Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Mars or Venus?

In my last post I made a broad-brush statement that boys are easier to raise than girls. In her comment Laura said she believes that boys are not easier to raise than girls. I suppose I understand that she may have had some experiences to make her feel that way. Let me try to restate my side:

I grew up with a brother and no sisters so my experience with the opposite sex early on was limited to a mother who seemed constantly exasperated with me and whom I found it nearly impossible to please.

Ex: Seems it wasn't proper to get one's jeans wet while playing outside (a problem I was plagued with throughout my career...if we weren't supposed to play in the water why was it so much fun? and why did they leave the dang water hose out? It's impossible for a boy of 4 or 5 to stay out of the water...something she could not seem to grasp) and in an effort to please her I undertook research to find a method of drying them before coming in. Through trial and error I discovered that by sitting on the ground and covering my wet jeans completely with dirt, rubbing it in good and waiting a few minutes that they were miraculously dry. Next I discovered it wasn't proper to cover ones jeans with dirt. Next I decided the best way to keep my clothes clean was to bypass them. Next I discovered it wasn't proper to go outside without clothes on...I could go on but do you see what I mean? Impossible woman to please.

In Jr. High I, like most boys that age, began to appreciate girls. Over the next few years I learned more about how to get along with women and discovered that many of the lessons I learned while dealing with mom were universally applicable to other women. When my Beautiful Wife and I were married my education took a quantum leap and I learned more about women that first year than I had the previous 20. This brings us to the formation of my hypothesis that boys are easier to raise than girls. I speak from experience of raising two of each.

In an effort to be open minded, though, rather than state blindly that boys are easier or girls are more difficult to raise or deal with I'll put it this way: it has been my experience that boys are less complicated to raise or deal with than girls.

With boys everything is simple. You might even say binary: zero or one, on or off, black or white, left or right, up or down, in or out, right or wrong. It doesn't get any more complicated than 'If-Then' arguments like the ones used in math equations and programing formulas. "If this is done [not done] then this will not [will] happen". Boys seem to be born with this understanding. You don't have to teach them this. When 'if' happens, you enforce 'then', the boy has a revelation -- "Ahh! I see now"-- the lesson is learned and you move on down the road of life. The one exception to this seems to be the way boys relate to women (whether it be their mother or sisters or someday their wives/girlfriends). I could never get my two sons, especially the oldest, to learn that there were certain things you just don't do or say to your mother. Then one day his Jr year in high school:

At school a friend whispered a joke to him and he forget he was in class, laughed out loud and proclaimed that was 'f------ funny'. As a result he was sent home. I understand totally that he was upset over such a striking lapse in judgement. If I had been the one to pick him up he would have told me what happened and we would have decided on an appropriate consequence, like carry out the garbage for a month and he would have been instructed to keep the details between us and let me take care of it with mom-but whatever happens don't upset your mother! This, however isn't what happened. Mom picked him up. He admitted to her what happened. So far so good, then they arrived home and his brother asked what had happened. He had a second lapse in judgement and said 'F--- You!' in front of mom. When she took the strong position that you don't talk to your brother that way he had a third lapse (they seem to breed off each other) and said 'F---You too!' This put in motion a chain of events that, like a nuclear reaction, is nearly impossible to stop until it runs it's course. When I (dad) got home I was informed by a seething, fire breathing mass of anger that used to be my wife what happened. I asked what had been done and was informed she had done nothing for fear of the end result. I was then forced down a path of expected action that I had to follow and could not back down from because I had to sleep with this women that night. Over the next few minutes my son learned several things...among them: the old man could still move pretty darn fast, words DO mean things and the woman that gave him birth was not his mother but my wife. Dad learned a few things too...among them: I didn't move as fast as I used to and his head was harder than my knuckles. The main point is that after this and to this day both my sons and I have enjoyed a friendship and mutual respect that we never would have had otherwise. The youngest son, even though he was spared similar lapses in judgement, was smart enough to learn what NOT to do and the oldest finally learned the lesson and has never suffered another lapse like that one.

See? Simple, uncomplicated, black and white.

