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Pink is for Girls and Gold is for Boys?

November 30, 2011

I am well aware that I am much harder on my daughter than I am on my son.

When she cries, whines or begs, my heart will not soften to her tears.  I have a very clear idea of what kind of young lady I would like her to be, and being self-centred and manipulative are not part of the picture.  I turn my back on AGB (attention-getting behaviour) and try to respond to tears only when there’s been a legitimate injury or she’s beyond reason with hunger or fatigue.  This may sound harsh, but the world is a cruel place and I want her to handle life’s little injustices so she can respond to the inevitable crisis’ that will come her way.

It helps that she is an easygoing  person.  She never holds a grudge, and most sharp words bounce off her.  When school started I was trying to get some kind of routine going in the morning with a 3 month old baby in tow.  Often Baby would have been up at least a few times in the night, so I’ll admit I was not at my best.  One morning I was clearing breakfast dishes and the baby puked down my back.  One step forward, two steps back.  I now had to go upstairs and put the baby down, again, change my shirt and his pyjamas, and try again to make it out the door on time.  Worse, my daughter burst out laughing.  I lost it.  I shouted at her, “It’s not funny!”  She looked at me for a minute, put her hands on her hips and said, “Well mommy, it’s funny to me!”  It’s a good thing she can take what I can dish out, and lucky for me that her comment snapped me out of my foul mood.

My son, on the other hand, has always been a sensitive fellow.  In playgroups as a toddler he had a hard time standing up for himself when other kids took his toys away.  He liked to play with me, the safe, predictable companion rather than other kids that might wind up and whack him for no apparent reason.  I would explain to other moms that he was shy, until I realized I was labelling him with a negative word for what was really just caution with new people.  Now I say he’s slow to warm up to new situations, or takes a while to get to know people, and think of it as a positive trait.  He was verbal early, and my heart would break as I’d watch him talk to kids his age who would look at him as if he was an adult trapped in a two year old body.  As he gets older, I watch him, of course, demonstrate the same traits.  On the playground he goes to the periphery and plays in the trees.  As soon as he’s hung up his coat in the classroom he goes to hs desk and pulls out his silent reading book.  As a parent it’s hard to watch because I know the joy of connecting with other people, and I struggle with how to teach him.  But I am also happy in my own company, and it wasn’t until I had kids that I really began to enjoy the company of other women. 

I also wonder if I have created a monster, since I am quick to smooth his hurt feelings or hug him when he’s sad.  I feel distinctly uncomfortable now when I see him crying.  I have a feeling that seven year old boys are only supposed to cry if something really big happens.  What makes it harder is that when he takes big falls off his bike or on his skiis he toughs it out.  The events that result in Oscar nomination-worthy performances are triggered by seemingly minor events.  Last night he slipped walking down the stairs and landed hard on his butt, sliding down the last step to the bottom. The crying jag that ensued was unbelievable!  I haven’t seen him that upset since he was three years old and stopped napping but was unrecognizable by dinner time.

In retrospect I can see that last night he was tired, hungry and exhausted from spending the weekend away at his dad’s.  He probably finds the transition as hard as I do, and in his immature way is testing to make sure I’m still permanent and unconditionally supporting him.  However these thoughts do battle with the part of my brain that just wants to help him to be easygoing and to fit in with his peers and with the family.

Maybe someday I will be able to find the balance of helping him develop a thick skin while continuing to pour my love into my first son, my golden boy.

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