Ten good things about boys: Attaining synthetic happiness one gender stereotype at a time

As we’ve been mulling over the fact that we’re having a boy this week, Mike and I have been talking about all things little boy and little girl. It started right after the first ultrasound.

“OK, tell me three good things about little boys,” Mike said to me while we were sitting in the white, tiled hallway of the hospital in Chiang Mai.

“Well, you wanted one to start with,” I said, tired, and not really ready to begin processing the news we had just been handed.

Mike laughed. “Is that the best you can do?”

“Yes,” I said, then pointed to the television on the wall. A news presenter speaking Thai was sounding rather frantic while footage of destruction marched across the screen.

“Is that a tsunami?”

It was. We watched footage of what was unfolding in Japan silently for a while. Then we talked about how we sure hoped the coastal area wasn’t too populated. And what we could make out of how the tectonic plates had shifted. And about the 2004 tsunami and what we’d seen of its aftermath. After that we weren’t much in the mood to talk about gender.

But as the week has progressed in a relaxing blur of pineapple fruit shakes, warm seas, and Thai food, we’ve found ourselves circling back to the topic repeatedly.

“Three good things about boys are…???” Mike will tease me at random intervals.

In response to this I usually pretend to think hard, then shrug my shoulders and shake my head.

“Good things about boys?” I might say. “I’m really trying here, but I have to say I’m drawing a blank.”

(I usually only say things like this when we’re sitting at a table in a restaurant or in some other public place where I run less risk of being tickled unmercifully or pestered with a shower of kisses.)

But the fact of the matter is, I have come up with some good things about little boys. And as I’ve been busy synthesizing happiness this week, I’ve also spent more than a little time mulling over the issue of gender stereotypes.

What ideals and expectations do we consciously or unconsciously hold about little boys and little girls? How many of these are grounded in fact? How should we let them influence our parenting? Do we even have much of a choice on that front – is it possible to be gender neutral when raising kids?

I know the answer to that last question is no – it’s not possible to be completely gender neutral in how we approach raising kids. Nor, am I convinced, would that be totally desirable even if it were possible. As for all the other questions… Well, I have some more digging and thinking to do.

But before I spoil things by doing too much research and finding out too many actual facts on the subject, I thought I’d share my rather unscientific and less than rational list of good things I’ve so far come up with. In no particular order, here are ten good things about boys:

1. Boys burn more calories on a daily basis than girls, so it stands to reason that boy babies in utero also need more calories than girl babies. The doctor in Thailand also told me that I should be drinking multiple glasses of milk every day. This all means that I can safely (nay, I should) be eating at least one extra scoop of ice cream every day that I am pregnant.

2. Mike’s aunt Kathy assures me that boys make excellent weed-pickers, rock-pullers, and wheelbarrow-pushers. I am assuming this also extends to carrying my luggage in airports. Bonus.

3. Mike tells me that not only are boys born without poo shame they also tend to hang onto this quality throughout adulthood – hence saving themselves a great deal of social angst. (For more on poo shame see, The Existence of Poo).

4. In one backed up be medical research, a little boy is much less likely to suffer down the track from my oh-so-fun medical condition, lymphedema, than a little girl.

5. Boys tend to have better spatial orientation than girls (I do believe this one is also backed up by science). On a practical level this will mean that with two men in my family I can almost entirely abdicate navigation responsibilities.

6. A boy may be less drama in the long run than a girl. (Think teenage years and, really, most of early adulthood).

7. Boy clothes are easier (and often cheaper) than clothes for girls, and boys’ hair is easier to care for.

8. There will be fewer princess movies, princess costumes, and all things princess in our house.

9. Hopefully our little man will grow up less burdened by an acute awareness of his physical appearance than little girls can be. I hope he’ll wage fewer battles in the hero’s journey towards the realization that self-esteem must be built on something more than being thought beautiful and desirable by others.

10. Finally, as my good friend, Danielle, pointed out, “Dads toilet train boys easiest.” I’m doubly thrilled on this front, as it means Mike will get to use his water and sanitation training and I just love to see him living in his strengths.

