School of life teaches something is different

I've decided God gave me three sons in order to keep me grounded. It's not like I'm an especially pie-in-the-sky kind of gal, but there's something about wiping down the toilet seat at least once a day (because it's already wet) that just sort of...

I've decided God gave me three sons in order to keep me grounded.

It's not like I'm an especially pie-in-the-sky kind of gal, but there's something about wiping down the toilet seat at least once a day (because it's already wet) that just sort of puts you in your place.

They think differently. They act differently. They approach things differently - from girls.

If you told me this 20 years ago, I would have laughed. I wrote a college paper on the whole nature versus nurture issue. My stance was that we are all born with a tabula rosa - or a blank slate - and our experiences and environment work to mold who we are. Differences between the sexes? At age 20, I wasn't buying it.

Boy (or girl), did I have a lot to learn.


After college, I enrolled in the school of real-life, which included graduate classes in family living. In other words, I had children. That's when I really learned about the differences between the males and females of our species.

When my daughter watches a movie, she watches the movie. She may have to dab her eyes with a Kleenex if it is a sad movie, but watching is the main activity.

When my boys watch a movie, they wrestle. They kick each other. They wriggle around on the couch and lean their head way over to watch the movie upside down. They stand up on the coffee table. They crawl under it. They switch the channel - repeatedly - during commercials and sometimes during the show. They throw things at each other. Watching is not the main activity.

On the other hand, when my sons watch a football game on TV, they watch the football game. They may have to dab their eyes with a Kleenex if it is a sad game, but watching is the main activity.

My daughter does not watch a whole lot of football on TV - not if she can help it. She would rather go shopping. When she does catch a ride to the mall, she visits multiple stores and compares products. If she is especially serious about purchasing a particular item, she may pick it up to get a closer look.

When I take my boys shopping - look out! Clean up on aisle five. Shopping with my boys is a tactile experience. They touch things just because they can (or feel a compulsion to do so). They do not like "looking" but prefer to go directly to the item that they want. If it weighs less than 10 pounds, they may toss it back and forth with each other until someone mis-throws and it lands on the floor. This thwarts them not. They continue their game of catch through the checkout and into the parking lot.

When my daughter packs for a weekend getaway, she considers climate and activity choices. She packs with different options in mind, coordinating colors and fabrics. She includes extra garments, because she realizes she may want to make a wardrobe switch, depending on her mood. She packs at least one pair of underwear for each day of the trip and way, way too many shoes.

When my boys pack for a weekend getaway, they figure the clothes they are currently wearing will be enough. After much prodding, they throw in an extra pair of jeans and T-shirt. At the last minute, they remember underwear, and grab only one pair. They forget socks and a toothbrush, but remember their video games. Half the time they will leave for the trip with their suitcase lying right where they left it - on their bed.


When my daughter listens to music, she hears the words and defines their meaning. A good song is poetic in its message and melody. When she is glad to see a friend, she gives them a hug.

When my boys listen to music, it is all about the beat. A booming bass and electric guitar solo work together to enhance the song. When they meet up with a buddy and are happy to see him, they give a high-five; really good friends are tackled, football-style.

During my college years, I was enlightened. I used to think that chromosomes were beside the point; four children later, I know better. Oh, there's lots of gray area between the sexes. No one is 100 percent male or female. But at my house, I have to call it like I see it.

Some people might have a problem with this. I don't think we should view it that way. When it comes to male and female, different does not indicate inequality.

I started by saying that having three boys keeps me grounded. It does, but no less so than having one girl keeps me grounded. One sex is not easier, better or superior than the other. That would be way too simple. The truth is that boys are not girls, and vice versa.

And that's a lot more complicated than it sounds.

Jill Pertler is a syndicated columnist and award-winning freelance writer. E-mail her at .

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