Life Notes: Boys and Girls
Learning the difference firsthand

“It’s a BOY!” Those three words were shrieked, not just spoken, on the call I made to my late mother one November morning in 1995.

Her great-grandson, Samuel Ezra Friedman Zinn, had arrived on planet Earth, and while every precious baby is joyously welcomed, this birth marked a family milestone. Sam was the first male born into our side of the family tree in three generations.

As an all-female dynasty, we didn’t “speak” boy with any fluency. But we soon learned, especially after a clear trend was developing: boys were coming in a steady, pummeling stream, and soon they outnumbered girls four to three. As the mother of three daughters, my own learning curve turned out to be steep. My husband’s, not so much.

On my very first excursion alone with Sam, I found the mere act of placing him in his car seat was a Herculean task. Sam let it be known that confinement of any sort was not for him. I was, frankly, intimidated by his will, his strength and his resistance to being corralled.

When I discussed the challenge with Nancy, Sam’s mother, she reminded me I was, after all, the adult, the person in charge. But in the end, she also acknowledged that she, too, was shocked by his – well, “boyness.”

I’ll skip the steep learning curve about how to diaper a male baby without getting soaked. Enough said.

As Sam was joined by his two brothers and their male cousin, all of them seemed overwhelming. Who knew that boys under the age of reason, whatever that is, tend to punch, pummel, grab, attack and then look like innocent lambs. It reminded me of the days when we had a puppy who misbehaved endlessly, but somehow always melted my heart.

I know I may be accused of buying into old stereotypes, but I will still insist that boys and girls are different.

Case in point: our own three daughters, complicated as they were and are, were not known to turn any hallways into skating rinks. While their endurance for long car trips – and each other – was often limited, it did not require separating the warriors, or stopping the car until they could behave decently.

I had so much to learn. And learn I did.

I remember a trip to a science museum with granddaughter Emily and grandson Danny, who were about the same age. I remember questioning my own sanity after I invited two 4-year-olds to explore a science museum together. While Emily followed the edict to hold my hand and never stray, Danny behaved as if he’d had a sudden hearing loss on that particular day.

He was off like the wind, darting, lunging, loving the endless hallways and rooms. And there were a few moments of panic when I literally could not find this red-headed little rocket and tried to imagine explaining that to his parents.

Of course Danny turned up and endured my scolding with a look of “What’s with her?” on his face. I never tackled another excursion like that unless there was another adult strictly in charge of Danny.

But let me also note that as these grandsons got past the age of – well, wild abandon – they all grew into fantastic companions. They are funny, smart, thoughtful and wonderful in ways I’m still discovering.

I’ve never heard any one of them mention being on a diet. They somehow manage to run off whatever it is they eat in gigantic quantities.

They have never ever begged me to take them shopping for clothes. Nor do they seem the least bit obsessed by hair issues. They can fix things. Mechanical things. Things with moving parts. They say only what they need to – for them, less is more.

I know there are those of you who will insist that these are all matters of socialization. Expected norms. And I will have to say that I respectfully disagree. I think there is some basic wiring in boys and men that makes them who they are.

Case in point: When I told my granddaughters I was writing about how boys and girls are different, they went on and on, offering endless examples of their own.

And when I told the grandsons the exact same thing, I got this universal response: “OK, cool.”

I rest my case.

June 2017
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