Elma Family Kitty Milestones Motherhood Pause for Thought Photography Pip

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?


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  • Chloe (Sorry About The Mess) 17/11/2015 at 7:17 am

    Two boys here, neither of whom fit into the boisterous boys stereotype, and both boys are really very different to each other so I’m definitely more of a believer in personalities differences rather than gender dictating the differences.

    • Carie 17/11/2015 at 8:18 am

      It’s an interesting one and thank you for the two boys perspective. I’m one of two sisters and having had two girls I can definitely see their differences as personality but with Pip I have no comparison so I’m curious!

  • lucy at dear beautiful 17/11/2015 at 7:57 am

    I find that for every way that my big two conform to a stereotype, there is another way that they totally don’t. He is the opposite of the stereotypical boisterous, dirty, climbing everything boy, but definitely seems to show a preference for facts and figures over creative play. She on the other hand is wild, loud, boisterous little thing, who will climb anything that doesn’t move (and sometimes things that do) but at the same time seems to exhibit all that nurturing role play so typical of girls. They both love their ballet dance classes, and they both love playing football too. So I’d say they raising boys and girls isn’t all that different at all, at least it isn’t yet… I think we’ll feel differently in the teenage years.

    • Carie 17/11/2015 at 8:22 am

      Oh the teenage years – eek! Would the beautiful girl like to join my two in their expedition to Everest? It sounds like she’d fit right in so I wonder if that’s a second and third child thing?!

  • Preeta Samarasan 17/11/2015 at 8:09 am

    I haven’t got a boy of my own, but I have spent a lot of time with the little boys of friends. Of course one would need to adjust in that case for different conditioning, (slightly) different parenting, etc., but one thing I have noticed in my very small sample size (3 little boys we know well, versus my 2 girls) is that boys seem to explore with their hands/bodies more, whereas my daughters, even at a very young age, explored a wee bit less by physically throwing themselves into something, and more with their eyes/ears/talking about the new thing (once they were able). That could also be mostly *my* daughters; maybe there are lots of little girls who are into more doing and less talking 🙂 . It’s just the boys I know seem to plunge hands first or headfirst (or tongue first) into whatever substance or object it is they haven’t encountered before. Oh, as for baby gestures for gathering seeds and berries: fine motor control vs. gross motor control, I think, with girls supposedly developing the former first and boys the latter? But I am not 100% sure about any of this. In the end, it’s impossible to control for personality differences and individual differences between babies even of the same parents.

    • Carie 17/11/2015 at 8:27 am

      How interesting, I think perhaps because you can never say definitively one way or the other, that’s what makes me curious. It’s one of those things that will make no difference either way in the long run

  • Mandycharlie 17/11/2015 at 8:18 am

    I remember going to a Christmas party for young children at a local village hall, son no.1 was 2.5, son no.2 was nearly hatched, so I sat and observed. It was about an even split of boys and girls ranging from one to five years. The girls in their pretty dresses all formed groups and mostly sat and chatted whilst the boys, oh the boys, they just ran around and around, chasing each other, pretending to be fire engines, aeroplanes, tag games and any other games that could be thought of that would involve a herd of small boys running as fast and noisily as could be. It was a fascinating insight, I remember pointing it out to hubby at the time.

    • Lee Cockrum 17/11/2015 at 10:41 am

      This came to me after I posted, that school aged girls can generally stand in line somewhat peacefully, whereas the boys are constantly moving, bouncing off each other etc. Similar to what you are describing!!!

      • Carie 18/11/2015 at 9:28 pm

        I think all three of mine are still fairly fidgety – perhaps Kitty less so but the other two are too little for accurate comparison!

  • Lee Cockrum 17/11/2015 at 10:38 am

    Having none of my own, but being a therapist to MANY over the years, I’m very interested in the answers to this one!!

