Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Culturally-established or not?

We've made no effort to reinforce OR tear down gender stereotypes in raising our children. There are dolls and trucks around the house. Nobody ever talks about what boys do or what girls do.

So it's been really interesting, taking a "neutral" (as much as possible) stance, to see how our boys have grown and what "boy" things are truly "boy" and what are probably culturally enforced.

For example, Elijah, given equal access to all kinds of toys, really truly prefers balls and hotwheels. Anda never did that. Most of our boys, though, have gone through stages where they want a doll to cuddle and love (and we give them one). I guess being a parent is instinct?  Boys love playing dress up. They don't care much for ruffles and feathers and beads, though.  They want to dress up as heroes, warriors, defenders of the weak, people who get to use a lot of physical action in their play-role. They hate getting their hair fixed and consider clean faces a necessary evil--but so does Anda. As far as my family is concerned, caring about your appearance is apparently a taught skill. We're trying really hard to teach that one right!

Interestingly, "pink is a girl thing" is totally cultural (not genetic). Given the option of many brightly-colored toys, at least two of my boys choose pink, and Anda usually chooses yellow or blue.

But the love of big, loud machines, construction stuff, hand tools and power tools, anything with wheels, and anything that can be thrown--that seems to be inborn.  Also inborn, but often beaten out of boys, is a need for frequent reassurance, for hugs and appreciation, to love and be loved.

Hard for me to judge what's inborn by Anda, though. She's wonderfully unique and doesn't do the "girly" thing. But I hear from other parents that a love of pretty, of graceful, of domestic, and of adornment is definitely inborn for most girls.

Now I'm wondering how much of what I see as inborn in my boys is truly inborn, but related purely to their family genes and not their gender?

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