I don’t know if you other solo mamas experience this but there are occasions when I think, “That trait is definitely not from me”. Last month, we were at a family event in a park I had been in only once before, and we headed away from the group to the playground for a go on the swings. When the time came to leave, my boy was not happy at all and squirmed in my arms all the way back to the family. He’s a super-determined little person, so I wasn’t surprised when he immediately headed off on his own the moment he was put down. I was slightly gobsmacked, though, when he ran across the grass to the path, turned left, hurtled down the path and turned right immediately back into the playground and directly towards the swings. He knew exactly where he was going despite having been there for the first time that day.
My sense of direction and spatial relations is pretty bad. Once I’ve turned twice, I pretty much lose the directional plot. Indeed, my stress dreams are often about getting lost in strange cities. So, this was one of those moments when I had a very strong sense of the donor’s input into my little boy’s makeup. I know it could just be a boy brain, girl brain thing, even if the jury is still out on whether that exists, but I would wager that this comes from the donor (who I think I recall is a keen sailor – so just as well he has a sense of direction).
On the nature versus nurture question, I also found myself looking at my boy’s toys a few months ago. I inherited most of these from a friend who has just one boy, and they are all typical “boy” things. Perhaps because I didn’t buy them myself and didn’t take any active part in getting them, it took me over a year to realise that there isn’t a single doll amongst them. And, obviously, nothing is pink. This made me stop and think – should I go out and buy a couple of dollies for him to look after? I loved my Tiny Tears doll when I was little. Then I thought, why do we buy dollies for girls at all? Are we teaching them that their role in life is to look after people (and that boys’ role isn’t)? Or do little girls have an innate, harmless need to care for their dolls – and are boys just not that bothered?
There was a documentary on TV a few years ago in which scientists left dolls and toy diggers in some monkeys’ habitat in a wildlife park. They watched the younger monkeys as they noticed the new toys and, sure enough, the girl monkeys took up the dolls and played with them, whereas the boy monkeys, fascinated by the cars, completely ignored the dolls. Of course, maybe the girl monkeys had already watched their mothers care for their baby siblings and were just mimicking that behaviour, who knows.
My boy loves seeing cars, vans, buses and diggers but this might just be because I’ve been pointing these things out to him since day one. And his childminder’s two boys have tons of toy vehicles and tracks, which he’s been around for the last seven months, so it’s not surprising he’s into them. On the other hand, I do know that my boy is really affectionate with his teddy bears and loves giving the people close to him big hugs, so maybe he would have liked a few dolls too. I’m not overly stressing about this, but I do wonder what kind of influence we’ve already had on my boy without even meaning to.
My 1.5-year-old’s world is about to open up to lots more influences, as we have a big milestone this week: we’re starting crèche. He was to begin his induction today, in fact, but Hurricane Ophelia is hitting the country so, bizarrely, all schools and crèches are closed. One upside is that we were due to finish at the childminder’s on Tuesday afternoon, the thought of which makes me really sad. Now Wednesday will be our last day instead, so we can save the tears for one day…