Boy/Girl Stuff

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So my son has never really been interested in drawing. If there’s a ball of any kind involved, or a race, or maybe you’re smashing the shit out of something, he’s your guy. If you’ve got any sort of art project lined up where he has to sit still and not smash shit, he loses interest in about 3.2 seconds. Whatever, no big deal. I like to smash shit too.

All of a sudden though, he’s developed a newfound interest in drawing. He’ll get his markers or colored pencils and sit in a chair and draw for up to seven minutes at a time. That’s seven minutes out of my day when he’s not bringing me some sort of family heirloom and asking if he can smash the shit out of it with his golf club, so I’m pretty psyched about this developmental leap.

Am I worried that all he seems to draw are penises? A little, I guess. I’d probably laugh it off altogether if he realized he was drawing penises over and over and over again, but he doesn’t. He comes up to me with this really bright, proud smile on his face and says, “daddy, check out my…” fill in the blank here. Sometimes it’s a race car, a space ship, a sky scraper, a boat, a coffee table, a Christmas present, a dog…It could be anything, except that every time, the picture he’s drawing is obviously a penis. Doesn’t he see it? It’s like the worst ink blot test ever. Little penis. Little balls. Plain as day.

Meanwhile, my daughter has skipped her adolescence, tween and teen years and gone straight into her hysterical single 30s. The other night, she had a melt down at bed time, which sounds normal, except she was freaking out because she isn’t married yet. “But I’m already 5!” she said. “And that’s really old and I have to find a husband and get married so I can have kids!” She’s crying her eyes out the whole time—legitimately concerned that her best years are past her. She can’t tell time yet, but obviously, her biological clock is ticking.

What the fuck is that about? She’s 5! Is this some sort of side effect from watching too many Disney movies? What I wouldn’t give to be able to show my daughter an animated feature where the hero is a lesbian with a career. Like a crime fighting super lawyer who doesn’t have time for a relationship. Just once!

A boy drawing penises, I can handle, but a girl feeling marital pressure before she goes to kindergarten? I’m not trained for this.

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Bat-Woman

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I had a nice moment with the kids the other day. They were telling me about the squirrel that comes to the feeder outside their window at school. They’ve named her Gary-etta. Addie said Gary-etta comes to the feeder to get food for her kids at home. I asked why the dad squirrel, Gary, didn’t come to the feeder. Coop said, “Gary stays home and plays with the baby squirrels.”

Awesome. We’ve completely upturned generations worth of gender stereotypes. Mission accomplished.

When you ask Addie what she wants to be when she grows up, she says, “A mommy. And a doctor. A doctor mommy. I want to do them both.”

Cool.

Ask Cooper and he says he wants to be a daddy with no career attached. Then he goes on to tell me all the things he’ll do better than me when he’s a daddy. Like this: “When I’m a daddy, I’ll know how to make ginger bread houses.”

Touche Cooper. Touche.

I made the mistake of asking my kids what they thought daddy does for a job. Coop said, “Daddy, your job is to clean up after Murray (the cat) vomits.”

I like to think there’s more to what I do on a day to day basis, but the boy did a pretty good job of summing it up concisely.

Of course, there are some gender-specific characteristics that seem to be ingrained in our children no matter how hard we try to subvert the paradigm. The boy loves to pee on the tree in the front yard…preferably with as many neighbors walking by as possible.

And the girl, well: “Wait daddy. I changed my mind. I want to be a Princess when I grow up. A Princess Doctor Mommy.”

I always thought raising a girl would be exponentially harder than raising a boy, but I didn’t think the difficulties would start until High School. Sadly, the trouble is already brewing. The other day, Addie came into the living room wearing a cape and a mask. I said, “What’s up Bat-Girl?”

She said, “No daddy. I’m Bat-Woman.”

She’s four. Imagine what our conversations will be like when she’s fourteen.

The Princess Diaries: Volume One

So, here’s something a little strange. My daughter sneaks out of her bed at 2am to “shop” for dresses in her closet. She has lots of dresses. Purple mostly, some pink. She pulls them out, looks them over, tries some on. Sometimes, she falls back asleep in the closet, pulling those dresses over her for warmth.

Cute? Disturbing? I can’t decide.

Ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, and she’ll tell you: “I want to be a princess.” Ask her what a princess does at work, and she’ll tell you: “twirl.”

She spends a lot of time twirling. And changing clothes.

The other day, within the same conversation, she said to me, “I just want to wear a little black dress.” WTF? Then she followed up that gem with, “just give me some space, daddy.”

I’m not really sure when it happened. She’s three going on 13.

Meanwhile, Cooper’s hell bent on “shooting” any moving object (with pretend lasers) and “fixing” any stationary object (by bludgeoning it with a plastic hammer). He’s such a stereotypical dude: He likes sticks and hitting things with sticks and occasionally peeing on things.

What’s amazing to me is how easily they’ve both fallen into these classic gender roles. You might think the kids are just imitating what they see from their parents, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Cooper’s never seen me pick up a hammer or fix anything and Addie rarely sees her mom in anything other than hospital scrubs. I do the cooking, my wife mows the lawn. I drive a tiny Jetta, my wife drives a four-wheel drive SUV. And yet my daughter will spend an entire afternoon spinning around in front of a mirror while saying, “I’m so pretty,” and my son is obsessed with monster trucks. Specifically, monster trucks that smash smaller trucks.

That’s not to say Addie is strictly a princess. She’s hell on a climbing wall, sending all kinds of routes with grace. She’s a fast little trail runner, too. And I’ve occasionally caught her smashing shit with a plastic hammer. She also loves chicken wings. I think that’s pretty cool.

Cooper has a soft side too, which I’m doing my best to nurture. Like his sister, he’ll occasionally strap on a skirt and twirl like a princess–a fact that drives certain grandparents crazy, I’m sure. I know some dads might take issue with their son wearing pink skirts and pretending to be a Snow White, but I like to think I’m more open-minded than that. I’m evolved: I’ll love my son if he grows up to wear pretty dresses…as long as he’s still the starting center fielder for the Atlanta Braves. That’s non-negotiable.