Recently I was asked one of those questions that few people dare ask and even fewer wish to answer. A mother (of boys) asked me if it is true that parents of girls look down their noses at noisy little boys and believe them all to be badly behaved and completely undisciplined.
Why ask me? Having learnt that I had one of each, she obviously felt that I would be able to give an unbiased answer. Whether or not she expected an honest one I don’t know, but seeing as she was quite happy to ask a question that put me well and truly on the spot, I thought she in turn turn deserved the truth.
And the truth is yes, for the most part they probably do.
This unspoken snobbery amongst parents of girls, whilst rarely admitted out loud has always been there. An assumption that their head to toe clad pink princess simply has to be cleaner, smarter, better behaved and without a shadow of a doubt a far nicer child than that unkempt little testosterone fueled terror on the other side of the playground. The one wearing his breakfast and trying to bury his head in the sand.
Deny it if you want all you mothers of Eve, but this is true. I know because up until the arrival of my own son, I also believed that many boys were the root of all undisciplined evil. I admit I could never understand why their parents didn’t just rein them in, shut them up and get them under some sort of control.
And then I had Sam. He learnt to walk, discovered his independence and only looked back when he was laughing at me. Finally it all became clear why girls and boys are so different, and surprisingly it had nothing to do with one being born with a halo and the other with a forked tail.
Little boys are like the Duracell Bunny, they are known for their unlimited energy and their love of running. Always in the opposite direction to an exhausted parent and often at breakneck speed towards a busy road. They tend to get dirtier faster and are often capable of ruining a complete outfit in 15 seconds flat, with nothing more than a piece of toast and a wet wipe in reaching distance.
They find sticking their hand into the toilet bowl and feeding the loo roll to the dog unbelievably funny. They have a strangely magnetic pull to the contents of every cupboard and drawer, particularly those containing knives, lighters and all deadly and poisonous cleaning fluids. They can take apart and lose the back of any TV remote in less time than it takes to cross the room and can scale any furniture like a seasoned mountaineer. They can increase their body weight to that of a baby elephant when they don’t want to be picked up and contort their limbs into a rigid banana when they don’t want to be pinned into their pram.
Girls on the other hand are often considered to be the quieter of the 2 sexes. Known to sit quietly on your hip and happily play with their toys. Known to help pick out their own clothes and even make an effort to keep them clean and tidy. Known to hold your hand when going out for a walk and if entrusted with a hand held whisk, regard it as a tool for mixing food with Mummy, not as a weapon with which to chase the cat and give it a perm.
Yes indeed, girls are known to be easier to deal with, easier on the ear drums, the energy levels and the nerves. But are they really all things sweetness and light? Does a pound of bacon really fly? Of course they aren’t.
Whether dealing with babies, toddlers or a child old enough to know better, girls and boys can be as bad as each other. Both can screech and scream just for the sake of making noise. Both can single handily depreciate the value of your home in 30 seconds and ruin the upholstery of your car inside of 5 minutes. Both can have such horrific tantrums in the middle of a crowded mall that you could quite easily stuff them head first in the nearest rubbish bin and walk away.
A child regardless of their sex is a complex individual, sometimes believed to be put there purely to test a parent’s sanity and to stretch all boundaries of socially acceptable behaviour. Some are sweet, loving and caring, some are bolshy, stubborn and incredibly sulky. All are a blank canvass, ready to be shaped into the person they will become and to be defined by what they are taught, what they observe and what they experience in the environment in which they grow.
So if all little babies are created and born equal, why are boys so quickly labelled as the nightmare sex and why is society so very quick to to re-enforce these misguided preconceptions?
You only have to look at any range of baby clothes to see that these stereotypes are ingrained into the minds of parents, and no doubt the child as well, from the moment they wear their first outfit.
Buying clothes for little girls is easy. There are always plenty to choose from and they’re always pretty, pink and covered in fairies, flowers and butterflies. Every top, t-shirt or babygro is labelled ‘Princess’, ‘Angel’, ‘Cutie Pie’ or ‘Fairy’.
Now move over to the boys section. Keep going, right to the back of the store, that’s it, those last few rails over there in the corner. The clothes here range from the ever so attractive sludge green to the ever so practical dirty brown. All tops, t-shirt or babygros here are covered in tyre tracks and muddy footprints and are inevitably labelled ‘Rascal’, ‘Trouble’, ‘Little Monkey’ or ‘Monster’.
Now aside from the obvious fact that most little girls I know could easily be described as Rascal, Trouble, Monkey or Monster, does it not seem slightly unfair to encourage and enforce this type of gender pigeon holing at such a young age?
Granted my son is generally always a little bit grubby, usually looking for mischief and always a tad on the destructive side, but it might be nice to occasionally be able to put him in a top that read ‘Well mannered and loves a good book’ or ‘Enjoys vegetables and always kind to animals’.
Babies are babies and children are children and they can all be a royal pain in the backside at some time or other (generally in my experience between 4-6pm). This labelling system seems to me to be an unrealistic and unfair generalisation, After all, very few little girls remain angels by the time their hormones kick in and most little boys have decided to cut worms from their diet and stop rolling in mud by the time they buy their first razor.
If babies are to be branded, then perhaps it’s time that the clothing companies came up with some more more realistic future personality and character traits.
I’ve come up with a few to get the ball rolling…