Wednesday, September 5, 2007

To the Y Chromosome

Even as a baby Chip never was never still. A very wiggly baby, he managed to shake his head in protest at the age of 8 days and slither down because he hated the rolled up blankets his grandmother put to support his head (as a result his head always flopped to one side and has a flat spot).

While I enviously saw other babies sit happily in their baby bjorns, Chip would tug at the snaps, kick in our groins and flail his arms, until we took him out and carried him in our arms where he had better access to everything around him. He wasn’t very happy with the stroller either (thank god we did not buy the pricey-fancy travel system). He would kick and whine until we took him out and later when he was a little older, would simply slither down a bit and hold the wheel by placing his foot on it. He learnt to come down the stairs using his famous tummy slide even before he learnt to crawl. He would climb on the sofa and crawl on the wide ledge of the living-room picture window before he could walk.

So when friends would tell (horror) stories of how their 20 month olds threw the phone out of a window or dunked a toy in the toilet bowl, I would laugh politely. Because just the night before, Chip would have done something like taking an apple out of the fridge, getting my 6” knife from the kitchen drawer by standing on his truck and proceeding to cut the apple on the floor. Even now while many toddlers follow their mothers around grocery stores, or sit in the carts, Chip actively shops by himself for the things he likes to eat. He gets yogurt and a head of broccoli, peaches, bread, orange juice (no pulp, extra calcium and if that’s on a higher shelf, he will gladly climb and get it if it were not for his mom glaring down) and milk. There are mysterious items in the cart every time ranging from kosher meat and cantaloupes to bottles of wine.

If I had a nickel for every time I heard strangers remark fondly “He is all boy” or variations there of, Chip’s college would be taken care of (ok, I am obviously exaggerating, but hey, I am a blogger). But we also get some cold stares. I don’t let Chip run all amok in stores, but he is a boy and will walk up and down the aisle fifteen times while I pick stuff off the shelf. He is forbidden to push the grocery cart, so he will stand on the lower bar and push it with his feet like riding a scooter. He will not sit still as most girls will. (So to all those, who think gender is solely a social construct, think again.) I tried to get Chip to play with dolls, but he had more fun figuring out how their eyes closed and their arms moved and scrutinizing their pee-pees (or the lack thereof). He climbs fences, plays with sticks and stones, can walk a mile and half without getting tired, eats bugs and pretends his truck is a skateboard (this deserves a post of its own) and knows the name of every construction vehicle ever manufactured.

I feel for boys and their mothers in this day and age where everything is so girl-centric. There are hardly any male teachers and the female teachers are so touchy-feely, that boys in high schools read Jane Austen instead of Robinson Crusoe or Tom Sawyer. And then these teachers complain that the boys' reading skills don’t match to girls’. How will it when they are given material they simply can’t connect with? Boys are encouraged to sit still and talk about their feelings. This is not how boys communicate.

My mother, a teacher for close to thirty years, who teaches middle school in India (she also teaches kids with special needs such as slow learners and dyslexic kids) tells me how over the years the tolerance towards ‘boy-ness’ has decreased as a result of which virtually every boy who has a hard time sitting still in class is diagnosed with ADHD and put on drugs. In all these years, she said, she has come across with one boy, dyslexic, who was very, very restless that it really concerned her and she asked the parents to seek professional help. She has a simple remedy for active boys. She tells them to go take a walk/run and burn off their steam before school starts and tells the parents to enroll them in some form of Martial Arts. 99 times out of 100, it solves the problem. If Chip does not spend an hour or two outside running, jumping, climbing, he gets belligerent and restless at home.

There is an inherent aggression in boys. It needs to be channeled not stifled. Their love for adventure and physical activity needs a creative outlet not disapproval. Depending on how they are treated, these little boys will grow up and become fearless astronouts and marines or will end up in street gangs. Its the same aggression, the same love for adventure, the same penchant for taking risks.

