I’m sure many of you can agree that, rightly, or wrongly, there are many stereotypes out there about the difference between girls and boys. As a parent of a girl and a boy, I am certainly aware of these stereotypes and wonder to what degree they are true.
I have never told my children that they have to play with certain toys and have never stopped them having something because it’s the ‘wrong colour’ or ‘meant for the opposite sex’. However, the older they grow, the more I am noticing these stereotypical gender behaviours.
Since my daughter was able to walk and talk, she’s always been very much into crafts and making things; she’d sit with me and stick, colour and ‘write’ for sustained periods of time. This has continued as she’s grown and she will happily sit and write cards for people or draw them pictures. Most days she returns from school with pictures in her book bag of important things that have happened to her – it’s definitely her way of expressing herself.
Lots of my friends who have boys would tell me that they wished their boy would sit still long enough to craft and that it was very much a girl thing. Boys want to charge around and enjoy having lots of action. Benjamin is slightly interested in crafts, but I always end up finishing them as he gets bored of it a lot sooner.
When my son came along, Isabella was so maternal towards him. She loved him from the second she met him and seriously hasn’t left him alone since. She will play mummy with him all the time and I’ve lost count the times my husband and I have to tell her that she isn’t the parent! It is lovely to see them growing up and enjoying each other but it’s also really interesting to see their differences!
While Isabella loves role playing mums, dads and baby, getting married and generally dressing up as a princess, fairy or just twirling in a dress, she has also adapted to playing with her brother.
They will chase each other up and down the living room and ‘rugby tackle’ each other in general rough and tumble. This is something that before Benjamin, Isabella would never really do. She would cry at the smallest of bumps – although she still has the tendency to do this, when they are playing together, she seems a lot more resilient and able to take a bump or two.
The older Benjamin gets, the more people tell me that he’s a ‘real boy’ and I totally see what they are getting at. He has one speed, which it of course running; he loves any ball shaped objects; he climbs on EVERYTHING; he falls of most things and has been in hospital more times than me!
Benjamin has certainly developed more of the physical and gross motor skills faster than his sister did (and can still kick and catch a ball better than his sister too!) but his sister was able to talk and communicate more effectively from a much younger age than him by about 19 months she was talking in sentences. Maybe the old wives tale that ‘boys are walkers, girls are talkers’ is partly true? According to several different studies, girls are more likely to talk before boys but that doesn’t mean that boys will reach any of the main milestones before the girls and this is certainly true of my two. Both of them walked at 11 months, although Isabella was much steadier. Benjamin only really started talking properly at 22 months and mainly grunted at things before that!
It really is bizarre watching them develop so differently. Obviously, I am more than aware that all children are different and can develop at vastly different rates but it’s so interesting seeing how they seem to fall into their stereotype too.
So what else have we noticed?
Isabella loves to mimic what she sees us doing and she has done from a very early age. This is typically seen as a very feminine thing to do, especially when it is centred on a pretend baby or another child. Boys also love imitating but are more likely to be found imitating actions rather than behaviours. I have found that this is where Benjamin leans towards his feminine side – he loves feeding Isabella’s pretend animals and will care for them really nicely. He also loves to put on Isabella’s sparkly princess shoes and will often be seen scooting along the floor in them. Although he doesn’t like dressing up in clothes, he loves a shoe!
So while they both seem to fit in to their categories of girl and boy, they definitely do have a tendency to cross paths and ultimately, they are learning to become individuals.