This mother of twins (one boy, one girl) has changed her thinking on "gender stereotypes" by actually watching her children, and has some cute observations.
Boy/ girl differences aren't colour-coded but the distinctions are deep rooted and genetically programmed. From day one Agatha has been emotionally cute, screaming blue murder to be held and from her new, lofty position she would smile smugly at her grounded brother. Charm personified in front of visitors, dough-eyed and cooing, and always preferring to sit on a male knee. In short, she has learned how to adapt her performance in front of different audiences.
Multitasking comes naturally as she clings on to both walkers simultaneously, flitting from one toy to another in rapid succession, looking to us for entertainment. You might say, like most women, she's an attention seeker – it takes one to know one. Turning on the waterworks, being deliberately obtuse, or embracing strangers are all classic tactics that I've employed over the years. I can see her little mind whirring – how can I maximise the attention potential of this situation? That's ma girl.
Emotionally more straightforward, Benjamin spent the first three months eating and sleeping. He hit the protein shakes hard and got massive, at which point he started to compete and to make himself heard. Something that resonates for men throughout their life time – the association between physical prowess and confidence.
He can focus on one activity, albeit looking at his boardbooks (with which he's obsessed), watching a cartoon or happily playing by himself in the playpen.
That said, as a mother of more than one boy and more than one girl, I can attest to the fact that there is a tremendous range with both. I think stereotypes can be deadly (either clinging to them or obstinately rejecting them), and yet we can now attest to the fact that there are physiological differences in male and female brains.
What is marvelous, though, is that this mother has changed in her own thinking, taking the cues from her own children and acting on them:
"I don't care if my son grows up to become a cross-dressing star of musical theatre," I declared 18 months ago, determined not to force society's gender expectations upon them. "And if my daughter wants to be a 16st lumberjack, so be it."
But this Christmas I'll be listening to my maternal instinct and giving what I think Benny and Aggy want – a big red bus and a baby doll, respectively.
There's still a long way to go to discover the innate vocation of each--which is not as superficial as choosing toys--but at least she'll stop forcing square pegs into round holes. It's a start.