With girls everything is anything but simple. With girls everything is impossibly complicated. There is no black and white, just grey. Whenever I try to apply the simple 'if/then' logic I am met with "but dad, you just don't understand" and after 20 minutes of head-spinning argument I am left babbling and wondering why I just apologized to them for something they did. My Beautiful Wife doesn't seem to have this problem with them (something about 'can't con a con' and 'able to see through BS'). I found out the expectations of me as dad of two girls was the same as dad of two boys but for some reason I could never quite get it right:

Once when our girls were 4 and 8 I arrived home from work and noticed their absence...a deafening silence in the house. Before I could ask anything my wife handed me a belt and said "go in the bedroom and give them a spanking...if I start I'm afraid I won't stop" (my wife has always had good judgement about her limits). I don't remember what they did...not even sure she told me...but I went into the room and was greeted with 4 tear-stained puppy-dog-eyes on 2 whimpering little girls. I asked if they understood what they were in trouble for and what the punishment was to which both shook their heads in the affirmative (I was glad they did, because I sure didn't). After a long lecture about right and wrong and respecting and minding their mother I told the oldest to bend over the end of the bed and lets get on with it. Just as I reached the height of the back stroke for the first swat she twisted around and looked me square in the eye. I made the fatal error of hesitating and meeting her gaze. I could not stifle a grin at the pitiful expression on her face. When she saw the crack she moved in for the kill and started laughing. Instead of following through with what I knew I must do I started laughing. Within minutes I was a puddle of jello and all 3 of us were sitting on the floor in a heap laughing like Hyenas. My wife threw the door open, surveyed my failure and said "What kind of father are you that you can't even give your daughters a beating?" I know there were other times over the years that I successfully carried out whatever discipline was required but this taught me that I was no match for them.

Therefore my conclusion that girls are infinitely more complicated to raise/deal with/understand than boys. This doesn't even touch on the horror house that happens when the two daughters are 'of an age' and all three women's 28 day cycles sync up (our house has foundation shifting problems and people ask me what caused it...well, there you go). Once during such a cycle the oldest son, who had just gotten his license, left and didn't come home for several hours. When he finally snuck in I asked where the hell he had been. "I just had to get out for a while" to which I replied "Don't you EVER do that again...unless you take me with you!"

Another observation: in the entire combined time for our boys I never once had a call from school that either had gotten in trouble for fighting and other than the time mentioned above neither of them said a bad word to either of us. I always received reports about what gentlemen they were. On the other hand the oldest daughter got in trouble several times for fighting either with other girls or boys (she was into rodeo and there were constant clashes with the other social groups and other contestants at rodeos). I went to pick the youngest up at daycare when she was 3 once and the director told me that there was a little boy who had a bad habit of slapping the other children in the face. The other children would always cry and run away. That day he made the mistake of slapping our youngest. The director said that rather than cry she gave him this "I can't believe you just did that" look and proceeded to deck him with a textbook right cross. Later she was into volleyball and quite good. More than once she would get in trouble for talking too much smack during a game or intentionally spiking the ball in an opponents face. Once, after the Jr vs. Sr Powder Puff Football Game I had to pull her and her best friend out of a fight with 4 other girls (to protect the other girls). The whole paradox still boggles my mind.

My Beautiful Wife's take on all this: "I have given birth to and raised 2 boys and 2 girls. If I had to do it all over again...give me boys every time! Anyone who doesn't believe me just remember what teenage girls are really like."

I usually sum it up like this: there's no such thing as 'little girls', they're just 'miniature women' (my wife's pat response is the antonym: no such thing as 'little boys'...). Crazy thing is after working with teenagers in youth groups for several years I'd rather work with girls.

I suspect in the end we are both correct.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boys are easier. Women have all that emotional baggage you have to dodge and duck.


12:46 PM, March 27, 2008  
Blogger Laura said...

This is a great post. I can't help but notice, though, that your experiences have a lot to do with the fact that YOU are a male. To ME, boy thinking doesn't make sense. I mean - I'm an engineer, I think pretty darn logically - and still I can not understand males. I've never been a fan of them.

My husband I were similar growing up; we were both the "good" kids. I was never a difficult teenage girl, loved my mom to bits all the way through (and still do), and we are super close. My husband was never that close to his mom. At some point, she became the person who did his laundry when he came home from college, NOT the person he talked to about his interests or life. The girl was her mom's dearest child. The boy was a boy... who had dirty socks. And that is precisely why it upsets me to think I might not have a daughter.

3:33 PM, March 27, 2008  
Blogger Beast1624 said...

Bingo. You've found me out. I admit it...I'm a male. But please note that even though I don't understand women I still prefer their company to men's. Does that make me a male lesbian?

3:50 PM, March 27, 2008  

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