We were stopped at a red light on our way to soccer practice when the boys noticed another driver picking her nose.
Picture the uproar: Four middle school-aged boys, one nose picker!
I seriously don’t know how my little hatchback stayed upright. I don’t even know how I got the boys to practice. Thankfully, I did. Otherwise they might have talked about mucous for hours.
Boys – there’s a different energy about them. Maybe I say this because I have worked at girls’ schools for the past six years. Some of my students, for example, would have shrieked at the woman in the car next to us, while my son and his friends just hooted and guffawed.
These days, it feels a little outdated to notice the differences between boys and girls. News stories, in fact, have told us about parents who have refused to identify the gender of their children so their offspring’s tastes and interests would be determined by their personality — and not by whether they were a boy or a girl.
I get that. I do. Because let’s face it, in the history of gender, separate has not been equal.
And then I am riding in a car with boys and I can’t help but see how different they can be from girls.
My son Doyle liked the exact same thing his sister Leeannah did when he was a baby – pots and pans. Then he graduated to her old toy kitchen and he cruised around it like a Food Network chef, opening and closing the oven and stuffing inside it a plastic chicken leg.
He played so much with one pot that the handle came off.
And then I bought him a hockey stick. I’m not sure why – it looked like something he would like. It had a handle. And it was about 18 inches long, so it was the perfect height for him. I guess he was about two then.
We used to play in the hallway. It was a game he never tired of. When he was three, he learned to skate. When he was four, he played on his first team. Then there was T-ball. And at some point, soccer entered the picture.
Doyle is Kinesthetic Man. He is always running or jumping or catching something. The other day he told me his gym teacher seems to favor him, because he frequently asks Doyle to demonstrate the new activity for his classmates.
Of course, I thought. Of course.
In the battle of nature versus parent, I have never seen myself as much of a contender. From birth, my children’s personalities seemed their most fully formed feature. What makes their generation better than mine, of course, is that what’s acceptable for each gender has expanded – Leeannah and Doyle were about eight and five when they realized that men could be doctors, too. Before that, they had never met a male physician.
I am 43 and grew up in a small town. I don’t remember ever meeting a female doctor as a child.
And yet, there’s that energy: On the night of the Nose Picking Incident — after we finally made it to practice – Leeannah called in a panic. She had lost her cell phone when she was walking home from the grocery store and was distraught. She never heard it fall from her pocket, so she figured it was on the grassy plot behind the neighborhood church.
After practice, I pulled up to St. Pius X and the boys elbowed and tripped out of the car. They were like an eight-armed joke monster, weaving over the grass in no easy pattern, cracking each other up.
Were they really looking for the phone, I thought as I watched them, amazed at how they approached this problem. Again, it was so different from what the girls in my classroom – many of them as kinesthetic as these boys — would have done. By now, for example, one of them surely would have appointed herself as the leader of this project.
And then – “I found it!” “I saw it second!” The boys dog piled on top of each other. The limbed monster turned into phone retriever, and we had victory.
I should have known.
The soccer players jostled their way back to the car. I gave them high fives and we headed back home.