L’il Boo is going through a ‘hello, I’m your worst nightmare and will be starring in my own version of The Exorcist shortly’ phase. i.e. he’s 15 months old. He is – and I’m searching for another word here, but when the naughty cap fits… – uncontrollable. Due to his complete inability lack of desire to understand that no really does mean no when it’s not at any point accompanied by an ‘aren’t you cute‘ smile, he has become the child that needs monitoring every, single second of every, single day. i.e. he’s fifteen months old. I say that again not because I’ve forgotten but so that I remember that this is a phase. And one which all babies-turning-into-toddlers go through.
Or at least I frickin’ hope so.
I am racking my brain to try and remember what Boogie was like at this age, to try and remember if she was this naughty. But, despite it all being so vivid and consuming at the time that the idea of forgetting a single moment seems laughable, you do forget. But from what I can remember – which I know isn’t much – I don’t think Boogie was as uncontrollable. I think that at this age she did understand the difference between a laughing ‘no‘ and a ‘this-is-dangerous-and-if-you-keep-doing-this-your-mother-will-have-a-minor-heart-attack’ no. Not that she didn’t have her own issues, mind.
But don’t worry. I’m not going to make the common mistake of turning my own very limited (and possibly untrue) experience into a whole line about gender differences – you know the one, like ‘my son was a bit naughtier than my daughter at a particular stage of his development therefore all boys are naughtier than all girls and therefore only men should be mechanics and physicists and professional wrestlers.’ Or any of the other kind of clap-trap you’ll hear on a daily basis (or indeed, hourly basis if you make the mistake of actually having two children of differing sexes).
But what does seem incontrovertible (unless you, like, believe The Daily Male) is that almost from the very hour of their birth (if not before), we do genderise our children, even those among us who try really, really hard not to. Studies show all kinds of ways in which we, as parents and as a society, treat girls and boys differently, leading, inevitably, to differing outcomes at a broad gender level. Often, even the way such studies are conducted can be seen to have an inherent gender bias. Which fact will fry your head if you think about it too long.
This means of course that every frickin’ minute I’m in a constant state of self-assessment trying to establish whether I’ve managed to overcome any of the inherent gender stereotypes which I hold sub-consciously (don’t look at me like that because you all do too unless you were raised in a vacuum), even if consciously I reject those stereotypes. Yeah, I know, I wouldn’t want to be me, either. It’s frickin’ exhausting. But knowledge is power, and the more I know the more success I have.
But still. Do I treat L’il Boo differently to Boogie? I know that the answer is yes, I do. The biggest difference (which even to me is noticeable) is that I’m much more laissez-faire about him. He gets to wander and climb and balance and shove things up his nose with distinctly less maternal shrieking than his sister ever experienced. So there you go: for all my good intentions, I’m already slipping into the stereotype that boys are just more physical and more able to cope with the consequences of that physicality (which today number one large forehead bruise from headbutting the stair tread in his attempt to climb the gate and one gashed nose from trying to dive into the toy box and slightly miscalculating the angle). Except I really don’t think the difference has anything to do with his gender and everything to do with his position in the family.
He’s reaping the rewards of being the second child. Before I had Boogie, I lived like any sensible woman with no dependants: completely irresponsibly without a care in the world. When somebody placed Boogie in my arms, I realised that I was responsible for this tiny, fragile, delicate, breakable bundle and that realisation sent me a bit fruit-loopy. Well, a lot fruit-loopy. As a person who’s favourite phrase was ‘it’s not time to worry yet’ and who didn’t actually understand the concept of anxiety, I had no mechanism to cope with the over-whelming burden of a baby. As a result, I warped into the kind of over-protective mother you always seem to see featured on programmes about serial killers. My heart was so permanently in my throat that I thought I was having a heart attack every time I coughed. Ah, those were the days.
And now I’m (a bit) better. Boogie is encouraged to find and test her own ever-increasing limits while I do the same. And so it is with L’il Boo; he’s just starting younger.
So I give myself a break, but the fact still remains that, whether because of gender or not, my changed behaviour towards L’il Boo will probably lead (initially at least) to a more physically confident child. And this will be attributed by everybody as being because he’s a boy.