Dear Dave

Friday 7 September 2007

Sugar and spice

Dear Dave,

Yep, might be a girl. In only a couple of weeks you could have a daughter. The three years of on-the-job training in childcare you got from looking after Sam will be out the window as you struggle to cope with an entirely different species of offspring. All your old tricks for entertaining, feeding, pacifying and cajoling will fail to work. For instance, while Sam fell asleep on your chest as you watched repeats of Top Gear, Squiggly will insist on being rocked gently while listening to Take That's Greatest Hits. On the plus side, however, the makeshift restraining harness you fitted to the changing unit for Sam will be strangely unnecessary - Squiggly will let you change her nappy without trying to gouge out your eyes and then kick poo in your face.

Well, you can always hope...

It might not turn out exactly that way but who knows? Whatever happens, Squiggly will be a whole different bundle of joy from Sam, whether she's a girl or not.

It's just that, if she is a girl, people will ascribe almost every difference in behaviour to their gender. They will probably tell you that girls are much more demanding than boys for all manner of reasons involving being precocious and awkward. Don't be disheartened, however. Bear in mind that these are the same people who told you last time round that boys are more demanding than girls because they're always running around causing trouble and getting into everything. Just nod and smile.

The truth is, all children are different. As a baby, Marie didn't eat, didn't sleep, had screaming fits and was forever ill. She was certainly more awkward than either of the boys but, to be honest, Fraser wasn't much better. In terms of temperament, those two are most similar. Lewis was a really easy baby, however. We thought it was because he was our second child and we'd learnt our lessons from Fraser and we knew what we were doing.

But we were wrong.

We used the same tactics with Marie and none of them worked. Lewis was just a really contented baby who liked to eat and sleep, was able to amuse himself and didn't appear to notice his teeth coming in. He even tans well. (The other two burst into flame in direct sunlight). We didn't know how lucky we'd been until Marie arrived and developed a fondness for waking up at three in the morning to grumble loudly for a couple of hours. I kind of assume 2006 happened, but I don't really remember it.

Was Marie's aversion to sleep because she's a girl? I doubt it. It's not like she was sitting around all day demurely and not getting enough exercise. Fraser chewed everything, Lewis heaped anything he could find into piles but Marie was the baby who wouldn't stay still. She could climb before she could walk. When the boys finally managed to haul themselves up onto the sofa, they sprawled out and watched TV. Marie just used it as a staging post on her ascent of the sideboard.

'Boys are more active' - yeah, right...

Obviously, I don't have a very large sample to base my observations on. Maybe some traits are more likely in girls rather than boys. I don't know. The thing is, though, you can't count on them. Every child has their own personality and needs - it's a case of getting to know them and nurturing them.

Speaking of nurturing, there's the gnarly question of whether to treat girls differently from boys. Will Squiggly get dolls or Duplo for Christmas? That kind of thing.

You think you won't treat them differently but the truth is probably that you just won't notice you're treating them differently. She'll have the opportunity to take up ballet and dress-making, if she wants, but you won't stand in her way if she decides to go for rugby and car maintenance. You'll even encourage her. There'll be no treating her differently 'because she's a girl'.

But what if Sam wants to take up ballet and dress-making?

You may be man enough to let him but don't tell me you won't be uneasy. You will hope it's just a passing phase. You will take him to Six Nations matches and buy him a set of wrenches.

Nope, you will treat them differently and there are some things you won't be able to avoid. If Squiggly is a girl, then the colour pink will enter your life in a big way.

Babies look alike. Guessing the gender of a baby in a white babygro is next to impossible. They're all bald and wrinkly. Colours vary but that doesn't help much. If she isn't dressed in pink, then people will assume she's a boy. I don't know why - they just will. Admittedly, they may do this anyway but, if she's covered head-to-toe in neon candyfloss, at least you'll have an excuse to roll your eyes a bit. You could try other colours like purple or lilac but you might as well accept your fate and embrace the pink. The fluffy, day-glo pile of baby gifts you receive will look like someone's disemboweled a bus load of cuddly toys with a highlighter pen, whatever.

We did our best with Marie but one of her first sentences was still, 'I like pink.' If she could have added 'actually' on the end, I'm sure she would have done.

Long hair is also fairly essential for little girls. Again, for reasons of recognition. Welcome to the world of hairclips and headbands and small, tangled children running away screaming as you approach with a hairbrush. ('It sore! It sore! I want mummy do it!')

What else? Well, girls get to trade on being cute. Marie managed to blag some pink Post-its off my optician the other day just by simpering. The boys would have needed to be charming as well.

Obviously, potty training is a little different with a girl (but not that much).

Longer term, I guess there will be other issues but there's no point worrying about them yet - there'll be plenty of time for that when Squiggly's a teenager. (Shudder). It's never too early to start planning how to embarrass her in front of her first boyfriend, though, or to jot down a few notes for a wedding speech...

Honestly, you'll be fine.

Yours in a woman's world,


An enormous pile of fluffy, pink clothes.
A selection of Marie's clothes. Soon all this pink could be yours, Dave. (Literally. I'm going to pack it in a box and send it to you before it contaminates the rest of the house).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Incidentally,male ballet dancers are just as likely to be straight as in any other vocation. In fact I expect that they are more likely to be harder,stronger,and with more general aptitude than most. Not at all like a stereotypical image of a pathetic,limp,gay ballet dancer. As for dress making,there's plenty money to be made there if he's any good at it.....