Just as the many differences between men and women and girls and boys are well documented, they are abundantly obvious in my household. With two of each gender, we have been called a “Millionaire’s Family” but although rich with love, we are often hopelessly impoverished when attempting to understand the rationale and reasoning employed by members of the opposite sex.
Although the actual source of strife escapes me, it was during a long-ago conversation with my husband that our differences in thinking, which seem to have emerged since we had kids, became strikingly obvious.
He stood before me, clearly exasperated, arms stretched wide apart. Puzzled, and more than a little concerned for his health, I watched as he sputtered slightly, searching for just the right words to convey his apparently urgent message. Finally, he proclaimed loudly and with great emotion, “THE RULES FOR LIVING WITH YOU ARE THIS BIG!”
OK, so I admit (more readily here than to the man with whom I have pledged to spend the rest of my days) that I may have a touch of neurosis when it comes to the use of sunscreen, car seats and an assortment of helmets for all activities, but when my husband insensitively suggested that not only do I have too many rules, but that each rule has subsections A to Z, and 1 to 100, I felt a little dejected. However, according to rule number 45, part D, this was not an appropriate discussion to have in front of the children, who were giggling uncontrollably while watching this comedy-drama unfold.
Before we had kids, we agreed on just about everything. As tempting as it may be to think that this is because my husband is a “Yes, Dear” kind of a guy, sadly, this is not the case – although I’m certain that in itself would surely lead to wedded bliss.
Our kids were three and six when I came to the realization that we had not simply become “parents,” but rather were turning into a stereotypical “mother and father.”
Around the same time, I was realizing that similar differences existed between our son and daughter. As much as I would have like to have denied the age-old expectations based on gender, as our kids’ play preferences began to diverge, it was clear that were dealing with different beings.
After members of our extended families had abided by an unspoken No-Barbie rule in our household, she arrived on our daughter’s third Christmas as a result of her enthusiastic reply to a seemingly innocuous question. When asked by her grandparents what she would like for Christmas, Elena shrieked with delight and sang-shouted with glee, “Barbies! Barbies! Barbies!”
With Barbie’s arrival, it became more obvious why we had been reluctant to welcome her with open (impossibly svelte) arms. Although fairly dexterous, Elena could not independently dress her in the tight clothes provided. As I struggled to dress Barbie, her body actually squeaked and her limbs distorted – a task that did very little to endear her to me.
I remember completing Barbie-in-the-Kitchen’s ensemble by stuffing her feet into spiked heels and thinking fondly of my son’s Rescue Heroes who were heroic and brave, and wore practical outerwear made from molded, painted-on plastic. They were accessorized with awesome trajectories that helped them climb, rappel and fly while executing any type of rescue imaginable.
However, under my son’s direction, their equipment was used to better obliterate the “bad guys.” These noble characters, whose reassuring mantra “No one gets left behind!” were regularly reduced to brawling men and women… both considered equal, at least.
One Sunday afternoon as my husband and I discussed the merits of cleaning up the kitchen immediately following lunch, versus relaxing first, we wandered into the playroom to see what the kids were up to. Generally speaking, provided Nick wasn’t trying to pummel Elena, and Elena wasn’t trying to nurture Nick, our kids played nicely together.
On this day, long ago, Nick, dressed in a pirate’s costume, lunged repeatedly at a make believe foe. “Elena!” he said breathlessly. “Pretend I’m a sword fighting Pirate, OK?”
“OK, “Elena agreed excitedly, and as she emerged from her toy house wearing a crown and tutu, she said, “And I’m a Princess Ballerina!” Over the noise of, but strangely in harmony with the sword fight, she sang, twirled and glowed in the glory of performance.
And although one of us was more bothered than the other by the mess that remained in the kitchen, my husband and I sat down to enjoy what was shaping up to be quite a show.
originally published in the Waterloo Region Record