by Kellie Whitehead
There is no handbook and there should be no labels. It’s incredible to think there was a time in the not too distant past where pink was for girls, and blue for boys, and boo to those dinosaurs who still think the same. Our girls are shown they can be anything they want to be, big boys DO cry and whilst the gender stereotypes are not quite in smithereens yet, the broken parts are getting smaller and smaller.
We can equate all we want to, but the biological genders are built differently, and will always be so. Opinions on parenting either are, of course, subjective. The mother of girls will be startled out of her sugar and spice reverie with the arrival of her first boy, whilst the Queen of slugs, snails and puppy dog tails has no experience of raising a mini Princess.
There we, labels - but just for the sake of prose in this instance, I promise you.
Boys and girls *are* different to raise, but it’s been interesting to see preconceived lines blur as the females make strides into a man's world and the little guys lean into more, and rightly, acceptable, emotional states, professions and leadership styles that belong in our inclusive society, with a focus on mental health preservation.
My own mother used to look at me pointedly whilst declaring “boys are more loving” to anyone who’d listen - this based entirely on her experience as a parent of a single boy and myself. She was right, in her instance. My Brother was ‘more loving’ - as a small child - sensitive and quiet, he clung to her legs permanently until he was eight or nine. Me? independent since birth, to be honest, I was never happier than being alone or doing my thing elsewhere - the least ‘needy’ child you could ever meet. I didn’t get scared, so I didn’t need comforting, I was never shy, so I didn't need prising away from my hands when introduced to someone new. I never ‘ran to mummy’
Those genes were strong, and in my own experience as mum to a girl and two boys, the legacy continued - for a decade at least. I was a parent for a whole six years before I witnessed a toddler tantrum. I always considered H a ‘fussy’ baby, but really, she was my first and I simply didn’t know any better. As independent as I was, she never had an issue with separation, settled anywhere easily and literally, not once had any kind of the merest moan, let alone cry, stamp, or meltdown. Not once. ‘Good as gold’ as my Nan would say she was. But again, just like her mama, she didn’t seem to ‘need’ me much, and just like my mama, I think that rankled a bit. H sailed through school. Great grades, participation and popular. Not a single friendship fall out or worse. The only thing I will say about ‘easy’ children, and one that hits you like a brick eventually, is the thought that these types of kids are easily overlooked in a busy household. They may not seem to ‘need’ you, but they really do, and we have to remember to give them as much attention as their more demanding siblings. And my boys were more demanding. Angel babies, and just 15 months between them, from being able to move, they simply never stopped and oh, the tantrums, the stubbornness and the noise. Tantrums that lasted literally hours, having to avoid certain places and almost become weekend housebound due to the anti-social nature of a family trip. I still have PTSD to be honest from the years 2006 to well… now if I’m really truthful. BUT - and it’s a big one, the flip side to the headaches, lack of sleep and being social pariahs? They are amazing characters, and yes, my dear mother, much more loving than their sister. A pair of mummy’s boys for sure, but funny, charming, unique and full of fun. Like their sister, I am thoroughly enjoying the young adults that they have become in so many ways.
Are girls ‘easier’? It’s a fact that the genders vary when it comes to hormones, emotions and handling social situations. The way that they play, engage and more is markedly different and no news to anyone. The stereotype cum consensus is that boys are harder as ‘children’ - say between four to eight, and girls come into their problematic own during their tween and teenage years.
Overall though, I would say that girls are generally more volatile emotionally than boys throughout their upbringing, even as babies. Boys are definitely more ‘go with the flow’ types, and if I forget those years of epic tantrums, I feel that with boys, any situation is soon resolved and forgotten about, whereas girls have more tendency to sulk, hold grudges and drag out friendship spats. The boys seemingly get up, brush their dirty knees down and run off to play with the pal who’s just tackled them to the floor. Boys are less of a ‘mystery’ - tell it like it is, what is upsetting them and generally more ‘straightforward’ - they know what they want, or don’t want and ask for it. Girls are a much tougher nut to crack emotionally, clam up easily and take a while to prise information out of, especially when parents become public enemy number one around age 12.
Verbally, girls are sharper and more aggressive, whilst boys will show that aggressiveness through behaviour and play. The cliche is true - rough and tumble, play fighting, or not ‘play’ fighting - obsession with physical exertions - this makes the lads require much more physical energy to raise, whereas the emotional energy required to raise a girl makes your brain, and your heart hurt.
Easier? Too broad a question in my mind. Your opinion will be based entirely on your own experiences, but for me, the easiest child to raise is the one who is self sufficient, whatever the gender. I also have to say that none of my children have ever liked either going to sleep or getting up, from birth to teens and all three can eat me out of house and home. What is it with the teenager obsession with food? Last question - would I do it all again? Depends what day you ask me!