Cheers from Southern Thailand, where this list is a work in progress. In fact, Mike, I, and little Mango McWolfe may just go sit by the pool now and work on it some more. Have a great weekend! Catch you next week from Laos.

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15 responses to “Ten good things about boys: Attaining synthetic happiness one gender stereotype at a time

  1. Firstly, congrats on your little boy!
    With both of our girls we thought we were having boys and really wanted them too- especially by the time we were expecting Evie. When Evie emerged and we found out she was a girl we both just looked at each other and sighed, but within the hour we were besotted and wouldn’t have wanted her to be any different.
    Despite both being girls, Evie and Anna couldn’t be more different. Anna is firey, outspoken, obstreperous and rambunctious (we frequently resort to the thesaurus to describe her, especially in her presence) but she is wonderfully articulate, imaginative and intelligent. She was talking in sentences before she could crawl. At birth, she was screaming at full bore before her body was delivered (that was weird, having this screaming child stuck half in half out!). Evie is our mellow girl. She is loving, affectionate, cuddly, quiet and gentle. She adores Anna and is determined to crawl and climb, unlike her elder sister who was content to sit and demand that the mountain come to Mohammed. Evie is a keen observer, loves music and has a small vocabulary, quietly spoken. During Evie’s first night in hospital she cleared her throat to get a feed and then promptly went back to sleep.
    I guess my point is: they’re so different- and I doubt that all these personality traits have anything to do with them being male or female. We love our girls not because of what they are, but who they are- and we wouldn’t have it any differently.
    I hope you love getting to know your little Mango baby too.
    big hugs,
    Amy, Matt and the girls 🙂

    • I haven’t gotten to spend much time with them yet, but I can totally see that about Anna. What a great description of those two precious little ones. I am sure we’ll love getting to know the little Mango. Hopefully one day we’ll be close enough on a regular basis that he can get to know all of you guys as well!

  2. Hey Lisa!

    I love that you wrote this piece, the fact that thinking about any of these issue even CROSSED your mind when you found out the gender of your baby. Thank you for a refreshing read!

    • Thanks for reading and staying connected Alexis! Hope work is going well and all going well on book front, too. I start serious revisions of the memoir tomorrow.

  3. I came from a family of boys. Being the youngest of seven AND the only girl, I guess I made my peace with boys at birth. I’m so glad I have a boy. He is absolutely precious!
    I find it so interesting how he is automatically drawn to cars and tractors and anything machine like. We were at the park with some friends and their babies not long ago and there was a newborn there. My friend’s little girl, the same age as my son, was fascinated with the baby. Maurice? He couldn’t drag himself away from playing with the stroller wheels. I didn’t teach him that! Nor did my non-mechanically-inclined husband.
    For me, I am less worried about gender distinctions than I am about raising him to be a strong, principled man. Girls are doing so much better in school these days, which is great because the attention they recieve is long over due. But I want my boy to be suited to be compassionately competative. To be the anti-bully, to be independent, to be able to lead, to be able to succeed. I feel that it’s becoming harder and harder to be a man these days. And I want my boy to be able to be a man and not have to apologize for it. These are the things that I think about when I think about how to raise my son.
    Perhaps I’m a bit biased since I’ve grown up literally surrounded by men and boys! 😉 But I’ve watched my nephews grow up and struggle with a sense of direction in life, while my nieces seem to find their way pretty easily.
    Just some thoughts! Love the pics!! 😉

    • That’s interesting Cayla, that you’ve witnessed the boys in your life struggle with their identity in some ways more than the girls. That is food for thought. And, my word, the youngest of seven and the only girl – yeah, you must have made your peace with boys early :). I hope you guys are well.

