It's a mystery, and nothing less. I find myself frequently reflecting upon the nature vs. nurture argument lately. I most definitely believe there's not an "either or" here, and I feel strongly that it is absolutely "both and." And yet I am not at all clear on how it all has played out to date in the lives of my little girl and my little boy.
I am not a pink and frilly kind of gal. In fact, I probably lean more toward the "tom boy" side. I enjoy manual labor, getting dirty, running power equipment. I have fantasized about driving big trucks and all kinds of construction equipment. I enjoy fishing much more than my husband does. Primitive camping is one of my long lost passions (something got lost in the translation when I moved away from the majestic wilderness of the Pacific Northwest). I hate hate hate (DESPISE, even) wearing high heeled shoes. In fact, I cannot even remember the last time I did so. I don't own any at present date. I could live everyday in sloppy jeans and t-shirts or sweatshirts. I'm certain this list could go on and on if I thought hard enough.
I did NOT deck out the baby nursery in frills and pink when we learned that a baby girl was to be born to us. I was, however, elated with the news of this dream come true that I dared not believe for, as the men in Dear Husband's family tend to produce boys. I did doll up Baby Zoe with hair bows and cute cute clothing and the like from the first day of her life, but this was mainly because people gave us all this stuff. Now that I think of it, I don't believe I EVER bought something totally girly and frilly for my baby.
And yet...my darling daughter gravitates naturally towards everything girly. By the time she was 20 months old she would grab matching hats and purses to go with her outfits before she would leave the house. She was soon all about My Little Pony, princesses, dressing up in frilly dresses, having tea parties, and the like.
When Dear Son came along, I had absolutely no idea how to be a Mommy to a little boy. I didn't doubt I could figure it out, but for the life of me I couldn't have explained to anyone exactly how I expected it would be done. The first year and a half of his life included watching My Little Pony and Care Bears and princess theme videos and playing with lots of "girl toys" with his big sister. I never worried that he might somehow be "damaged" by all of this. I never tried to guide him towards more boyish things, and I have no conscious awareness of treating him more roughly or doting on him less or substituting a "buck up and get over it" in place of cuddles and snuggles and kisses--though research would suggest that I have likely done these things subconsciously. My awareness tells me I have loved on him and cuddled and kissed him and squeezed him and "babied" him just as much or even more than his big sister. Yet somewhere before his second birthday, his stereotypical boy preferences and behaviors began to emerge.
Somehow, somewhere he got turned onto guns, which he calls "powers." Dear Husband and I have no idea how it started. While I did not set out to be "anti-gun" in our home, I also most definitely didn't encourage it. I have no idea why he began to grab the vacuum cleaner extension rod when I vacuumed the carpets and hold it like a high-powered weapon. I have no idea where he learned to hide behind the corners just out of sight and then leap out with his vacuum wand aimed strategically and pump the extension rapidly all while making "pow pow pow!" sorts of sounds with his mouth.
Dear Husband and I are also both completely stumped where he learned about Spiderman. Nothing Spiderman had ever entered our home until Dear Son suddenly became mysteriously infatuated with him. Before two years of age he began making associations to Spiderman. For example, the toes of his snow boots had a web like appearance in the molded rubber. He called them his "Spiderman boots," much to our intrigue.
While my daughter is currently enamored with The Little Mermaid, my son has recently become turned onto matchbox cars. He especially loves the ones with the flames on the sides and the hood that raises to expose the chrome engine inside. He loves to flip the little doors open and spin the little wheels, and line them up just so before flinging them off some self-made ramp and watching them crash to the floor (or the wall). Meanwhile, his big sister is decking herself out from head to toe in her princess dress up garb, complete with tiara, wand, and fuzzy princess shoes.
I can't pinpoint where in the equation, the nurture aspect played into all this, but I am acutely amazed at the apparent role of nature. Somewhere in their hardwiring, God apparently instilled genetic mapping that would turn my daughter onto frills and pink and princesses and that would excite my son with the concepts of super heroes, guns, and cars. I can't explain it, and I most certainly cannot control it, and so I just roll with it.
It's fun, and the mystery of it raises a greater appreciation within me for the family with which I've been blessed. A few years ago I pictured ours as a family with two little girls who preferred to snuggle in a bed together rather than occupy separate beds. Who giggled together and shared secrets. Who shared princess clothes and baby dolls. What I got was a girl and boy who have very different ideas of what play time looks like and what play toys are the "best" and how to carry out various activities....
...and lots of opportunities I might not have othewise had to ponder the age old nature vs. nurture question.