|Girls and boys go out to play
When Boy One was born I had lots of notions about parenting. He would eat the same food as me, I’d discuss things reasonably instead of dictating and there would be no gender stereotyping.
Eleven years on, I realise how naive that was and how complex the area of sex and gender is. I only have sons, therefore, I can’t compare boys and girls, however here is what I’ve learnt.
While the sexes aren’t as far apart as Mars and Venus, to coin a phrase, boys will be boys. They will run, kick, punch and shout. They will be fascinated by machines, tools and vehicles. They will fight and, probably, shoot each other with pretend guns… even if they have to bake them out of cake mixture.
That’s not to say that girls won’t do all of these things, but I just haven’t seen so many of them do it.
So it seems that possession of a penis will coincide with a tendency towards snips and snails and puppy dog tails and there’s not a heck of a lot we can do about it.
However, among the cars, Lego and bows and arrows two of the most enduring toys my sons have played with are a pram, into which the favourite teddy is strapped, and a dolls house, but wood mind you not pink. They bake, do housework (badly), cry, cuddle, sing, dance and, in some cases, care what they wear.
Just the other day when I dropped Boy Three off with the child minder, she asked if I mind if he dressed up with her female charges. Sparkles and wings were the order of the day. Why would I mind? Boy Three is partial to a sequin. But some parents do. I remember a friend recounting her husband’s fury on finding his small son running about in a tutu. This is both sexist and homophobic and stupid and has nothing to do with a sensible discussion on gender.
Elsewhere I’ve found frustration in what business think our boy and girl children want. Publishers, for example, think boys are only interested in reading about farts and football whereas girls want friendship and frocks. And don’t get me started on the Tiger Who Came To Tea. Boy clothes will be in shades of blue and sludge whereas girls will have an array of pinks and glitter to wear.
There isn’t a neat conclusion to this one: boys and girls differ and should be allowed to do so; boys and girls should be free to choose books, clothes, games and activities. I suspect the best thing we can do, is teach them to respect and responsibility whether they want a pink toothbrush or a blue one. It’s not easy, but I’m trying.