Thursday, 25 July 2013

Exercising the boy

Hermaphrodite Mum
Three kids and a single mum

The summer holidays have begun. Sigh. I love having my children at home again, but it does take me a few days to transition into full-time earth mother with a dozen craft projects up her sleeve. We are only a few days in and I am already wondering how we will all survive the next six weeks together. Middle Child is careering around the house like a Cocker Spaniel in desperate need of a walk, while Quiet One hibernates in her bedroom.
Cocker Spaniel with flying ears
Middle Child needs daily exercise
and regular spells in the garden
 
© Zaretskaya | Dreamstime.com

If you could harness Middle Child's boy-energy in some way, our town would become carbon-neutral within a matter of months. Instead, he channels his vigor into disrupting his sisters and generally being a pest. Recent acts of torment include hiding Quiet One's pencil case in the bin, chucking her flip-flops into the neighbouring garden and 'autographing' her collection of pop CDs. Non-Walking Toddler is not safe either: just as she is contentedly communing with the Tomblibooshe delights in switching the channel over to CBBC's Splatalot.

Upstairs, Quiet One spends her days reading, sketching and doing her homework. She has even been known to empty the dishwasher of a morning and make her own bed. While Middle Child demands more TV time, more biscuits, more crisps, or a later bedtime (dream on, little man!), she habitually toes the line. Even NW Toddler has become remarkably low-maintenance as she sits watching the antics of her older siblings with curiosity bordering on obsessional devotion.

Last weekend, I read a newspaper article about how girls should learn to be more disruptive and challenge authority. According to Dr Kevin Stannard of the Girl's Day School Trust, by encouraging girls to be obedient and conscientious, we could put them at a disadvantage in later life. 


"Are we doing girls a long-term disservice by defining their performance in terms of their compliance to expectations of behaviour and work that reflect, reinforce and reproduce differences between the genders," he asks.

He acknowledges that girls outperform boys at school (a structured environment that encourages a balanced approach to debate and essay-writing) but says that they lose ground later on, during university interviews, for example, where they are required to be more combative and risk-taking.

I can see his point (I am a girl after all), but I couldn't help feeling rather provoked. In my mind, it isn't the girls that are at fault, or even the way we teach, but our culture and the personality traits we are told to celebrate. 'Male' qualities, such as competitiveness and risk-taking, are often lauded at the expense of more 'female' attributes, such as empathy, co-operation and compliance to the rules. Put quite simply, society would fail to function if there weren't a few female types around to oil the wheels. We may be attracted to charismatic leaders, challenging the status quo, but who actually does the work?

While I don't wish to repress Middle Child's zest for life, I have no qualms about teaching him to live by the rules. Over the last few days, he has cleaned the butter off his sister's pencil case, retrieved her flip-flops and missed a few of episodes of Splatalot. I have also signed him up for tennis camp and forest school. Until I can sell his energy back to the national grid, he will be burning it up with all the other reckless types. Meanwhile, I will be applying for my diploma in personality management.




Hermaphrodite Mum is a fictional creation of Emma Clark Lam
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