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Boys or Girls: does it really matter when you’re one?


Space for the Butterflies - Boys vs girls - at what age does gender make a difference?

When I was expecting Pip we got plenty of questions about whether we wanted a little boy or were trying for a little boy (we didn’t mind/weren’t, we just wanted a baby we got to take home from the hospital in a car seat), but even more, people wondered what would I do if it was a little boy, how would we make room for all the new toys and the steady influx of everything and anything embellished with diggers/fire engines/pirates.  The unsaid assumption was that baby boys must somehow be a completely alien species to my two baby girls.

I’ll admit that changing the first nappy in the hospital there was a feeling of “well this is new!”. But you get enough practice at nappies with a newborn that we were all sorted within 24 hours, and from experience, baby girls are just as good at springing surprises on the changing mat as baby boys.  Beyond that it was hard to tell in those first few weeks, one variety of newborn baby is very much like another.  There were differences between Pip and his sisters; his objection to dairy in my diet was stronger, he slept less, has never sucked his thumb, and much preferred being in the sling, especially while we figured out his dairy tolerance levels, but I don’t think that’s a boy/girl thing, just a ‘different person to his sisters’ thing.

Our toys are just toys, and while we did acquire some new babygros with boats on that was mostly because they were incredibly cute and he was a good excuse. He would have been just as warm and snug and cosy in a pink bunny outfit and had he been a girl I’d probably have bought the boat babygro anyway (though perhaps not three times).  In his fourteen months he has worn sleeping bags covered in pink princesses and ones with Noah’s ark, he wears polka dot vests and DC Comics vests (mini Sheldon, it’s so cute!), and his current pyjama collection includes purple owls, pink sea horses and some very smart blue flannel checks.

He loves his wooden car, building towers out of blocks and knocking them down again, giving cuddles to his baby dolly and his teddy and banging the doors on the play kitchen, the bath, being sung to to the point of falling asleep during the hymns in church and big snuggly cuddles. So far, so very much like his sisters.

The first difference that we did notice, and are constantly noticing is that this boy can climb.  As in seriously climb. If you came to our house in between meals you’d think we were the messiest people around because all of our dinner table chairs are either pulled out all higgledy piggledy or lying on their sides, because if they’re anywhere near the table, and we’re not actually sat on them, young master Pip Squeak is more than happy to use them as a ladder to climb onto the dinner table, where he will sit, quite happily pouring the water from the jug into each and every one of out table tea lights, or emptying out the crayon box or anything else we’ve tried to store out of his reach.  He’s figured out how to push a chair around to get it to where he wants a leg up and the other day H found that he’d upturned a laundry basket in front of the washing machine and stood on it to reach up and turn the kettle on.

And it would be easy to think of that as being pure boy, and a mark of nature over nurture but in this case I know for a fact that Pip is merely the Sherpa Tensing to Elma’s Edmund Hillary.  She could and still can climb just about anything, even when walking across a nice flat surface was a bit of a challenge for her. That Pip can reach higher and climb further is simply because he’s a lot taller than she was at a similar age; taller even than Kitty at 14 months.  Climbing, it seems, is just one of those things my children do.

But there is one difference that I think might be more than just the superhuman strength of a very tall baby. Because I think young Pip Squeak might just be lining himself up to be the next England cricket hero.  Baby led weaning means all three of my little ones have had a good go at chucking a bit of food around from time to time, usually when it’s sticky on their fingers, but Pip is the only one of the three to have hit the wall from the far side of the dinner table.

His overarm throw is pretty impressive, and pretty painful if he happens to be wielding something solid (the magnifying glass, wooden blocks and board books being his favourites) and every time I see him sit down in front of the tray of blocks and proceed to use both hands to ‘bail’ them over his shoulders I can’t help but giggle.

Three is a fairly small sample set but I have no recollection of the girls ever doing something similar. Perhaps it’s an evolutionary throwback; baby boys have an inbuilt spear throwing reflex while the girls have, I don’t know, what would be a baby gesture for gathering seeds and berries?

But I’m curious now, up until a couple of months ago I’d have said no, at one there really isn’t any difference between baby boys and girls, but now I’m wondering whether we’re on the cusp of seeing some of those differences come through.  And so I’m throwing it open to all of you who’ve walked this path before; tell me, at what stage did you feel that you could see a difference between your baby boys and your baby girls?