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Not Better. Not Worse. Just Different.


My two youngest children, both wearing their favorite Easter outfit.

Before I had children, I thought that boy and girl behavior was mostly due to the way they were raised, with all the cultural expectations and stereotypes placed upon them. My children would be different. They would break free of these gender stereotypes. My boys would play with their Waldorf-approved gender neutral dolls and my girls would do boy things. Granted, I was not really sure what those boy things would be since I was an only child and didn't grow up around boys. I assumed it had something to do with playing with cars, burping contests, and making fart noises in your armpit.

After I had several boy children in a row, I started to suspect that certain things were just inborn. The way that they reacted to things was just different. The way they chose to interact with each other was just different. Not better. Not worse. Just different than all the little girls my friends had.

Then I had a girl. A girl who is the walking cliché of all that is girly.

My daughter talks constantly about her day, narrating every last thing that she is doing. Telling me what she wants to buy at the store, what she bought there last week, and the directions to get there. My boys have never once suggested that they need more shoes or a shiny new coat. Sports equipment, yes, but even that they prefer to purchase online. They have never complained that I have not taken them to a store in a long time.

This past summer at the beach my 3 year-old daughter found a little friend to play with. One of the first things she does is scope out a friend to play with wherever we go. The girls were relatively quiet, meaning their conversations weren't being broadcast across the waterfront, like those of all the boys that were there, not just mine.

The girls held elaborate conversations which involved talking a great deal, sharing their feelings, sharing the names of their long lost pets, dolls, toys. They didn't stop talking. I swear they got more personal information out of each other in a few hours than my boys have shared with anyone in a life time. Sure they swam and splashed about. They laughed and ran. But those things were not the main focus of their interaction.

I don't think I have ever heard one of my boys say to another boy, "Let's go lay down on our blankets and talk!"

It struck me that it is so stereotypical of male and female relationships. My husband has a best friend from childhood that he talks to several times a week, yet I am never sure what exactly it is that they talk about.

Several years ago his friend called to tell us he had just asked his girlfriend to marry him.

Rob got off the phone and shared the information with me.

"Oh, where did he propose?" I asked.

"I don't know"

"How did he do it?" I asked.

"I don't know." was the answer.

"Was it a huge surprise? Did he pick out a ring by himself?" I asked.

"I don't know." he answered yet again.

"Do you know anything?" I asked exasperated.

"I know she said yes. And really, isn't that the important part?"

I guess it was. But I wanted to know more details. I wanted to discuss the minutiae of every last detail, like this. But he and his friend view talking as purely a way to share information, as succinctly as possible. They talk every single day on the phone, sometimes multiple times a day, and yet they way that they connect is different. Not better. Not worse. Just different.