Monday, August 02, 2010


"Mama? How do you always know whether someone is a girl or a boy?" she asks on our way to karate this evening.


"Well, because sometimes, you know, boys look like girls or girls look like boys," she says, waving her hands side to side to more clearly demonstrate her point. "Sometimes they have the same haircuts," she continues. "Or they wear the same clothes."

"Like Mommy," he interjects from behind his 489th Magic Treehouse book.

"And sometimes," she continues, "they even sound the same when they talk. So you can't always tell."

"No," I reply, "I guess you can't always tell right off. But does that really matter?"

"Well, it could," she responds, because she always has a response. "It could because what if what you're going to say to that person you can only say to a girl or only say to a boy?"

" what, for instance?" I ask.

"Wellllll, is your baby coming?" she eeks out, which is honestly a very valid argument from a sociocommunicative perspective. But...

"I think you'll probably be able to tell by that point, Saia, don't you?"

"But then what's the difference, Mom?" he says, clearly emphasizing the d word.

"How can you really really reeeeeally tell all the time?" she adds.

And then, suddenly, when I see the little pico he makes with his lips in the rearview mirror, and I see her trying to contain her $6-million-dollar grin, theeeeeen I start to get it, where they're going with this, where they're taking me with this.

This isn't at all some microcosm of a grander social discourse that we as a nation should indeed be having. It's not some introspective analysis about gender and social norms, and the ever-changing roles of men and women in today's society. It's not, in fact, about the actual differences between boys and girls at all.

They just wanted to hear me say the words.

"Because girls have a vagina and boys have a penis," I monotone with an eyeroll.

And, yes, of course, they immediately then begin to cackle as Saia shouts out their now so obviously pre-rehearsed punchline, "But nobody just runs around with their pants down, Mom!!!!"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ha, I had a similar conversation with my 7 and 12 year old sons; the younger one said, "Mommy, what's a jock?" "It's an athlete," I told him. "Then what's a 'jock strap'?" asked the elder. "'"

To which he chuckled and confided, "I know what a jock strap is."