]Before I had kids of my own, I can remember spending a day with some friends and their kids. A boy and a girl of similar ages, the girl sat on the couch with us ladies, snuggled up with her mommy, and looked at a book. The boy ran all over the house flipping the light switches on and off for about two hours. I can remember my friends saying that this exemplified the difference between little boys and little girls. Having nothing but this (and memories of my own childhood, which included my very mellow little brother) to base my opinions upon, I had to wonder if this was true. Were little girls hardwired to be chill and little boys to be maniacs, or was it more about genetics?
Fast forward a year and along came Olivia who was, for all intents and purposes, a really easy kid. She slept well. She played well with others and shared. She was affectionate. She was funny and curious and ridiculously adorable (if I do say so myself). People would meet her, then look at my ever-expanding pregnant stomach and tell me that I shouldn’t get used to it, because it wasn’t going to be this easy the next time around. I didn’t believe them. I was holding fast to the belief that if two children came from the same gene pool their temperaments had to be in the same ballpark. Even if number two was a boy (we weren’t finding out), I was sure that he would be similarly mild-mannered and life would move along smoothly.
I started doubting myself while Eli was still in the womb. Olivia’s in-utero personality was precisely the same as it was extra-utero: swimming leisurely through life, not a care in the world, with a few lumps and bumps thrown in here and there. With Eli, it felt like there was an MMA fight going on in there. One night he was kicking so hard that I was convinced a foot was going to slice through my abdomen, “Alien”-style. Because of his insane womb gymnastics, I was not at all surprised when the doctor announced that it was, indeed, a boy. I was going to be able to test this boy/girl personality thing out for myself.
From the get-go, Eli was a completely different animal – in every sense of the word. He was, and continues to be, a horrible sleeper. He whines. He screams. He throws himself on the floor when he doesn’t get his way or win at whatever it is he is doing. Sharing is not in his vocabulary. He likes to throw things. When I tell people these things, they shrug and say, “He’s all boy.” Is that what this is? Is he just being all boy? At first I thought there was something wrong with him (or possibly my parenting) because I was using Olivia as my benchmark and he was just not measuring up.
(For the record, he only seems to do these sorts of things when he is with Eric and me. The grandparents report exemplary behavior and sleeping until 7:30. WTF??)
A few nights ago, Eli went for a solo sleepover at my parents’ house. Suddenly it was the original Raskin threesome again. I forgot how easy it was to just have one kid (especially THIS one) to take care of. The house was quiet and clean. Dinner was a snap while the three of us sat around eating and laughing. After dinner we all snuggled up on the couch to watch “Charlotte’s Web.” Liv showered and got herself ready for bed, we read a book, and she passed out the minute her head hit the pillow. While bedtime is, by far, my least favorite part of the day, I hadn’t realized how incredibly stressful it was because of Eli and his antics. Without him there, I was relaxed and we breezed right through it.
And so, after conducting a 3-plus-year experiment on the temperaments of girl and boy siblings, I must concur with my colleagues regarding the hardwiring of temperaments. Obviously I had a very small sample to work with and I realize that this is not the case in every household. I am aware that, while girls are easier at this age, they can be royal bitches when they get older. I am preparing for some vicious battles with Livvy, much like those I had with my mom, over everything from going to the mall on a Friday night to driving in cars with newly licensed boys. I also know that while Eli is currently in his “treacherous threes,” this behavior will not last forever. When he turns to me out of nowhere and tells me that he loves me and that I am the best mommy ever, my heart bursts wide open and I know that I am raising a little mensch.
(One who likes to give me wet willies and pee on the carpet.)
>> Parents, what’s your experience raising boys and girls? Who’s easier? Who’s harder? Share in the comments.