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Venus and Mars

Our living room resembles a miniature parking lot. Our den also resembles a miniature parking lot. As does Lucas' room, especially his bed, the backseat of our car and the kitchen table.

What am I talking about?

Lucas's Jay Leno-like stash of 22 cars, 8 trains, 5 trucks, 3 school buses, 2 motorcycles and 2 helicopters. Plus, there is the ride-on dump truck, the ride-on train and the Cozy Coupe. And at any one time, Lucas will go from car to school bus to Hummer to helicopter, changing the accompanying vocals as appropriate, without missing a gear.

If I could recall the exact moment Lucas was born (but I can't due to the phenomenal amount of pain meds I required to push out a posterior baby with a gigantic noggin), I would suggest that he came into the world screaming, "Zoom, zoom, watch out for the cars, Mommy!"

Lucas's love of anything transportation related is so deep, that at my nephew's birthday party on Saturday, Lucas dropped a spoonful of cake and proceeded to muscle and whine his way between the birthday boy and his present: two remote-controlled trucks. While my niece and nephews ate ice-cream cake, Lucas sat on our patio zooming, beeping and humming the rest of the afternoon away.

And then there is my niece. She was 4 in May and now wants her ears pierced. And for her first pair of earrings, she wants pink, sparkly princess earrings. And she also wants a harmonica — a pink, sparkly princess harmonica. And she would really, really love some new flip-flops — you guessed it, pink, sparkly princess flip-flops. And we mustn't forget also on her wish list is a new pink, sparkly, princess Princess Dress!

Now, I know the gender examples I provided are from two different kids in two different households, but I can assure you that the gender differences are just as obvious between my niece and her twin brother, the perfect pair in which to observe this amazing phenomenon. I mean, how can my niece, at 4, understand the intricacies of moodiness and female manipulation? But boy, does she ever.

And how can my 2-year-old son appreciate the complexities of a full court press or a sacrifice fly?

Did we subconsciously validate Lucas's love of the motorized and my niece's love of anything pink, sparkly and princess-like? Or are the gender stereotypes truly innate? As a neuroscience major from way back when, I swing along the nature-versus-nurture pendulum, falling some where in the middle. But how does one explain, then, the 4-year old boy in my aunt's preschool class (she's a teacher), who used to fight with the girls for the princess dress-up clothes and told whoever would listen how he wanted to be a ballet dancer when he grew up? And how would I feel if that were my son?

I guess I will have to wait and see how Justin takes to the phenomenal fleet he inherits from Lucas. But at that point, will Justin's love of cars, if he has one, have been influenced by monkey see, monkey do? And which came first, the chicken or the egg? Or rather, the Princess Dress or the Cozy Coup?