    Working with boys I think the one thing I notice is that they will turn larger toys over to look at the bottom more often than girls do! I mean things such as busy boxes, V-tech toys and such. It’s not that girls never do it, just seems that boys do it more often!!

    • Carie 18/11/2015 at 9:27 pm

      Oh now that’s fascinating – it’s not something I’ve noticed but I’ll be looking for it now!

  • sustainablemum 17/11/2015 at 12:07 pm

    Hmmm. You got me thinking.
    Eldest is a boy, he is quiet and gentle and always has been, not boisterous, not a climber, ever, never put anything in his mouth as a baby, walked really late, had excellent fine motor skills from a young age, talked really early.
    Youngest is a girl, she is noisy but gentle and always has been, she climbed a bit as a baby but is far more adventurous on that front as she has gotten older, talked early, is more empathic to others.

    The way they process things is very different, I have no idea whether this is gender related or just their differences in personality and learning styles. My daughter definitely has more awareness of other people, but in terms of caring for others I would say there are about the same although the way they do is different.

    • Carie 18/11/2015 at 9:43 pm

      It’s fascinating isn’t it – there’s so much that’s different that’s personality but it’s hard to know what’s what

  • Nasreen 17/11/2015 at 10:45 pm

    Only boys in this house so I have no comparison point! Although stereotypical “boy” behaviour seems to have increased with each brother – who knows whether it’s personality or the influence of older brothers?

    • Carie 18/11/2015 at 9:46 pm

      I can definitely see that Elma is influenced by Kitty so I suspect that’s probably true for boys too – I’ll be interested to see how that works with Pip!

  • susan 18/11/2015 at 6:40 pm

    Ah, the joys of parenthood! He sounds like quite the little rascal – and who cares if the are different or the same? They are all quite wonderful in their own way.

    • Carie 18/11/2015 at 9:49 pm

      They are indeed – and I don’t care either way, I’m just curious about it 🙂

  • Claire @ Clarina's Contemplations 19/11/2015 at 1:00 am

    Intrigued by the responses to this… St the moment we see no difference between Jonas and the girls, except for the nappies! I think you should give us an update in six months!

    • Carie 20/11/2015 at 8:00 am

      Ok I will, you’ll have to come and do a guest segment to see if anything has changed for you too!

  • Rachel @ The Ordinary Lovely 19/11/2015 at 9:58 pm

    It’s odd. I have two boys and both, while different, conform to the masculine stereotype … but in slightly different ways. My eldest is hugely competitive and fixated by anything football or science related and my littlest always ALWAYS has cars upon his person. But the biggest difference I notice to little girls, is how physical they are. They are a force. Both in their speed and in their hugs. There’s always a slightly aggressive nature to them which I don’t see with friends who have daughters.

    • Carie 20/11/2015 at 7:54 am

      I think the thing is that the stereotype has come from somewhere so we really shouldn’t be surprised If our children fall into some or all elements of it, the problem comes when it’s presented as the only way to be, and that’s never going to work!

  • Bex @ The Mummy Adventure 26/11/2015 at 1:37 pm

    I have three boys, but I really can’t imagine a girl being so different. I have a boy who at 4 still can’t climb a ladder, loves his play kitchen , arts, writing and reading and a boy who sounds a lot like another middle child with his ability to climb everything and anything. He is a whirlwind, but so much more cuddly. He needs things with wheels, dirt and mud. I have tried to give my children every opportunity to be themselves, they have pink and purple alongside blue and green, dolls next to their fire engines and beautiful long hair alongside short. I think at this age birth order seems to play a bigger role than gender (although of course I have no girls to compare to), and because of that you have me very worried about Finn once he is on the move! (Thankfully I think he is going to be a little more like his eldest brother)

    • Carie 26/11/2015 at 9:48 pm

      The more we all compare and contrast it does seem there’s as much in sibling order as in gender doesn’t there – are all middle children climbers? I’m an eldest myself so I’ll have to ask my sister!