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Monday, August 25, 2008

Nature vs Nurture

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 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.


Ed (zoesdad) said...

You just described the maturation of my Zoe and Zane to a T. I, like you, am amazed at how this all plays out--obviously beyond any control I might have.

Oh, I also hate, hate, hate (despise, even) wearing heels!

Anonymous said...

Your Boy and my Parker would get along fantastic. Parker loves Spiderman. and won't let Gamma even cover him with a pink sheet. it's for girls!! haha.
and Gabe loves the tractors and trucks!!!! both are ALL BOY!

smiles4u said...

What a great post. Growing up I was a tom boy and to this day I tend to lean that way still. I am not a high heels, pink, girly girl by any means but I have 2 daughters and 2 granddaughters that are...everything about them screams GIRL. I have another daughter that was a tom boy growing up but now as a woman in her mid 20's she has balanced out but still loves being outdoors and doesn't mind getting sweaty or dirty so she tends to take after me.

I raised my sons and daughters with all the same toys and opportunities...I raised them without the sterotypes of these are boy toys or girl toys.

My boys played with the dolls and kitchen set or the so called girl toys, but they still prefered their guns(yes, I let them play with guns even though I hadn't really intented to,they did it all on their own...they built them out of legos or whatever they had they made into a pretend gun weather it be another toy or a stick or a broom.)trucks, cars...ect...

My girls played with the guns too and the trucks and cars or so called boy toys, too, but they perfered their so called girl toys like the dolls, baby strollers, kitchen set..ect..although my tom boy daughter incorperated the girl toys with the boy toys more often. For an example she would take her children(dolls) hunting with her or driving truck to haul dirt.

I think it is amazing how this works even now with the two little people that I am raising now. I am raising them in the same way. Little man is such a boy but he also loves playing with the dolls and taking them truck driving with him or asking me to babysit while he goes to work.

Little lady is a girly girl who loves pink and purple and dresses and anything that screams girl. But, she too will play with the trucks and tools and other boy toys, all in a girly girl way.

On the flip side she is the one that gets the dirtiest while little man is much cleaner!

You are such a great mom...I enjoy reading about your experiences as a mom!

CaraBee said...

It is definitely interesting to see how little boys and girls develop their preferences. I was all tomboy while my only sister was all girl. I was never in dresses, she was never out of them. I am excited to see which way my daughter leans.

Zip n Tizzy said...

I've always said:
1) Parent's of girls will tell you boys and girls are the same, it's just how you raise them.
2) Parent's of boys will tell you they're pretty sure there's a difference.
3) Parent's of both will tell you there's absolutely a difference!