t see it.
I did however have to instruct them on how they should hold the door for anyone coming behind them. They were in a rush, it’s likely they forgot, but I bet they remember it next time since I screeched at them “get the door you dopes!” We are all about manners at my house.
On the other hand, my time with the girls was well…OK I admit it we got pedicures. It was my daughter’s tenth birthday and she wanted a “girls day.” I know, I know, I’m buying right into the whole girly-girl myth. There was squealing, endless discussion over which color to pick and they spent most of the time perusing the gossip magazines and comparing celebrity styles.
And it’s pretty much my fault she is this way. It started the day I brought her home from the hospital in head to toe pink and sparkly lace. Not for nothing, she looked like someone dipped her in Pepto and rolled her in sugar. Both of my sons came home in Boston Red Sox hats and tiny Nike sneaker booties. Clearly, I wanted to get a head start forcing societal norms on their poor undeveloped psyches.
I can’t help it. By the time my daughter came along I'd had ten straight years of boys. Legos, Matchbox cars, and Power Rangers ruled my world. And all of that stuff was still around when my daughter was born. She was welcome to sit down next to her brothers and play cars, and build forts. But yes, I was there too, plopping a Barbie into the toy Hummer her brothers were shoving around the house.
Finally, I could get the toys that I remember playing with. My daughter wasn’t even walking yet and I was drooling over the pink Disney Princess bike. Sure there was a perfectly good Spiderman bike left over from her brother that would fit her, but did I settle for that? Not a chance. And she got the pink helmet to match.
But, to be fair, when the boys were little, they didn’t just have the cars and trucks and other boy things. My oldest boy had a best buddy who was a girl, and many times he would get stuck playing teddy bear tea party. As long as Hannah spent equal time playing car fix it shop, it was all good. They remain friends to this day.
And while I like pulling out the dolls and the toy kitchen with my daughter, she can hold her own any day in a backyard squirt gun fight with her brothers. Granted instead of running through the yard yelling, “I’ll get you, you’re dead!” she’s racing around shrieking at a decibel level I’m shocked hasn’t shattered a window. I swear that’s how she wins, her brothers go temporarily deaf and she can sneak up on them.
Of course this is a huge generalization. I know there are girls that don’t squeal like stuck pigs over nail polish colors. I know there are boys that don’t like toy trucks and explosives. And that is fine. Somewhere I’m sure there are boys that like Barbie and girls that blow stuff up. Hopefully they are not siblings because I know how ugly it gets when the My Little Ponies get strapped to a bottle rocket.
But it really doesn’t matter to me that my daughter likes all the typically “girl” things and my sons were into cars and trucks and Ninjas. The time I get to spend with each of them individually and with their friends tells me more about who they are and who they want to be than any toy or game they own. They each care about their friends; they are kind, and for the most part fun to be around.
And I have the best of both worlds because I get to play with the kind of toys I remember liking and I can also test out the cars and cap guns my brother had and never let me use. I think I will throw a party at the Barbie Dream House later and make sure the Power Rangers show up in a fire truck to crash it. Good times!