Friday, September 14, 2012

The Critical Mom's Guide to Gender Difference

"I hate you, Mom!"  yells the ten-year-old son whom I have just compelled to put on his leather jacket as he races down the steps toward the tram.  Outside, the temperature has dropped to 40ºF (4ºC).  His eight-year-old sister, who has the sniffles but nonetheless prefers the Summer blazer to the Fall windproof jacket, howls with despair:  "Mommy, you don't LOVE me," as I grit my teeth and insist she put her arm in the jacket.  Which one makes me feel more guilty?  You decide.  If the weather warms up and it's sunny when they come home, I almost feel like I deserve their baleful looks.  If my son yells, "But it didn't rain after all!" at the top of his lungs, I feel less sympathetic.
"Did you iron my shirt?"  yells the thirteen-year-old son when I wake him up in the morning.
"How should I know?"  
"And my shoes?  Did you polish my shoes?  YOU SAID YOU WERE GOING TO!!"  He has a concert in the biggest concert hall of our small city tonight and is required to wear a suit, tie, and formal shoes.  He picked out and purchased a fabulous pair of shoes, discounted, last week, and I went around telling the whole family, "The kid knows how to shop!  The kid can find a bargain!" and it must have been somewhere in there that he'd said he didn't know how to use that spray that weatherproofs leather and I'd said I'd help him but then he forgot all about reminding me to do that. And you know what, Mommy?  THAT'S YOUR FAULT!  Which he did not actually say, but only because he knew that he had delivered the message telepathically, for what on earth else would I have to do other than categorize neatly his every wish and demand and see that it is met pronto?  Even as I am telling myself that when he addresses me in this loutish manner he is only anxious about playing the clarinet in front of 100 people, I am not letting him get away with rudeness, at least not without telling him how  rude he is.  Now, my daughter is not demanding, usually.  She is usually quite considerate and responsible, remembering to bring her dish into the kitchen after she has eaten, and usually remembering to flush the toilet.  But here gender differences tend to break down:  they all three forget about flushing the toilet and then I DIDN'T DO IT HE SHE DID!  The boys yell more; she cries more.  And when I invited her best friend's family to dinner . . . something she clearly wanted, but had not actually stated, she said, "I didn't ask you to do that, Mommy . . . but I am okay with it," a phrase that (like "I didn't ask for THAT," whenever a food item is presented) all three of them picked up from some loathsome TV show that we let them watch.  What were we thinking?  Why can't I be like those unbelievably capable homeschooling moms who make crafts with their children that you could sell at a fair?  Really gorgeous carved woodwork, Christmas ornaments, candles?  And who never let them watch TV?  On the other hand my friend Anna* told me she knew a couple who had vigilantly avoided all TV and computers, raising the kids on whole grains in a cabin in the woods, reading them no children's classic published after 1960, since, blcccch, then you run into stuff like Captain Underpants, and those kids had not turned out well . . . nobody went to college, one of them lives with a criminal and the other. . . is not in touch with his parents.  So maybe I am not doing so badly?  Ours do tend to like to be at home. 

*not her real name

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