But, like with a lot of things, I didn't understand what they meant until I experienced it myself. Now I'm starting to get the idea.
I have never been a fan of gender stereotyping. I can't stand that when you go to the big online toy stores they divvy everything up between "boys" and "girls" - as if girls can only want to play Suzy Homemaker and boys only like trucks and cars. My kids seem interested in all manner of things - toys don't run along gender lines in our house. So I don't notice the difference so much in what they play with, as much as how they play. How they approach the world.
Greta and her girl friends create these imaginary worlds, pretend-play games, and the rules of the game seem almost more important than the game itself - it is all about the planning. Listening to her play with a friend the other day, they spent a good 45 minutes plotting their strategy: "you're the princess, and you live in a cottage alone by a lake and you miss your family. I'll be the sister looking for you everywhere, I ride a brown horse. You're singing and washing your clothes in the lake, and I'll come rescue you." They spend all of five minutes playing, before altering the story line and setting the stage all over again. Very little is spontaneous.
Finn is like a mad scientist. He is all about cause and effect. He'll smash things open, mix them together, or take things apart, and his rationale is always the same: "I just wanted to see what happens!" I marvel at how he barrels headlong through life - setting things into motion just to see what will come of it. Even when he is doing something he knows is wrong, he can't always help himself. He doesn't try to cover it up, either. The other day I saw him sneaking up to the sleeping cat, carrying a pair of scissors.
"Don't, Finn" I said. "Don't go near the kitty with the scissors."
"It's okay, Momma!" he says, smiling. "I just going to give him a haircut!"
"No, its dangerous. Put the scissors down."
"It's sewiously okay. I just want to see if it hurts the kitty to cut his hair," he explains.
"Why would you want to hurt the kitty? Just STOP."
He creeps closer to the unsuspecting cat. "It's okay, Momma. I just want to see what happens."
He was obsessed with flushing things down the toilet for a while. I kept explaining that he can't do that, that it could clog the toilet, and he kept doing it. It took me a while to realize the potential of clogging the toilet was precisely why he wanted to do it.
He will sit and do an activity like painting for all of five minutes, and then he'll wonder what would happen if he put the paintbrush up his nose, or smear the paint all over his belly, or splatter the paint on the wall. It is exhausting, trying to anticipate all the ways he could become curious about something as innocent as painting.
I do my best not to compare, not to think "your sister would never have done this." I adore his innate curiosity, how interested he is in interacting with his environment. But it is challenging, when I come in the room and catch him pouring a glass of milk down his pants just, you know, to see what happens.
I notice the differences the most with potty training. Greta was logical and stubborn about the whole process. She completely understood what was required of her, but was going to make up her own mind about when she was ready. One day she decided to use the potty only, and that was that. She was out of pull-ups day and night within five days.
Potty training is proving to be more challenging with Finn. He, too, understands what is required, and started using the potty regularly pretty much as soon as it was introduced. A whole new world was opened up, though. What happens when you pee on a flower? the cat? the rug? a potty for sale at a store? (that was a bad day). Going in hia pants isn't the problem. It is not going on everything else that is difficult. Ready, Fire, Aim.