I observed the funniest interaction the other day. I was babysitting; the two seven year old girls were “playing ponies” (as in My Little Ponies, the cute girly kind) by themselves outside and the two boys (ages five and three) were playing with Transformers, or some other boyish toys in the bedroom. I like to think of myself as rather egalitarian (my son paints his toenails with his sister, she plays sticks and swords with him). On this day the genders organically separated and here is what I witnessed:
The girls were relatively quiet in their game. They were quite verbal, and had created a whole world for the ponies. A peaceful, beautiful, gentle world, which included things like a river for the ponies to drink and bathe in, huge leafy beds for the ponies, names for each of the ponies (including Blueberry, Star, Flash, Snowflake and Blossom). There was an evil stepmother (or queen), who offered poisoned apples to the ponies, but she was always rebuffed or otherwise outwitted and the ponies remained safe and friends throughout the whole afternoon. The ponies fought rarely and always made up successfully; they were overall friendly and kind; and they were always victorious over any obstacle imaginary or real (at one time a stick provided a fence and a barrier which all overcame; “Go on Star, you can do it!” encouraged Blueberry. “Yeah!” the all cheered as Star hesitated, then successfully jumped the stick). This went on for hours.
From the Boys
The boys were inside, and also relatively quiet at first. I snuck over to watch; I saw that they had transformer figures, not unlike these He-Men figures (very masculine, rough looking characters). Each boy had one in hand. “Let’s crash them together!” one boy said to the other. “OK!” replied the other. CRASH. They made the toys slam into each other as hard as they could, then keeled over, hysterical with giggles. “Let’s do it again!” This went on for hours. (Well, they stopped intermittently to run as fast as they could and leap onto the couch, again keeling over in a fit of giggles). But mostly they smashed the toys together. For hours.
Maybe this isn’t (only) a gender question, maybe it’s an age one as well. The girls are seven. Which is Three Whole Years older than four. Think about the difference between a newborn and a three year old. So, in some sense it’s not that the girls are so much more, well, advanced than the boys. It’s that the seven year olds are capable of so much more abstract thinking, empathetic ability, emotional maturity, creative storytelling and interactive play than the three and five year olds are. But still. I can’t help thinking how many of the world’s problems could be solved if seven year old girls were in charge – we’d all be friends and everything would be just ducky. (Or, is that too much like Lionel Hutz’s nightmare in the Simpsons, of a “world without lawyers?”)