The cardinal rule of parenting twins; do not compare them to each other. I break this rule with great regularity. Not publicly, but in my head. One of the coolest things about parenting multiples is that you can conduct little (harmless) experiments with your children who are at the same age. The little experiment that we conduct at the Lindstrom house is especially fun because our children who are exactly the same age are also different sexes. Not only do I get to observe two children of the same age developing together, I can see in real life how all those rumors about boys and girls actually apply.
First off, let me start by saying that all children are completely different. If you are a parent (or a human) and don’t already know this fact, then let’s please start there. Each child is completely different from another regardless of their sex. This is the wonderful thing about human beings, no two of us are the same. So, keeping that in mind, let’s get back to the topic of the differences between boys and girls.
I had always heard this stated as fact, “girls are easier to parent when they are small, and get more difficult as they age. Boys start out more challenging, and grow to be much easier.” I cannot speak to how my children will be as grown children yet, but I can tell you that so far, this is quite true for me. My boys (a four-year-old, and the one-year-old twin) are physically busy (in a rough and tumble way), and took some time to start being very verbal. The challenge with my boys has been managing energy, and trying to facilitate good and healthy communication. My daughter (the girl half of the one-year-old twins — no, they are not identical) has been verbal since early days, and while she is also physically busy (early walker, climber, and general mover) she has always been a better listener and has displayed better comprehension (which I actually classify as “desire to comprehend”). The challenge with my daughter has only been a constant paranoia about what the future holds.
While we have a slew of toys (an embarrassing slew if you ask me), they are all scattered throughout the house with no rhyme or reason. This is to say that there are dolls, trucks, cars, strollers, blocks, my little ponies, and trains all mixed together in common areas of the house. All my children play with all the toys, but my sons tend to gravitate toward things that move and make noise, and my daughter tends to go toward the more nurturing toys like the dolls and stuffed animals. As a parent, I observe. Frankly, I don’t actually care what toys they play with, as long as they are playing in a loving a courteous way, I only find it interesting to watch them gravitate to what interests them.
Developmentally, my experiment has yielded some observations on development. My girl-twin crawled first, my girl-twin stood and walked first, and most notably, my girl-twin talked first. Both of my sons are “picky” eaters, and my daughter will try and love just about any food. My boys have always displayed a curiosity of how things work, while my little girl seems to be happy that things work. My daughter is physically a little easier to handle. She will walk beside me and hold hands, she will obey (usually) when I tell her “no,” she seems more mature, her brother is wiggly, curious, and on the move all the time.
I see some of these innate leanings as nature. While others may see it as nurture. I do not disagree that often we nudge our children to certain paths based on what the doctor proclaimed to see between their legs at birth. It is part of how we organize our world. My belief, though, is that there are strengths in the scientific, hormonal differences between boys and girls, and to know them is only to support our ability to parent to their strengths. There is a family who recently announced that they will not announce the sex of their child, and their child is almost a year old. They are literally raising the child without a publicly known sex. While I can respect the message they want to send and the statement they are trying to make with such a decision, I think it is counter productive in teaching respect for the natural differences between the sexes.
Now, I’ll get back to you in about 18 years about whether or not that aforementioned adage about how easy or hard boys and girls are as teenagers. Stay tuned…