I love having 3 girls. Individually, collectively I love it. The dynamic, their personalities, the fancy stuff, the girly-girlness of it all. I feel like I won the lottery.
Of course, OF COURSE, it should go without saying that had my lasses been lads, I would have loved them just as much. Boys are awesome too. In general, I'm a fan of humans.
But here's the rub... I can't count the number of times people have said, Oh boy... just wait until they're teenagers. You're in trouble! or Yikes, girls... that's a lot of drama. or Girls are just hard! Or something of the like.
And lets take a step back to get a broader look. Mean girls--it's a cultural thing. And trust me, I know it's real. There are definitely mean girls. I had my fair share of drama with the queen bee's of middle school and I was not completely innocent of mean girl behavior myself from time to time. And I know this goes far beyond middle school. Mean girls are a real thing at every age. But often we talk about "mean girls" and it seems that we are creating the issue just by talking about it. Again I'm not saying mean girls don't exist--they do. At every age. Check and check. But have you ever been together with a group of women and heard something like, Well you know how women are to each other! We're just so mean to each other. Women love to tear other women down. I have totally been in that conversation. Yet when I step back I think... Actually my friends are pretty freaking awesome and treat me well. My women friends lift me up, help me when I need help and cheer me on when I need cheering on. Yes there are mean girls, but on the whole my experience with other women in my life is and has been positive. Like way disproportionately in favor of positive female relationships. So I feel like talking about it the way we do--like this is just how we are so get used to it--sabotages ourselves and reinforces a phenomenon as 'normal' that I see more as an outlier.
So back to my girls... I don't like being told how awful it's going to be, how much drama my girls are going to cause simply because they're GIRLS. I grew up with quite a few brothers and let me tell you, boys can be drama too. Boys can be mean to each other, boys can hold grudges and boys most certainly can bully.
Often the way we verbally frame things can shape the outcome. For example, if my husband and I say things like, Oh just wait until you're a teenager...then you're really going to blah, blah, blah. Or when one of our daughters is being dramatic and we throw up our hands and say, Girls! then it follows that whole self-fulfilling-prophesy thing and we've just told our daughters that we expect bad behavior and that it is normal simply because they are females. For those of you who've talked with me about feminism before, doesn't this all feel very anti-feminist? Yikes. Why are we teaching ourselves and each other that females are so bad, moody and mean? Of course this doesn't just happen in the context of girls. Another example of this framing idea is when people talk about "middle child syndrome." I feel like this is one of those issues people tried to push on me as a kid (and now even Lamp gets it!). Oh well of course you feel that way, you're the middle child!, and I was confused then and am still confused now. I didn't have issues with being a middle child, but I do remember taking cues from the adults around me and acting the wounded middle child part from time to time. I'm not suggesting that we don't discuss things that need to be discussed, but that we're careful with how we discuss it.
I'm not naive enough to think that positive verbal reinforcement is somehow going to solve all our future issues that can come with teenagers and the female psyche. The truth is we may have drama in our house as the kids get older. And I do believe that girls on the whole come with different issues than boys on the whole. But they're not worse issues. And I'm not going to talk to my children as if I expect this behavior and I'm certainly not expecting it simply because they're girls.
What do you think--are women really more drama than men? Do you feel like you have more positive female relationships or more negative female relationships? Are there mean boys? Can anyone else relate to the idea of being labeled a certain way and then acting out to fit the label? I'm not in favor of complete gender neutrality--I do think boys and girls are fundamentally built differently. I just feel like we come down hard on females for behavior that is more of a human problem than a female problem. I'm sure this goes both ways--what are you mothers of boys warned about? Discuss.
*Art--Backstage by Michael Carson