  4. Ditto Cayla, on raising our boys to be strong men but not bullies. It will be a tough line to walk when teaching them to stick up for themselves without intimidating others. But so very important. I don’t want a wimpy son, one that cries at the sight of a spider and has his wife kill it! All of you would probably enjoy this blog I read about a single dad and his six kids. He’s ex-military, ex-defense contactor, but 100% softie when it comes to being a dad. He’s teaching both his girls and boys how important it is to protect those smaller than you (figuratively and literally) and other great lessons; while also having no poo shame! :O) http://www.blirred-reality.blogspot.com
    Enjoy Thailand and all the rest of the lovely fuzziness that is keeping little mango happy and cozy inside! 🙂

    • Thailand was lovely… we just got back late this afternoon and are contemplating hitting “the real world” tomorrow with something akin to bewilderment. But we are very relaxed, I must say. It was a great week. I had a peek at that blog, too, thanks!

  5. 11. When you give birth to a son, suddenly there are TWO men in the world who think that you are THE most fabulous, beautiful woman to roam the face of the earth. Just wait until the wee lad starts laying his tiny hand tenderly on your cheek and gazing up at you adoringly, so lost in love that he can only … Um …coo in wonder. I mean it. Your heart is going to break with loving him so much. You have to experience it to believe it.

  6. Okay, fine… I’m a Dude… sooooo, when I was compiling my tracker stats for my weekly summary I saw a reader from Laos. Being a country I have never been to, my curiosity brought me to your site.

    First of all, Danielle, you are awesome! I totally owe you lunch or something, I hope you like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Secondly, you and your Hubs live one incredible life! I hope to be able to do more work overseas as my pygmies get older. I miss working with the UGO’s.

    And the mango picture made me laugh so hard! Your son will not have to worry about a nickname now!! BOOM! He is now Man-go!

    Finally, having four boys and two girls I can tell you that both genders have their benefits and… attributes not quite at the level of being called a benefit. I grew up not being much of a hugger or “dancer” (I use that term loosely), but I have quickly learned that there is nothing quite as special or amazing as a hug from your little girl. And I’ve also learned that it’s vital to dance while I cook, because my daughter says it’s the time for dancing… so we dance. And I’ve also learned that sometimes daughters just need to cry, and as Dad, I just need to sit there and give lots of hugs and let her cry for a little bit.

    Little boys are awesome! I’ve never tried to stifle my boys in expressing themselves in any way they deem necessary. I have also never discouraged my boys, or girls, from thinking that they can be heroes, even superheroes. Because I’ve seen all sorts of heroes, some of them from groups like yours.

    I guess that would make Mango a hero in bloom, by defaul.

    You and your blog made my Sunday both interesting and fun!
    (OH! And thanks for stopping by the blog!)

    • Spuds! Thanks for coming to visit in return. I laughed out loud at your prostate posts but, well, having limited experience on the topic decided not to try to generate my two cents worth on the topic. I did enjoy browsing around though. I’ll be back (via google reader, so you may not see Laos showing up – which would be a dead giveaway). Unless google reader views register, which is not something I’ve figured out about blogging yet.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on little boys and little girls. As the dad of six kids you certainly have some significant data there! And as for our little Mango, yeah, being tagged with that nickname is precisely what my grandmother is afraid will happen (this was recently relayed to me by my mother over skype). I think my blog provides no end of things for my grandmother to worry about.

      Thanks again for coming to visit.

  7. What a comforting and refreshing read!! I’m utterly convinced I’m having a boy, and whilst I’m certain to love him dearly, I can’t help but be a little sad I don’t “feel” pregnant with a girl. Only time will tell, and for the next 12 weeks until my 20 week scan and opportunity to discover whether in fact my bump will be a blue or pink one, it’s lovely to read just how wonderful little boys can be. Besides, they DO have better toys, trucks, trains, cars etc!!!

    • Glad you enjoyed it! My little boy is lying in a travel cot at my feet right now working on going to sleep… and I must say I’m loving having a little boy now. He’s precious. And, as an added bonus, when I say “good boy” both the baby and the dog think I’m talking to them. Two birds…

  8. Pingback: Boy or Girl? | Safari Nzuri

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