Saturday, May 09, 2009

Friday diary

Day 2 - An exercise in recording a week in my mothering life.
Once a month on a Friday morning I have a lesbian mums group. Nothing radical - except that we exist - we just meet in the park, bring a plate, and our children run around together. Before I had kids I imagined it would be very important to me to connect up with other lesbian mums. I hadn't realised what a shared experience simply bringing up children would be.

There's been a big leap since the last catchup - today my two were running around with the big kids (sob!) rather than just holding their hands in the air for me to lift them onto swings, seesaws and slides. Very funny they looked indeed, toddling furiously after long-limbed four year olds.

I bumped into Hae-won, my acupuncturist while I was pregnant. Sooner or later, at playgrounds, you meet the whole world. Also a lesbian, she has a four year old daughter, who is Eurasian. Like the controversial cloth nappies, when I meet other parents of Eurasian children there always seems to be a nice connection. I always feel uncomfortably like I'm talking to a supermodel when I talk to Hae-won, but she doesn't seem to realise that she is stunningly beautiful and standing there talking to an avocado-smeared hobbit. We were regularly interrupted by Pearl, and I commented to Hae-won that Pearl seemed less confident in playgrounds than Louis - she's always running back to me, wanting to hold my had, while Louis wanders off with nary a backward glance. Hae-won said, 'That makes sense - she wants the playground to be an interactive experience, and share it with you.'

It struck me how I had been negatively interpreting Pearl's behaviour of trying to engage me in what she was doing in everything we do (she constantly wants to be picked up, she doesn't sit and play by herself in the loungeroom, she has to watch me having a shower) - thinking that she still needs to develop her confidence. I wasn't trying to hurry her, but I had been thinking, 'Oh, Louis is really more emotionally developed and centred at this age.' It was really good to have another way of labelling it. I think my tendency to do this - assume interdependency is a sign of being less emotionally developed - is a product of our social expectation that babies have to become 'independent'. This then, I think, goes back to male development being the yardstick by which human development is measured - (and I am grossly generalising here based on my study of n=2) boys become independent and go off and explore from a young age, while girls like interaction, therefore the girls are not maturing as fast or as well.

And yes, I am convinced, again from my study of n=2, that there are intrinsic gender differences. Louis is an exceptionally gentle child so far, but still - right now he is building a tower of blocks then pulling it apart, fascinated, while Pearl is in the kitchen hanging out with Mummy L, chattering away. And don't get me started on their different responses to the Train Museum!


Suze said...

Why does a difference between P and L mean there is an intrinsic difference between boys and girls? If you had twin boys or twin girls you might find there were big differences between them too.
My son literally never built towers out of blocks and had zero interest in trains and cars.

Mikhela said...

Yes, I know - that's why I said I'm commenting from the vast experience of n=2. It may be completely coincidental! But it is interesting to me that despite shared toys and wardrobes (Louis has on a pink jumper right now; Pearl wears many 'boy' clothes - jungle animals, trains and so on - because I dislike a lot of the glittery flowery fripperies) their interests seem to be emerging to stereotype. A friend said, 'but they don't know that trains are meant to be a gendered interest,' and I said, well exactly! That's why it's so fascinating to me that Louis is enamoured of them and Pearl isn't. No one has told them what they are *supposed* to be interested in.

The tricky bit now for me is to remain open to developmental changes - not assume that because he is interested in trains now, he will be in six months, and she won't etc - staying flexible and light with personality and temperament expectations.

Also I think this is something that mothers will interpret from their own experience: those with gender-stereotype-conforming children will say, 'Oh yes, it's innate' and those with children with more diverse interests will say, 'Oh, no, I don't think there's an intrinsic difference between boys and girls.'

Also (I do go on!) although their interests seem to be conforming to stereotype, their temperaments aren't: Louis is very gentle and placid and snuggly, while Pearl is active and moves suddenly and initiates lots of activity.