Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Boys & Girls? Yeah ... They're Different!

I remember a number of years ago flying to a friend's wedding.  Aaron was just a year old ... I still feel tired when I think back! :)  That little guy was allllll over the place.  We had a brief lay-over and I remember spending most of that hour following my little fellow from one end of the concourse to the other.  Back and forth and back again.  He was the Energizer Bunny in overalls.  I'm sure that Brett did his fair share of shadowing, too, but he wasn't pregnant.  Yes ... on top of traveling (which is exhausting) and keeping up with my toddler (a cardio work-out), I was building another little person (tired beyond measure).  I have a vivid memory as I trekked along after my boy of thinking, "How in the world will I keep up with two?!  It's going to be insane!"  What I didn't know then was that I wasn't going to have another go-go boy, but a cling-cling girl. Two entirely different worlds colliding!

When my little Norah came along, it suddenly became vividly clear that there is a definite difference between boys and girls.  People can tell you about this, but it's not until you have both living under your roof that you become very aware of how very distinct these gender differences are.  (Of course, as a disclaimer, I might generalize some gender differences and you might find that in your house things look a little different, but I am simply sharing with you how these contrasts play out in our home.)  I thought it would be fun to give you some everyday examples and describe how my kiddos have reacted and responded according to how God made them ... little action-packed boys and little emotion-filled girls.

I remember Aaron and Norah playing with their Rescue Heroes when they were 3 and 4 years old.  Busy-boy Aaron had watched our Rescue Hero video just a "few" times and had a pretty vast repertoire of emergencies and the ensuing rescue.  Sometimes the victim was stranded in a snow bank in the middle of Antarctica and Billy Blazes and Kenny Ride had to ski across the frozen terrain to save him.  Other times the poor victim was hanging from a cliff's edge looking down at the ravine 500 feet below waiting for Gill Gripper and Warren Waters to swoop in and rescue him.  There were some definite close calls!  Norah enjoyed joining in these reenactments, but she was much more concerned with the Rescue Heroes and their physical & emotional needs.  On a regular basis I would see her wrapping up a Rescue Hero after a tough shift at the Command Center, snuggling him into his bed and singing a lullaby to him.  Apparently even Jake Justice needs some TLC after a long day's work!

Little Aaron and Billy Blazes to the rescue!

These gender differences also carry over into Lego-World.  In spite of the fact that Lego's are impossible to wrangle up and seem to migrate around our house of their own accord, I do love them.  No other toy in our house has the ability to keep my kids completely absorbed for hours on end.  Aaron has been known to disappear for an entire morning in his room building, creating, constructing.  He is an amazing designer.  He builds ships, planes, speeders, rockets, cruisers ... anything that moves fast and is fully armed against any possible enemies.  Since he was a little guy, he would build these intricate ships (almost always symmetrical) and infused in each piece was purpose (this is a gun, this is the control panel, this is an escape hatch) and a story (this guy is hiding jewels, this ship is spying, this character is the king of ....).  Inside each Lego and inside Aaron's head is an entire movie complete with sound effects and a soundtrack!

An Aaron-Original - complete with troops!

Now for the girls ... Ashley periodically dabbles in ship construction, but her real passion (which coincides nicely with Norah's) is constructing houses, stores and other buildings.  Ashley has her own set of Legos (stored nicely in a pink box) and it includes the parts to make a flower garden and horse stable.  Using these pieces and some of Aaron's the girls have constructed homes complete with swimming pools, kitchens (with food), gardens and backyards with swing-sets and teeter-totters.  One of my favorite creations of Norah's was a rodeo complete with bleachers, chutes and a bucking bronco.  Such attention to detail!

Yeehaw, Cowboy!

