Dad's Diary: 'There I was, conforming to the sort of gender bias I was seeking to avoid'
Thursday 21 October 2010
Nature or nurture? It's the perennial teaser that sociologists and psychologists, parents, politicians and even the police have posed when trying to understand the behaviour, or sadly more usually the misbehaviour, of young people.
And it's a question I can't help but ponder myself – almost on a daily basis – as I observe the constantly evolving character traits of my young son.
Krishan is now almost three and a half years old, and over the past few months I've observed a radical change in the way that he treats both me and my partner.
From when he was born up until a few months ago, Krishan would always run to his mum for solace. If ever he stubbed one of his tiny toes, tripped over a toy or just got frustrated with something through lack of sleep, he'd always seek salvation in her arms. If ever I even attempted to comfort him, he'd turn away, sometimes even lashing out in the process.
The parameters were quite clearly defined – whenever anything went wrong, whenever he was tired, in fact any time that he felt out of his toddler comfort zone he'd go to her.
But now things have changed – specifically, his attitude towards me. Where before he'd actively seek my partner out, now he seems just as happy (on the majority of occasions) to be consoled by me. Obviously, mum still tops the "cuddles pecking order", but at least dad now registers on the scale.
What warms my heart the most is the way that he waits for me to come home. Nowadays, he genuinely seems delighted to see his dad, and he's clearly aware that there are some things he can do with me that he can't with my partner.
He knows that with me he can wrestle and play fight. But my partner is certainly not in the least bit happy to have our three-year-old attempt to punch her on the nose (however playfully).
This "male-ness" has certainly started to rise to the top in recent months. Where before he would happily run around playing with anything, now his toys and games have taken on a more masculine flavour.
When he was much younger, Krishan used to enjoy pushing around a baby's pushchair. At first, my male ego was appalled – that my son was playing with what usually is a girl's toy. But no sooner had I conjured these thoughts than I was ashamed to have them. There I was, conforming to the sort of gender bias that as a balanced parent I was seeking to avoid. And, more to the point, didn't I spend half my time pushing him around in a pushchair anyway? Surely a pushchair is not an innately feminine article?
Now, on most days, our flat looks like a miniature car-wrecking yard. There are toy cars of all shapes and sizes littering the floor. Visitors have to be careful where they tread – you could risk life, limb or (perhaps, worse) a toddler's wrath if his prized HotWheels suffers a busted axle from your misplaced foot.
So where does he get this love of four-wheeled vehicles from? Admittedly, some of his first cars came from an uncle who'd safely squirrelled away his own prized childhood collection in his parents' attic.
But it's not just toys – he loves fire engines, police cars, dumper trucks, even the dustbin lorry. And if we're on the motorway and pass some roadworks with their assorted maintenance vehicles, the squeals of joy from his car seat can be deafening.
In fact, it almost – almost – makes up for the disruption in the journey. It certainly makes those maddening cone-counting moments pass more easily.
So is this nature coming to the fore? Is there some deep-seated petrol/large vehicle love affair lying dormant inside all little boy genes?
Perhaps we just have to accept that boys and girls are as polar opposite as the "sugar and spice" and "puppy-dog tales" from those old nursery rhymes. And any attempt to try to change this internal chemistry is futile.
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