“Slugs and snails and puppy dog tails” , that’s what the old nursery rhyme tells us boys are made of. Outdated, right? And yet, in the last two weeks I’ve read two blog posts written by mothers about how parenting boys is so different to parenting girls. The latest, which I shan’t link to, equates parenting a boy to getting a dog. The blogger laments that she was able to craft and cook with her daughter and that when she discovered she was having a boy, she wanted to cry. I’m afraid my rage that this nonsense is out there just became too much and so I’m using the only megaphone available to me to balance things out.
I always suspected the idea that young girls and boys were dramatically different was a myth, but when you only have two boys it’s harder to argue your case based on your own experience. However, what I could’ve told you before I had a daughter, was that my boys are vastly different. They both love running, exploring, Star Wars, any kind of vehicle, playing football, getting muddy and rough and tumble. So far, so boy. However, one loves craft stuff, drawing, colouring and cooking, while, so far, the other shows little interest in this. However, he is far happier to play with girls, loves pink and thinks ‘Let it Go’ is the best song ever. They are both chatty, sensitive, kind, imaginative. In other words, a good dollop of slugs and snails with some sugar and spice mixed in.
Of course, now I also have a girl, I’ve really been able to notice any differences in her and, so far I can’t see any. She loves to climb, run, eat mud, play with cars and I often feel that my main job is stopping her getting into danger. She empties cupboards, scribbles with crayons, splashes in the bath, loves to kick a ball and builds towers of blocks. All things that I’ve seen most kids do, not boys, not girls, just kids.
And, really that’s my point. They may not be very old, but children are complex individuals and the last thing they need is to be squashed into restrictive blue and pink metaphorical boxes. This “boys will be boys” attitude is not helping any of us one bit. We either marginalise those boys who don’t quite fit the mold or tar boys that do with an attitude that their behaviour is specific to their gender and therefore not in their control. None is this is helpful to girls. I don’t want my daughter to feel that she mustn’t push her physical limits or explore the world around her because it’s not considered ladylike. Or for her to feel that she can’t speak up about unacceptable male behaviour, because “boys will be boys”. However, I feel this is just as damaging to how we perceive boys. It seems so negative. They are noisy, disruptive and need to be run out like dogs.
Let’s celebrate our children and their uniqueness, their ability to be physical, to explore, to concentrate, to take care with things, to love the outdoors and to create, without ascribing gender to any of these things.