Apropos of Nothing: The Difference Between Raising Boys and Girls
An Editorial by Jamie Beckett
I have children. Three of them, in fact. The oldest is a boy. Well, not so much a boy as a full-grown man. He is nearly a third of a century old, after all. Calling him a boy is not only inaccurate, it’s downright disrespectful. Sorry son. My bad.
I also have two daughters who are on the verge of adulthood. This is good. It means I am very near the age when I can abandon my children with no risk of being dragged into court and shamed before my peers as a lousy example of a man. Partly because as they’ve attained adulthood I have no legal responsibility to care for my children anymore. Yet, mostly because I’ve already been shamed before my peers, by my children – many, many times.
Actual parents will understand this. We have a support group. It meets whenever two or more parents randomly assemble in public. A furtive glance that signals frustration, exhaustion, and the potential for an impending defeat opens the meeting. From there, it’s off to the races.
Sons are easy. They’re the human equivalent of wash and wear clothing. Just set the hose on them now and then to wash off some of the grease and goo, and you’re pretty much free to go about your business. There’s no need to cook for them. Leave food in the refrigerator and they’ll find it. But you must be careful to shop in stages. If you blow the entire grocery budget on a single shopping trip, you’ll be shocked to awake the next morning to find the cupboard bare and the refrigerator door hanging from its hinges.
Boys are like land sharks. They’re always moving, perpetually dirty, forever hungry, and generally serve no redeemable purpose until the age of 45.
Girls are a different story all together. It’s been said that girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice. That may be true when taken individually, in public, when cameras are present. Behind closed doors however, having multiple daughters in the house is like having an equivalent number of cats tied up in a burlap sack swinging from a chandelier. There will be a bit of hissing, a lot of shrieking, and every now and then one of them is going to take a swipe at the others just to make sure everybody knows who is in charge.
Just to be clear – nobody is in charge. Nobody. Everybody is a little afraid, though.
If one son uses the other’s best winter jacket as a drop cloth while changing the oil in the family lawn mower, one of two things happens. The owner of the damaged jacket will either say, “Uh huh,” and show a total lack of interest when informed of the slight, or he’ll go pee on every piece of clothing in his brother’s closet. Either way, the whole thing is over in a matter of minutes – give or take the time required to do the laundry.
If, on the other hand, one daughter wears another daughter’s t-shirt to a party and inadvertently drips a dab of cocktail sauce on it – nobody would think less of you for raising the National Terrorism Advisory System a color bar or two.
It goes without saying that the damaged shirt was a favorite piece of clothing with a complicated history involving beloved grandparents, national holidays, important emotional bonds, and perhaps a limited edition piece of designer apparel that can never, ever be replaced.
Even if the shirt is red, and in fact the exact same shade of red as the cocktail sauce that dribbled onto it, and regardless of the fact that the size of the spot can only be measured in terms of the width of the molecules the cocktail sauce was constructed of, the tirade caused by this inhuman tragedy will go on without interruption until either the offending daughter begs forgiveness, hands over her entire jewelry box as tribute, and promises to never, ever, for any reason enter her sister’s room again – or if a boy calls.
Parenthood is hard. Pity us. Better yet, hide us. We could use a day off. Seriously. If you’ve got a cot in your toolshed and know how to keep your mouth shut, we should talk.