Jason and I are asked many questions about our family. A family of six tends to be attention grabbing; add on the fact that all four children are boys and people lose all self control. They just can't help but ask us what it's like. We don't mind, as long as the questions are polite. (You'd be amazed--or maybe you wouldn't--how rude people can be.) The question I love the most is one that isn't asked often: What is your favorite thing about having four boys?
One of the aspects that is most interesting about all our children being the same gender is that we get to truly see how different they are. I think we are able to appreciate how each of their unique characteristics make them individuals in a way that parents with offspring of both genders can't. I know that sounds kind of bad, so let me try to explain what I mean.
My parents had two kids: a girl and a boy. Nate and I are nearly nine years apart in age and could not be more different if we tried. (I mean that in a good way. My brother is awesome.) In conversations I have had with my dad he has told me that it never occurred to him to attribute the differences in our personalities to anything other than the fact that we were different genders. I personally believe that's very common given the sheer number of general "gender statements" that I hear parents make. So when I say we understand our children as individuals, what I mean is that we see past the stereotypes of what a boy is supposed to be and simply see the child.
Our boys have the same parents, live in the same house, and people can usually tell that they are brothers; however, that is where the similarities end. There is only one dare-devil out of the bunch. We have two (so far) who appear interested in sports; the other two, not so much. All four kids adore books; they are also ridiculously excited about video games. We have two obsessed with cars, one who preferred trains, and one who never had much interest in toys of any sort. One of the kids pretends that stuffed animals are "babies"; another adores Ariel. Only one of them has ever listed blue as their favorite color; three have gone through a pink phase and one of them really likes purple. Given the choice, the two little ones prefer princess shaped noodles in their soup. In terms of stereotypical boy traits, our kids don't score all that high when rated against each other.
These are the kinds of things I'm thinking as we go through our daily routine. Sometimes I feel like some sort of sociology professor, studying nature vs. nurture. (I'm not, of course, but it's fun to pretend!) Here are two boys, born of the same parents, raised the same way, and given all the same materials for painting:
One prefers to use his fingers, getting messy while daubing color onto the paper in circular, rounded patterns--
--while the other prefers the slightly neater use of brushes and straight, linear designs.
And I get to sit back and watch, all the while marveling at how wonderfully different these two little boys are. I get to see that they are individual children with interests and traits that are all their own and which we don't believe have much at all to do with their gender. They view the world through their own individual perceptions. Their personalities are wildly different and have been since before birth. I find that fascinating and it is, without a doubt, my favorite thing about being a parent to four boys.
What kind of gender role beliefs do you have in your family? Respectful disagreements are welcome!