Girls’ choices, boys’ choices
Gender differences start with the underpants, says this mom of three.
‘Can you go get ready for the wedding?’ I asked my two daughters and son. ‘Go dress yourself up really nice.’

With a flurry of excitement Lael, 7, Joah, 5 and Anna, 3 rushed off to their room and began scurrying through their cupboards. A few minutes later, I peeked in on them: the girls were off-loading dresses, finding sashes, lining up hair products and whispering excitedly about what gaudy make-up, I might possibly allow out of the house.

Joah, on the other hand, had carefully removed his furry green pants, left on his fleecy brown jersey and was just slipping into his bright-red, spider-man underpants. 

I went out of the room. ‘Sam,’ I said to my husband, ‘I asked the kids to get dressed for the wedding. Lael and Anna have laid out a boutique worthy of a princess and Joah has changed his underpants.’

‘Now who has taught him that?’ we both said. ‘The girls are making things beautiful and the boy is making things brave.’

Our three children share a room. They have equal access to boys’ toys and girls’ toys. But while Joah mounts a Tyrannosaurus Rex war on the tiger army, Anna finds the plastic food, and whips up military meals on the stove. He is defending and protecting, she is cherishing and nourishing.

Anna makes her doll’s bed warm, Joah makes his racing circuit steep. He is pushing and competing, she is comforting and encouraging. Anna packs a handbag full of notebooks and wet-wipes, Joah packs a sachel full of tools and nails. She is organised and thoughtful, he is ready to be useful.

These sex differences used to bother me: ‘Won't our children be bound by generalisations and never reach their full potential? Won't they feel pressured into fitting a mould?’ Their happy games seem to answer: ‘Who cares?’

A few days ago, just after we had read a book on mummification in Ancient Egypt, I was pleasantly surprised by an exception. Joah and Anna had both found the baby bag. Two stuffed toys had been dressed up and covered with blankets and pacifiers. Anna walked passed cradling and cooing to her baby polar-bear, while Joah walked passed cuddling and whispering to his fluffy monkey.  Curious, I leaned closer.

‘This guy is dead,’ I heard him gently mutter, ‘I'm just going to pull his brains out through his nose, stuff him with cloth and bury him in a tomb full of treasures.’

Do you notice gender differences in your children. Is it a problem?

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