The majority of all of human DNA is identical—about 99.9 percent according to research by the Human Genome Project—so how is it that two children, with nearly identical DNA, raised by the same parents, can be so different? For our family, it comes down to the simple difference between an X and Y chromosome.
When I learned that our second baby would be a boy I was very excited. I knew raising a boy would be different than raising a girl, but could it really be more difficult, as I had heard so many times in the past?
I figured that if I did the exact same things I did with my daughter, that maybe my son’s disposition would resemble my daughter’s. I tried, I really tried, to treat our son just as I had our daughter, but obviously that’s impossible. When my son was born, after three years of being a mother, I had changed, I had grown. But still, I did the same basic things with him—nursing, co-sleeping, baby wearing, reading, etc.
Now that nearly 16 months have passed since his birth, he is a completely different person than his sister was at this age. OK, in all fairness to him, he’s not completely different. They share the same sweet and caring disposition, a love of learning and exploration, and a strong connection with their one and only M-o-m. But when it comes to expressing those personality traits, my daughter and son are nothing short of polar opposites.
My daughter is very dainty, the ultimate girl in every way. She does like to run around and play with the boys, but in the same breath she is perfectly content with her nose in a book, or dressing up in one of her many princess outfits.
My son, on the other hand, is nothing short of a typical boy. His idea of exploring the earth is sticking his hands deep in the dirt, pulling out chunks, and throwing it up in the air, laughing as the results of his dig come cascading down around him. I am convinced that getting muddy and dirty is one of his daily goals.
He likes to read, but he’d rather flip through the pages and point out what he likes instead of hearing me recite the words on each page. And he’s not afraid to run in the other direction in the store to start a game of “let’s see how many times I can get mom to chase me before I get strapped back into the stroller.” He definitely marches to the beat of his own drum; he’s not going to conform to what I’m comfortable with just because it would make my life easier.
And while he is completely and utterly exhausting, I know he’s doing just what he’s supposed to be doing. He’s his own person and he has his own way of learning about the world around him. I’ve come to realize that the same formula that I created with my daughter isn’t necessarily going to work with my son. They are individuals and aren’t going to learn and grow in the same ways. But when I step back and look, these two individuals who on the surface appear so different, share so many wonderful qualities.
So the age-old question leaves me wondering: Are little boys really more difficult to raise than little girls? I think they’re more exhausting, but I think that they each come with their own sets of challenges. It’s really too early to tell—I still have many years of parenting ahead of me.
My son definitely brings a lot of challenges to the table, but snuggling with him at the end of the day and seeing his smile as he drifts off into a peaceful sleep is enough to make me forget the hard times, and I rise each morning with renewed patience and anticipation for his boundless need to explore.