I had three boys before I had a daughter. Three boys who are very different from each other, but who are all very...shall we say, boyish. As preschoolers they were utterly delightful, but they were loud, messy, and packed the destructive power of a category-five hurricane. They were still only when they slept or had the flu.
I'd see my friends with calm children – sometimes daughters, though not always – and wonder what that would have been like. I'd read blog posts about encouraging your child to sit down with a bowl of water and utensils and encourage some "quiet water play." Really? My sons' idea of "quiet water play" was banging the garden hose into the grass instead of through the back window.
And I always wondered if it was just me, if there was something about my parenting that seemed to breed especially energetic preschoolers. Was I doing something wrong? Was I disciplined enough?
Or maybe it was genetics. My husband and I are both talkative and strong-willed; it stands to reason we would produce spirited offspring. It was just the way of things, I supposed.
And now? My fourth child is a daughter. I am watching her preschool years with wonder, because they are such different days from those of her brothers'. She is talkative, but not loud. She is active, but she can sit still. She is spirited, but she is not wearing me out in a puddle of tears by the end of the day. I wouldn't be so quick to attribute this entirely to gender difference; I've known plenty of calm boys and rowdy girls. But there is something afoot in this family, and I can't help but wonder if it's a lovely dose of estrogen.
We went to the mall yesterday for a little window-shopping. My almost-four-year-old daughter walked easily at my side. There were no attempts to scale the atrium rail and leap to the level below. There were no mad dashes toward the escalator, no frantic digging in the giant potted plants we passed.
Oh, this is nice, I thought to myself.
We got home and I got a little work done, while my girl entertained herself in the kitchen. I peeked around the corner to check on her, and this is what I saw:
OH MY WORD, it's "quiet water play," I realized. She did this for nearly an hour, completely and quietly entertained by a bowl of water and a handful of utensils. I was astounded.
I look back on those preschool days with boys with the sweetest of memories, seasoned with a dose of exhaustion – for all the work and noise and chipped teeth and banged-up paint jobs, I wouldn't trade my houseful of boys for anything.
But this unexpected dose of calm after the storm? I'm loving every minute of it.