Boys and Girls

by Lisa Rosen on September 12, 2011

Toby is a senior in high school.  That makes this–for those of us who are math-impaired–his fourth year at the high school.  Delaney is a freshman (at the same school).  That makes this–again with the math–her fifth week at the school.

Lee and I have learned more about the school in the last three weeks than we did in the previous three years combined.

Boys and girls.  Two unrelated species.

You know, when our children were born, I was absolutely convinced I could raise gender-neutral humans.  I believed, deep in my soul, that the differences between men and women, boys and girls, were societally-imposed.  So I did my best to treat them equally, and I think I was pretty successful, at least in the early years.  Toby played with trucks–and dolls.  Delaney played with dolls–and trucks.  They both wore pink–and blue (actually, they both gravitated toward red, as soon as they were old enough to have opinions).  Toby was nurtured and coddled when he needed it; Delaney learned to be as rough-and-tumble as her brother.  I talked to them equally, and tried to be mindful of the kind of subtle gender-bias that we often don’t even realize we have.

But somewhere along the line, I realized that all my high-and-mighty, ivory-tower ideals were nothing compared to the essential boy-ness of a little boy.

And now, as time goes by, a big boy.  Toby is probably more verbal and talkative than a lot of teenage boys, but when it comes to talking about school?  He’s a cliche.

“Hello dear.  How was your day?”


With Delaney it’s a different (and sometimes quite long and involved) story altogether.

“Hello dear.  How was your day?”

“Hi Mom.  It was fine.  In first period [drama], we started with warm-ups, then we did Park Bench.  I was with Arielle.  She said she was allergic to peanut butter, so I said I liked to put peanut butter on my right arm.  Then I said I like to put it on my left arm.  Then I said I like to put it on the bench.  Isn’t that funny?”

And so on.

Interesting things we’ve learned that we never knew:

–The English teacher is married to the pre-calculus teacher.

–The homeroom teacher just had a baby.

–The wife of the Civics teacher just had a baby.

–One of the math teachers is the mother of another math teacher (NOT the one who is married to the English teacher–that math department is really quite interesting).

–Clubs all meet at lunchtime.  Hunh.  Really, I had no idea.

–Even though clubs meet at lunch, lots of stuff still goes on after school (as evidenced by the number of times I’ve had to pick her up late, since Toby NEVER stays late).

–The English teacher (the one who’s married to the math teacher) is OCD.  Also–hunh.

–Senior pictures (the taking of which is apparently our responsibility) are due in early October (really?  The freshman tells us this and the senior never mentions it?)

–Extended schedule days are designed for science/math labs, so all the other classes just watch movies during that time.  Interesting.

–There is a pretty constant flow of snacks and treats being brought in for one reason or another (so THAT explains all those times I had to buy a dozen doughnuts on the way to school).

–The quizzes and small tests are pretty constant.  Again–HUNH.  I HAD NO IDEA (but it certainly explains a lot about those grades . . .)

–Some of those vocabulary quizzes are really pretty poorly designed.  That is actually very interesting–and surprising–to my pedagogically-inclined self.

–This particular school (relatively small for a high school–about 500 students) actually has a lot of the stuff we associate with high school, like, y’know, school spirit.  T-shirts.  Athletes dressing up on game day (I hadn’t thought about that since I was in high school).  TOBY HAS TOLD US NONE OF THIS.

–There is a thing called lunch detention.  Related:  this is undesirable.  I did not know either of these facts.

–What it’s like milling about before school, after school, between classes, how long the lines are if you want pizza for lunch, how much talking goes on in class, which classrooms are coldest, which have the best chairs/desks, which have assigned seating, which teachers are funny/boring/scary–this is all news to us.

Sigh.  They are who they are–I’ve finally accepted that certain gender differences are just hard-wired.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Amelia September 15, 2011 at 11:44 am

This makes me wonder, as most of your posts do. 🙂
I have 2 girls and as I was raising them, I really didn’t try to make them gender neutral. In true American fashion, I succombed to all the pink and ruffles that I could muster (and they’d allow). I did try to raise strong, independent women, but I didn’t buy them boy toys.
But neither of my girls are tremendous information sharers. My 18-year-old in particular. I always thought it was her lack of verbal skills. She’s not nearly as verbal as her younger sister. But could it be a first born thing?
Just food for thought.


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