September 22, 2014
Based exclusively on a sample group of three children…
GIRLS ARE IRRATIONAL FIGHTERS:
A fight erupts between my boys. I intervene. I point out the selfishness being demonstrated on both sides that led to the fight. They acknowledge what I say, apologize to each other, and move on.
A fight erupts between my girl and someone else. I intervene. I point out the selfishness being demonstrated on both sides. The girl freaks out that I dared to call her selfish. I take a gentler approach. I tell her I understand why she’s upset. I say that it’s still not okay to treat people that way. She freaks out because that’s NOT why she’s upset, and I don’t know what’s going on in her head. I tell her that yes, I do kind of know, because she’s actually pretty transparent, and anyway, I was a six year old girl once too. She freaks out because I’m speaking in a way she doesn’t understand, but she suspects I’m talking down to her a little. I relent. Fine, I don’t know what’s going on in her head. I ask her to tell me why she’s upset. She talks about something that has nothing to do with the fight with the other person. I am confused. What does that have to do with anything? Well, she was thinking about that thing, and she wanted to tell the person about it, but they weren’t listening. And they hit her, probably on purpose, and they wouldn’t share, and once they said something mean. I blink. I don’t know which of these threads of thought to follow, especially since probably none of them are true. I tell her to play nice and move on.
GIRLS ARE IRRATIONAL WORKERS:
My boys get home from school. They get out their homework, they do their homework, they complete their chores, and they go play until dinner time.
The girl gets home from school. She wanders around the house, leaving a trail of school supplies in her wake. I ask her to collect it all and bring it to me. She asks why, like we haven’t had this conversation every. single. day after school. I respond as though we haven’t had this conversation every single day. I tell her that she must do her homework now. She says she doesn’t want to. I tell her that’s okay, she can skip it and miss recess tomorrow. She says she doesn’t want to miss recess tomorrow. I tell her that means she must do her homework. She says she doesn’t want to. I tell her that’s okay, she can skip it and miss recess tomorrow. She says she doesn’t want to miss recess tomorrow….I don’t even know what eventually breaks this nonsensical cycle of hers. But at some point, I find her actually sitting at the table, half-heartedly sort of pretending to try to do her homework. She says she needs my help. I sit down to help and as soon as I open my mouth she says “I know!” I say okay and leave. Twelve seconds later she’s calling for my help. Twelve seconds later I’ve left again because she obviously doesn’t want it. Twelve seconds later she’s calling for my help. I also don’t know what eventually breaks this cycle, but at some point, I find myself sitting by her, actually being allowed to help. She keeps shooting me ugly glances though. I ask her if she thinks I made the homework sheet. She doesn’t. I ask her if I’m the one making her do the homework. No, she knows her teacher is, not me. I ask her if she thinks it delights me to spend several hours every afternoon trying to make a grouchy girl do her homework. She seems to think the answer to that one might be yes. She watches the boys, who are long since finished, running around and playing. She wants to play too. I tell her she must finish her homework, AND her chores. She says she doesn’t want to. I tell her that’s okay, she can skip it and miss recess tomorrow….
GIRLS ARE IRRATIONAL WHEN SAD, ANGRY, OR IN PAIN:
My boys get hurt sometimes. They feel slighted by other people. They lose or break things that are important to them. They respond with quiet tears, or seek a hug from me, or come to me to talk it out. They tend to withdraw to process their initial emotion, and come out calmer and ready to deal with what happened. They like to keep their more intense feelings private.
The girl gets hurt sometimes. She feels slighted by other people. She loses and breaks things that are important to her. She responds with copious tears, wailing, and incoherent blubbering. As the initial emotion subsides, the wailing and incoherent blubbering get stepped up a notch, because she senses no one is rushing to her side to hear all about her paper cut or how someone else is using the spoon she wanted. She has no scruples about where these scenes take place. In fact, she seems to like an audience. I tell her “Look. You are being very dramatic. You are being overly dramatic. Nobody feels bad for you when you act like that. (I can be very mean.) When you respond calmly, we are proud of you and we care about what happened and we want to help you through it. When you make a big show out of something small, it’s just annoying. Please stop. (So mean.)” Sometimes she does stop. Sometimes she is calm. Sometimes, she thinks she is responding calmly when, instead of crying, she shouts at my two year old “IT’S NOT OKAY TO FIGHT WITH A LADY!!!” Very lady-like.
Now, PERHAPS, these are not girl/boy issues. PERHAPS these differences in behavior stem from the fact that Todd and I are calm, rational people, and the boys share our genes, while the girl does not. MAYBE. However, I am fairly certain that there are plenty of times that Todd stares at me with the same look of confusion that I get when I stare at our girl. Times when he asks why I’m upset and I list off five things, three of which aren’t related to the subject at hand and two of which might not even be true but I’m so emotionally wound up I don’t even know for sure. And I’m pretty confident there are times when Todd would like to say “Elisa. You are making a big show out of something small. It is annoying. Please stop.” So really, I guess our girl is in good company. And to the boys in our life–I’m sorry. Thank you for loving us even when we’re crazy.