Nature versus nurture. Or something like it.

November 9, 2010 at 5:30 am | Posted in motherhood, Parenting | 5 Comments

If I had to describe O, the way he is right now, it would be this.

All Boy.

His new fun activity with his friends at school and Mommy and Daddy at home is to “tackle.” He stands in a football-like stance, his legs spread, clapping his hands on his knees.

Then he runs at you, full speed, giggling. And grabs you around the neck in a hug. And then tries, with all his thirty-something pounds, to pull you down.

The point of the game, of course, is to fall over. Where he’ll announce gleefully, Hey! I am on TOP of you!

It is one of my favorite games to play with him.

Between the tackling, and the kicking a soccer ball, and the hitting of a baseball with a bat, and the catching and throwing, and the digging, and the cars and trucks and airplanes… and the WATCHING of the sports on TV… well, I am often amazed at how much of a stereotypical BOY he can be.

I keep trying to figure out if it’s something he’s organically grown into, or if it’s something that J and I unwittingly encourage, just because he’s a boy.

Because I try NOT to fall into the gender roles, where boys run and play and girls sit and play with stuffed animals. For my part, I was a tomboy who made my parents cut my hair when I was young so I could look more like a boy (with my purple bike with the flowered banana seat, but somehow I figured that a boy would ride a bike like that if it was the only alternative).

I didn’t want to force my kid into something he wasn’t. We have dress up clothes that include a tiara (for our wedding which I decided not to wear at the last minute) and beaded necklaces in O’s toybox in his room.

O has a play stove, with real pots and pans. And for a while, he’d pretend to grill dinner for me. He served me chicken and macaroni and cheese, mostly.

Now he prefers to use the wooden spoon as a drumstick and a top of a pot as a cymbal and march around, pretending to be in a band.

And he definitely loves his Bear, and now seems to have an interest in Maisy, the cow-shaped blanket my own mother bought him when we didn’t think we could find extras of Bear. (His Bear, actually, he’s named “Crying Bear.” Because there’s a little plastic piece near one of the eyes, which does actually make Bear look like he’s crying.)

But otherwise? He’s really shown no interest in his stuffed animals – even the one he made himself when he gave up his bink.

He’s just really into SPORTS, apparently. And not so much playing with dolls, or stuffed animals, or anything like that. (Yet, anyway.)

Given that I’ve never actually, you know, HAD a son before, I can’t tell you if this typical. And I’m not certain that J and I don’t subconsciously revert to gender roles, even though we don’t intend to.

It’s just one of the things I find fascinating about parenting.



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  1. It is fascinating. Although I am a little alarmed to hear that O has grown out of an only-very-brief cooking phase, because I just told his Christmas-present-buying relatives that play food/utensils would be a good choice… but that aside…

    It’s got to be a combination. If you were a tomboy, and your husband was an actual boy, then you’re bound to encourage “boyness” in any child, male or female. I also think it’s hard not to unintentionally encourage stereotypical behaviour, if only by expecting it or by treating it as “more normal” than counter-stereotypical behaviour, and of course it’s hard to stop the rest of society from leaving their imprint, too. Then again, I can’t deny that, boy or girl, kids just have different personalities, and some are definitely what you might call more masculine or feminine than others. It’s a complex and fascinating pot, alright.


  2. There’s an awful lot of “nature” in there. I remember hearing somewhere that there is a gene in boys that has only one function, and that is around 6 weeks of pregnancy (perhaps 8 weeks gestational age — can’t remember for sure). Anyway, it “fires” one time and produces a shot of testosterone that turns the gonads into testicles, and helps cause all the other parts to become “boy parts.” Even though the body doesn’t really start to produce testosterone until puberty, the after-effects of this thing while the baby is still developing, is that it causes baby boys to be born with as much testosterone in their systems as a full-grown man. So, yeah, I think boys are born boys. 🙂

    I do have traditional views of sex and gender, and do encourage my boys in that (not that I wouldn’t cheer a girl on in running and climbing, but I did encourage independence and climbing and such in my boys). However, that doesn’t mean that I discourage so-called “feminine” things in them. Sure, it’s “women’s work” to cook, yet most professional chefs are men. Besides, I want my boys to be able to fend for themselves as they get older, either as teenagers or even single adults if they don’t get married young. So, I make them clean their rooms, and help with laundry, and run the vacuum cleaner (they usually like this last one); plus they love to help me cook.

    Neither one was very much attached to stuffed animals as an infant or young toddler; but now they have a big collection of all different kinds of stuffed animals, including most of the dragons from Dragon Tales and a lot of Care Bears. They play more with their Thomas the Tank Engine trains and other “boy” stuff, but I don’t really consider stuffed animals to be “girlish.”

  3. wow, it is really fascinating…My boys like BOY STUFF, but Gio likes it much more than Jacob. They would rather watch the Sprout channel than Hockey or Football with daddy. And they love to play with thier kitchen, both of them. I think Gio is def more “boy” but Even Jacob is “boy” in many ways. I see in them all the things that will be hard about introducing them to broadway musicals you know???? 🙂

    I loved reading this, and seeing how your little boy is growing. I can’t wait until mine and yours can meet. 🙂

  4. Sounds just like my little boy! One of his favorite things to do is to watch the football practice in the park at the end of our street. And play soccer, and baseball, and watch them on TV. And neither my husband nor I are into these things at all, so it’s got to be nature, I think. Although he does love his baby doll. I will just support him in all these things and see where he ends up.

  5. I totally believe in nature. My son (who just turned two) is not interested in stuffed animals or dolls AT ALL. He *loves* anything with wheels. In fact, he sleeps with his train and his car. He is totally obsessed with cars and it is not something that we pushed on him…he’s just interested in it. If we ever have another child and its a girl, it will be interesting to see if we interact with her differently. I believe that I treat children all the same, tickling, chasing, etc., but maybe I would treat a girl differently.


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