When my oldest son was 2, he was adventurous and fearless. As a new mother, I was a nervous wreck at the park when he climbed up a 7 foot vertical ladder to the slide. “Be careful baby!” I’d call up to him as he steadily climbed. “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it, that’s just the way boys are.” another mother reassured me. My second son was much more reserved and cautious. People would comment to me “isn’t it amazing how different it can be from one kid to the next?” Then came my daughter, who like her oldest brother, is also fearless. At 19 months old she was climbing the same 7 foot ladder her brother did, only because she is my third child I wasn’t nearly as concerned. “Be careful sweetie!” another parent calls to her. “Don’t worry she’s done it before.” this time I’m the one reassuring the other parent. “You can tell she has 2 big brothers.” the other parent says.
No wonder stereotypes against girls persist. When a boy is boisterous it is accredited to his gender (even the word seems gendered), when a girl is boisterous the credit is given to a boy, and when a boy is placid it is considered a fluke in the system. Society already has a theory of how things are, and when evidence to the contrary presents itself, we begin scrambling to find an excuse for why it’s different just this once. This is the kind of scientific method that kept the world flat for such a long time. We assume all girls are a certain way because they are girls, then this assumption confirmed by observing girls being “girly”. We are leaving out a major factor, our assumption that girls are that way, is a major influence upon how they get to be that way.
Getting back to how this applies to my own daughter. If she had been my first born and I called up to her “Be careful baby!” and the parent next to me commented, “I’d be nervous too, she could hurt herself.” this could have influenced me to pull her down and find something more “lady like” for her to do, in effect influencing her budding personality. I am very grateful that my first son was so boisterous, though it was very trying at the time. Because of his influence, I became a much more laid back parent, which allowed me to step back and let my kids natural traits come through. I am very proud of the people they each are and proud of my self for not hindering the process that got them there.