So, yes they play with toys differently, but what about differences in their social lives.  Oh yeah ... they're different there, too.  Aaron's interaction with his friends is action, action, all the time.  And it's loud action ... with lots of sound effects and explosions.  Aaron and his buddy enjoy building Lego ships or playing with their Transformers and enacting epic battles.  They have this intriguing dialogue that goes along with their fights and it involves a lot of, "Yes, Sir!", "That's an order, Soldier!", "Save yourselves!" and "I'm going down, I repeat, I'm going down!"  The only request I make is that they are on the same team so that they aren't fighting against each other, but besides that, they are free to blow up couches, demolish bookshelves and devastate toy bins ... provided peace and order are restored when they are done playing. :)

The girls, on the other hand, periodically enjoy battling with the guys, but they are much more inclined to be crafty, creative and quiet.  They love to pull out their boxes of paper, stickers, ribbons and markers and make cards for friends.  They enjoy sitting together and coloring in their Strawberry Shortcake coloring books.  When Norah has friends over, they spend time dancing to music, giggling on the couch and playing in the basement with the baby dolls, kitchen stuff or Playmobile sets.  I almost don't know they are around except when they come to the kitchen for a snack or drink.

Also, when there are rocky patches in their friendships, the kids respond differently.  Aaron voices his frustrations and maybe sheds a few tears if he's really been hurt and then ... that's it!  He moves on.  He has vented and now he's ready to get back to being silly with his buddy.  He is very forgiving and holds no grudges against anybody.  Norah and Ashley are much more prone to internalize the hurt and let it sit in their hearts for a little while.  Then, when they finally want to talk about it, it is an emotionally charged interaction:  lots of tears and not a lot of talking.  Later on, when they are headed back out to play with the friend again, they do so with caution and a little trepidation.  They are a little slow in rebuilding that trust, but when they see that it is safe, they jump in whole-heartedly again.

What about school ... are they different in this area?  Yep!  The biggest difference that I see in Aaron & Norah in relation to school is they way that they do their work.  Norah sits in a chair - Aaron balances on a chair ... on one leg ... and an elbow.  Norah reads a book while sitting - Aaron rolls back and forth on an exercise ball ... upside down.  Norah writes in her journal - Aaron jots ideas and wanders, jots ideas and wanders ... and eventually completes in writing ... eventually.  I think you get the idea.  Aaron likes to exercise while he thinks and Norah likes to just get the task done ... and then exercise.

This final difference is something I have noticed this year.  I am volunteering in Norah's class once a week for Wonderful Wednesdays.  When I walk in the door, she makes a bee-line to my side, attaches herself to my hip and clings to me until I peel her off and plop her down at her desk.  She transforms from a confident almost 7 year old to a clinging little baby girl right before my very eyes.  The only consolation is that I see the daughters of the other volunteer moms doing the same thing!  Now contrast that with Aaron.  I have joined Aaron's class on two field trips this fall; one was to the Colorado National Monument and the other was Downtown.  Both times, Aaron was almost completely unaware I was even there, except when he needed me to carry something! :)  He waved at me when I said, "hi", and then spent the rest of the time with his buddies.  His confidence and independence is something of which I am proud of him for ... but it also causes a bit of a twinge in my mommy-heart.  (As a consolation, Aaron still enjoys hanging out with me and spent much of last evening helping me in the kitchen ... whew!)

Our experience is that Aaron can walk into almost any room anywhere (school, church, sports, doctor's office) and confidently jump into whatever activity is in the works.  Norah would rather be side by side with someone she knows and always within hands reach of her buddy.  She certainly takes a little while to warm up to foreign situations, but once she's comfortable she seizes her own spirit of independence and then there is no stopping her.  Gymnastics is a perfect example of this growing confidence in Norah.  We started with the regular routine of un-peeling Norah from my hip prior to each class.  Now, with a hug and a smile, she heads downstairs to her class and, with giggles and grins, joins her group of friends.

Confident Gymnast ... with a smile!

It has definitely been interesting raising boys and girls.  This is just a mere scratch on the surface of their differences ... because of course there are the differences in the area of competition, willingness to take medicine and penchant for making silly faces as soon as the camera comes out.  And I'm sure that we have ahead of us many, many more years of studying their differences.  It will certainly stretch us and challenge us as parents to love them and raise them to be true to their uniqueness.  God made them differently on purpose ... and I want to celebrate them just they way they are!

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