When my children were just babies, it was already easy to see one way boys were different than girls; our girls would stare into peoples’ eyes and concentrate on the faces that were in front of them and our boy would look all around a room, taking in everything at once, including the person talking to him. As they became toddlers our daughters were fixated on dolls, animals and relationships while our son focused on planes, trains and cars. Even early on, it seemed as though boys wanted to answer the question ‘how’ and girls were more interested in the ‘why’.
Now my babies are teens and the male/female differences have been reduced in a lot of ways; boys and girls are treated similarly in high school, and expected to act much the same way and society has worked hard in recent years to make us believe that we can all be just alike. However, in our house we still have a lot of conversations about how men and women are different, and we highlight those differences in our children and in others around us.
For example, men have been given a great amount of physical strength. When our son was smaller, I used to warn our girls to be careful, he would become stronger than them someday, and he has! Strength is a wonderful trait to possess, as a woman I cannot imagine having the knowledge that I could physically fend for myself and others if needed. I believe that God gave men strength to do just that, to protect self and others; we talk with our son about the need to be a protector and the responsibility that this requires.
When our daughters get frustrated because of the unfairness of being the ‘weaker sex’ we talk with them about the fact that they have intuition. This is a strength that most men do not have and I view it as a sixth sense, an ability to feel out and assess the safety of a situation. This trait allows women to avoid a certain route or take cover if needed. I feel very sure that God gave women this extra characteristic for safety reasons, and also to help balance out the equation with men, and we talk with our daughters about the need to respect their intuitions, even when they cannot explain the feelings they have.
Our children have heard these thoughts for years, and our daughters have been taught to appreciate the strength of man, and to encourage it in them. Our son has been well informed about women’s intuition and taught to honor it, especially when it doesn’t make logical sense. In this generation that demands that everyone be regarded the same, we are trying to teach our kids that God made them different from each other, and to celebrate those differences.
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To read more of Jennifer’s thoughts and reflections on parenting a house of teenagers, visit her blog here.