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Boy vs. girl

The other day I was hanging out with my two children. My daughter, who is almost four, told me she wanted to sing something and began a heartfelt ballad she'd made up on the spot about a fairy and a "road in the sky." 

I listened intently, impressed with her creativity; especially impressed with her creativity, I might add, in light of the fact that her 16-month-old brother was by her side, issuing a plaintive, "Mommy! MOMMY! MOMMY!" until he realized that I wasn't going to respond to him because, hey, I was listening to a song about a road in the sky, and so he laid down and began thumping his little head against the hardwood floor. 

Now, I know he's very young, but at times like this I think about how incredibly boy-ish his actions seem to me when compared to the way my daughter behaved at the same age, and when I start thinking about these differences I inevitably begin wondering if the differences are all in my head - or if I'm, in fact, encouraging gender differences in my children. 

My son pushes toy trucks around the floor, going "vroooommm vroommmm," something my daughter never did. He will gently hold one of his sister's dolls, softly saying, "baby, baby," before throwing it roughly to the ground. And laughing. 

Some of the differences have nothing to do with gender, I know. My son is simply more physical than my daughter was and I'm not sure this has anything to do with the fact that he is a boy. But the other things...I wonder, does he play with trucks because he has a natural tendency towards more masculine toys, or because I taught him that trucks go "vroooommm vroommmm?" Something I didn't teach my daughter? 

I certainly don't think about gender all the time, or even all that much, but I do sometimes try to temper my natural inclination towards pushing either of my children in either direction. My daughter loves princesses, and every once in awhile, when we're talking about her sparkly purple castle (you have to go on an airplane to get there, guys, she says so) I suddenly interject, reminding her that not only are we princesses, we are also very brave! And adventurous! We've spent some of this summer in Maine and I've found myself applauding her strength when she walks along the rocky beach barefoot, rather than warning her that she might hurt herself. 

The subject has been amply explored by the pros. There's Peggy Orenstein's much discussed decidedly anti-girly-girl book, "Cinderella Ate My Daughter," and a month ago the Faith Middleton Show interviewed the author of the book, "Pink Brain, Blue Brain," which chronicles research showing that there are some difference between boys' and girls' brains when they are born, but not as many as you might think. 

So while I don't obsess on the subject, I have many opportunities to think about it now that I have children, and especially having a boy and a girl. I do wonder about nature vs. nurture in this specific realm. Do you? 

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