St. Joseph, pray for us.
I watch my children and revel in their individuality. I teach them, read to them, figure out what makes them tick. I talk with my children's friends, or at least their parents on what they do, discipline techniques, hobbies, activities. My own children are not the first ones I've observed; between substitute teaching, summer programs, and full-time teaching, I had almost a decade of experience before my first was even born.
I've noticed some trends in all of this. It's going to drive the gender deconstructionists nuts, but I've lived it. Here's what I've come up with: Boys and girls are different.
There. I said it.
Boys have more energy and require more direction. They are paradoxically more easily distracted and more tunnel-visioned; have you ever tried to talk to a male of any age while there's a screen in the room? Extremely focused on the screen, less so on the person. Sitting at a table or desk with a book? Not so focused.
Girls, on the other hand, will sit and follow printed directions. We will color, or decorate, or scrapbook for hours without leaving our seat. Hence the depiction of women tatting lace, or quilting, or doing needlework. I haven't quilted but frankly, I can't imagine it's a terribly strenuous activity until you're putting all of your squares together to finalize the project.
"Boys need something to muck," states a friend of mine with six sons. "Boys need something useful and physical, and if it's not useful then competitive," say I. If they don't have that, they get... squirrelly. Random examples that have stuck with me are Edward Lewis' (that's Richard Gere's character) observation in Pretty Woman: "We don't build anything. We don't make anything." All of the work Almanzo does in Farmer Boy. The prevalence of men who have come to my house to fix the furnace, the washing machine, the electrical system; those who fix my car, tear up and rebuild our street, resod the lawn.
Where did this come from? Well, I'm reading Matthew Crawford's book and it just makes sense. So many occupations now involve marketing in ideas; it reminds me of Douglas Adams and his comments about moving "little green pieces of paper"--"on the whole, it wasn't the little green pieces of paper that were unhappy." Or something like. Even books now can exist entirely electronically--typed on the computer, emailed to an editor, published and downloaded to one's Kindle or Nook or phone app. There's something vaguely wrong about that, not having a product you can hold in your hands.
Boys, and by virtue men, when they make something it has to be useful. They're goal-oriented. They'll make you a bench, and while it may be beautifully painted or have artistic carving on the side, you'd better be able to actually sit on it. The shelf better be able to hold something when it goes on the wall. Even the art they make must have some greater purpose than decoration--it must tell a story, symbolize some greater event or idea.
They want to do something they can hold in their hands.
Girls will put a vase of flowers on the table for no reason besides to make it look pretty. We will cross-stitch a sampler of the alphabet, put it in a frame, and hang it on the wall. Everyone who sees it will already know the alphabet; it will not be covering a hole in the wall. Its sole purpose is to look pretty. Men rarely will do such a thing.
Sure, men buy flowers for women, but if you think it's just because they think the flowers will look pretty on the table, and have nothing to do with the woman's attitude, you're kidding yourself. Like I said, goal-oriented.
I believe this trend away from such activities, for all of us, is a loss. And yes, I do believe it is happening. How it is affecting our culture, my children's education, and what to do about it is another entry.