Nature, nurture. Nurture, nature. How much of a boy’s love of whacking people around the head with a sword and playing destruction derby with as many toy cars as possible is a product of their gender genes, and how much is the unconscious influence of parental expectation? How much does a little girl’s desire for pink reflect something innate within her, and how much is down to the fact that barely an item of girls’ clothing or girls’ toys can make it into the shop without at least a dash of pink, a frill or a smattering of glitter?
I am glad to have a boy. Pink brings me out in hives. And I spent a fair proportion of my childhood playing with Lego and Meccano, so having a boy felt much more natural to me. Give me the risk of getting pee in my eye from an unshielded willy at nappy change time than have to deal with the prospect of putting tights on a baby girl any day of the week.
But I have come to the realisation that my concern over gender stereotyping has been pointing in the wrong direction all along. Forget trying to bring your child up without gender bias. It’s our roles, the bloody parents, that should be the real cause for concern.
I like a bit of rough and tumble with E. Me and the kitchen floor have been very well acquainted over the last three years, as E and I play aeroplanes, or mummy monsters, which involves a long chase around the dining table followed by inevitable capture and incessant poking and tickling whilst rolling around on the floor, picking up squashed peas and toast crumbs with gay abandon. (Not to be confused with mummy simply acting like a monster, which involves a severe lack of sleep, much shouting and definitely no tickling). I thought I was quite a fun mum on the physical play front. Granted, I don’t swing E around quite as much as M does, purely because even three years of pad boxing does not build arm muscles sufficiently to allow prolonged lifting of a toddler whose legs seem to have been filled with concrete. But it appears I may have been mistaken on the fun-mummy front.
Recently, E announced that “daddy does funny tickles.” Yes he does, I agreed, what a fun daddy.
E then added: “Mummy does cuddles.”
Well yes, this is true. I do. But however heart-warming it is to hear your son acknowledge that you score highly on the cuddle-o-meter, it’s a bit well… mummy-ish.
So I seek clarification. “And mummy does tickles too?”
“No!” came the unequivocal response. “That’s daddy’s job.”
Well buggaration. Since when did M get appointed to the role of Chief Funster? I think there must have been a bribe involved, as the post was not even bloody advertised and I had my CV all ready, highlighting my willingness to be a team tickle-player, and my experience as an expert Lego tower demolisher. Instead, I get the mummy role, involving cuddles and the application of a Mr Bump cold gel patch whenever he walks into the cupboard door that I keep leaving open, as I never remember that he is too tall these days to walk underneath it, proof if needed that my skill as a nurturer comes under the ‘could do better’ category.
Ah well. I guess the Mummy Cuddler role is okay. Mind you, the pay is shit and the hours are fucking dreadful.