Sugar and Spice VS Slugs and Snails: How different are boys and girls really?


When I was pregnant with my first child I was convinced I was having a boy.  My husband comes from a family of four boys.  His brother has three boys and most of his cousins are boys – save for one delightful girl cousin.  I was convinced I was having a boy and that I would only have boys.  I was pretty excited to be honest.  I am a farily ‘typical’ girl/woman if we go by today’s stereotypes.  I danced, I like to wear makeup and dresses, I am feminine (no, really), I have almost always had long hair, I like to cook, sing, I like chick flicks, etc.  I never thought I would marry the ‘typical’ boy/man, but I did.  He is testosterone personified by all intents and purposes.  He played every sport imaginable, is large and in charge, eats red meat with gusto and has a hard time tapping in to his emotions – or did until I came along! Ha!  So, given our pretty traditional takes on our roles as a couple, I was pretty sure the boy we were having would be a little daddy’s boy and would be playing football by age 3. 

So, as I prepared to undergo my first ultrasound to find out what we were having – and to make sure the baby was ok and all that jazz – I was absolutely floored when the technician said we were having a little girl.  I went back to work (teaching) and met my class in the gynmasium where they were practicing for an assembly.  They all knew I was finding out the gender that day and all rushed up to ask and I made my announcement.  They all gasped and oohed and I made them get back to what they were doing.  I then excused myself to the hallway where I proceeded to cry because I was pretty upset about losing my hoped for boy.  R and K if you read this in the near or late future – I would never trade you for the world.  Mommy is just crazy. 

So, I had to drastically alter my expectations and plan for a different household.  Why?  Why should my household be different if I were having a boy vs having a girl?  We all automatically think the immediate impact would be on decor, clothes, activities, toys and the like.  Pink vs blue, ballet vs hockey, cargo shorts vs tutus.  But, the debate lately seems to be on whether or not boys and girls are inherently different or if we just make them different by the manner in which we raise them.  Nature vs Nurture – that old debate. 

I began thinking about this again when I remembered that story in the news not long ago about a Toronto couple who are attempting to raise a genderless child named Storm.  They aren’t going to reveal the child’s gender until they feel the child wants them to.  Interesting idea – but in my opinion your child should not turn into a social experiment.  You can read more about it here and here

What do you think?  Can you raise a genderless child? I am not going to go in to ‘should you?’ right now – that is another story!  Having girls just makes my house different from my friends who have boys.  There is all the obvious stuff listed above, but boys also seem to have an innate need to climb, run and take things apart.  I have watched my daughter and her very close friend who is a boy play side by side and they are very different.  R sits to play.  B does not.  R is hardwired to tell all her friends the RULES about playing and to discipline them.  Her boy friends seem to just want to get down to it and PLAY with EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW!  She tends to step back and observe their behaviour and then choose a comfortable time and place to join in.  When she plays with other girls they seem to establish a similar wavelength and play with similar goals in mind.  Now, all that being said, R plays with a variety of kids who come from different types of parents with different households.  Parents have different interests – one house might be really sports focussed and another might be musically inclined but I still find that the boys in my circle tend to be more energetic, somewhat more aggressive and forecful (that does not mean violent and mean) and impulsive no matter what their parents are in to.  R and her fellow lady friends seem to be more in to solitary pursuits that they could share if they were so inclined.  Puzzles, books, art, making cookies with their fake kitchens etc.  I know that we as parents have steered them in these directions to an extent given the toys we purchase them, the energy with which we approach them and how we interact with them, but there still seems to be an unspoken difference in energy. 

Nature vs Nurture seems to come in when it comes to harnessing this energy.  What do you turn to?  How do you model gender for your child?  In our house we have been somewhat mindful to buy R and K gender neutral toys for the most part.  Now, they have been given a plethora of gifts that are purely ‘girl-focussed’ such as dolls, tea sets, and jewellry (although I know lots of boys with these toys too and R has hockey sticks… just saying).  Not to mention the girly clothes!  I secretly love them and think the girls are adorable when wearing a cute dress but I let them make their choices once they are old enough to do so and I make sure to dress them in sweats and Ts as much as, if not more than, the dresses.  I love it when R is in the backyard in her puddle boots and a t-shirt and diaper (not any more – potty trained!) tromping around after her father in the dirt pulling weeds and chasing spiders.  Now, you wouldn’t catch me dead doing that, but I am glad she considers that to be just as fun as playing dance party with mom.  R loves to play catch, to kick a ball around and also loves to draw and sing.  I believe strongly that all girls and boys are born with the ability to develop any and all of these interests and talents and more.  I do, however, believe that there is an inherent difference in boy and girl ‘energy’.  I don’t know another word for it…  I don’t necessarily mean that boys are more energetic per se, but there is a different boy aura and a different girl aura. 

Do I really know what I am talking about?  Probably not.  I have only spoken to friends and family about this and most people agree that there is some real difference to boys and girls but that parents can exacerbate that gap with choices they make and how they steer their kids play habits, extra curricular activities and clothing selections.  Parental role models play a huge part – I am sure that is no surprise to all of you. 

What is your take on the girls vs boys debate.  Born the same and raised different?  Or born different from the start?  I know there are so many layers to this question that involve gender bias, sexual preferences, traditional roles and their place in society and all that.  I welcome comments from one and all.  I just opened it up – I could go on forever!   

I’ll leave you with this link to Marlo Thomas’ song ‘William’s Doll’.  Who says dolls are just for girls anyways?!

3 thoughts on “Sugar and Spice VS Slugs and Snails: How different are boys and girls really?

  1. Lisa says:

    I’m enjoying reading your posts! I wonder if it matters the gender of the first born? My first born is a boy and so my daughter wants to to whatever he is doing. So she plays aggressively, wrestling with him, pretending to karate chop, etc. I keep trying to get her to like “girly” things. I wonder if my first born was a girl if my son would be content to sit and color for longer than 30 sec?

  2. Frances says:

    Recent news reports have mentioned the gradual increase in scores on IQ tests over the 20th century and that where girls use to score lower than boys they are now equal or above. Researchers are careful to point out that this is not a boys vs girls issue but the thesis that researchers are working with is that the rise in average scores is a result of the brain adapting to changes in environment and that this ability to adapt puts a new twist on nature vs nurture.

  3. Laina says:

    I’m on the same wavelength as Lisa. I have known some girls to be more “rough” or “energetic” and they do have older brothers oddly enough. I have also seen many boys who love to sit and play quietly with their older sisters. Interesting topic!! I also find my older boy likes to put on a show when other people are around, expressing his dominance and showmanship (think male peacock). He runs around, jumps, yells, etc. The other day (when no one was over) he sat and played play dough for a half an hour, put stickers in his sticker book for 20 minutes, and then went back to play dough for another 20. Who would’ve thought?!

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