Before earning my black belt in raising kids, I naively believed that the difference between boys and girls was a conveniently made-up myth. After all, I rationalized, how could such a small part of the male anatomy dictate such a big difference between the behaviour of children? Men, I could accept (if not understand) but children?
At the time I was the mother of two young girls who were from my point of view, politely sweet and well behaved; at least while visiting other people’s houses. As far as I was concerned, I had it all figured out. Babies were born neutral and the gender difference was something that either developed or was imposed upon them according to environment, parental expectations and social brainwashing.
Ah yes. Clearly I was extremely clever back then. In a corner of my 20-something mind lived the scientific explanation behind the expression “boys will be boys”. In laymen terms, it was nothing more than an excuse for parents with lively children (read: boys).
Then one day a friend of mine came to my apartment for a visit – her two young boys in tow – and completely splattered my bubble of how I looked at the world. It was the first time I would witness first-hand that there really is a staggering difference between the two sexes.
It was a Sunday afternoon and I had invited my friend (we’ll call her Mrs. Was-Never-Invited-Back) for tea. At the time, I thought that a play date was a great idea – no better way to spend a rainy afternoon, right?
My girls were 7 and 4 and her boys were practically the same age. Even as I write this, I realize that there’s no way I could have seen what was coming. (Spoiler alert: what was coming was a HUGE life-lesson in REALITY.)
My daughters, Melissa and Stephanie (still so sweet and polite in my memories of them as children) loved to put their “babies” down for naps in my kitchen while I prepared (also known as “ruined”) our family meals. The biggest inconvenience from this pretend naptime was the disappearance of all my tea towels, which they used to gently cover up their dolls. After all, no one naps without a “blankie”.
Enter my friend with her two *cough* energetic boys.
The first thing the boys did upon noticing the sleeping dolls in a corner of the kitchen floor was to abruptly wake them up so that they could show off their newly acquired kicking skills.
“They started karate lessons last week,” my friend explained as we watched the dolls get thrown into the air and kicked into the wall or fridge.
As you can imagine, my girls were not impressed and even began to cry at the cruelty that had befallen their napping babies.
Not long later the world-wind of their entrance calmed down when the kids all decided to go play in my daughters’ shared bedroom. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t welcome the quiet. I’d also be lying if I didn’t admit to my concern for my girls’ safety. Although I knew that my friend’s boys were just children themselves and would never intentionally hurt my girls, I was afraid of someone (my girls) getting in the way of a rambunctious Rambo move.
And while this visit was planned as afternoon tea, I do remember looking to see if I had any leftover wine hiding somewhere in the back of my fridge. I might have even settled for mouthwash, had I had any. In my defence, desperate measures were being called upon by desperate times.
Throughout this never-ending afternoon my girls came out crying several times because “someone” had broken a toy or because they had been bopped in the head while playing. And why-oh-why didn’t I have a nicely stocked wine rack?
Finally the visit was over and my friend and I walked to my girls’ room to tell the kids that it was time to say “good-bye”.
As I walked into the room that now looked like the after-math of a hurricane, my first reaction was to just stand there and blink in silence; the trance only to be broken by the sound of my friend’s voice.
“Look at this mess! Boys, we have to tidy up before we leave,” she bellowed.
“NO!!! I mean . . . don’t worry about it. The girls and I will do it later,” I said not wanting to prolong her departure (my very nice way of saying that I just wanted her and her kids to get the hell out of my apartment).
After they (finally) left, I closed the door to my daughters’ room to be cleaned up later, and the three of us climbed into my bed. Not used to the boisterous nature of boys, we needed a nap.