I always joke that Chip only has a third of a brain in his head. The rest is divided between his hands and feet. And a few days ago, while reading an article on Slate, I found there was a word for it. Haptic. It means hand-on. Boys are haptic learners. Who knew? So when Chip’s need for physical activity, his love for machines and non stop adventure tire me out, I remember a bib Chip once had which said- Thank Heaven for Little Boys.


Kodi's Mom said...

wow! loved the post. loved the Chip description! have some points I disagree on (I don't think all little girls sit still, and I know of little girls who climbed before they talked, who fight aggressively with siblings) but that apart....I totally agree with what you said about channeling the energy. wish more teachers worldwide would treat adhd and hyperactivity with the kindness and understanding that your mom does.

Dee said...

very good post! loved reading it esp. since I have a boy too. Labelling every thing as a disorder has become fashionable these days! My son is just 20 months old and I find it hard to keep him inside the house for long....

Tharini said...

Nice article. I can relate on many counts. Winkie is more tame compared to his THambi I feel. This guy was such awriggle worm in utero, and to this day I cannot hold him in my arms for a 1 min cuddle, because of how hyper he is.

Even with home, he's always loud, rambunctious, on the go, running, jumping, doing stunts etc that I am dreading this coming winter when we have to keep him inside and find some outlet for the energy.

Never knew the term haptic. Very nice. Its something I'm always going to remember.

Anonymous said...

hey, could you please post the link to the Slate article? (or could I do a search for it on the home page?) Thanks!

And as a mother of 2 boys, I can totally relate. My mom is a teacher too (middle school) and she has exactly the same philosophy as your mother!

Great post!


Sue said...

From 'Just One Year' -- The Bhablet has it too. He has a whole set of clothes with that line.

You know, I completely agree about the different teaching methods necessary in the same classroom. The most successful teachers I have encountered in all my co-ed days have been folks who managed to interest both the boys and the girls in the same class. Which only goes to show that such a thing is quite possible.

rbdans said...

First time here.. Lovely template you have.
Beautifully written post, though I disagree with some of the girl Vs boy comps. I have a 34 month old daughter who is tough to contain at one spot. Lot of things I could relate to, she seems more interested in getting hands on to fix her broken play piano than to play with girlie things. Same with reading books, she is all for Bob the builder. Think its the genes. Maybe she got more of Hubby's than mine :) :(
I agree on the teachers part, in the sense of having more male teachers for a varied perspective.

Moppet's Mom said...

Interesting perspective - although I have to tell you that if you think girls sit still, you haven't met mine! Or the 4 girls in her class either! I do think it's child specific - although at some point as they grow up gender typing does happen.

DotMom said...

Kodis mom: Thanks!
Dee: I agree!
Tharini: Ever subscribe to wordsmith?
atgc: you caught my laziness-
Sue: There is such a problem with teacher quality. I have half a mind to become one.
rdbans: On the average there are more super-active boys than super active girls... your little girl is going to love lincoln logs :) Thanks for stopping by!!
Moppet's mom: I am sure you do. All I am saying there is a greater tendency of boys being overactive, which is not to be confused with a busybody.

mnamma said...

Hi Dotmom,
First time here. I disagree with some of the points you laid out. I think being very active and hands-on is more genetically predisposed. I have 4 year old twin girls and they like playing with their building blocks better than playing with barbie :)And the runing around in the super market they once gave me a heart attack by completely dissapearing out of sight in Costco when they were around 2.I agree with you in that gender sterotyping starts pretty early here.

karmickids said...

Completely, wholeheartedly, absolutely, totally agree. Chip and the brat must meet up...I agree, am fighting a battle with school and therapy and everyone to keep brat off medication. But he's so restless, I know the only way to get him to sit still is to tire the hell out of hugs to your very wise mother...

Squiggles Mom said...

Interesting! I keep buying Squiggles gender neutral stuff but I'm not sure it will help. Plus everyone else aids gender stereotyping in any case.