Don't get me wrong. Frank is a class-A father, coaching sports teams, leading scout trips. He knows his sons, knows to take one to sports films, the other to a photography exhibit, but both to New Jersey Devils hockey games. He knows which one will eagerly help him rebuild a cranky household appliance and which one prefers yardwork. Equally Shared Parenting
It's the more nuanced proclivities we seem to perceive differently. Slipping grades? I concoct a strategy for one kid (homework timers, a silent setting, charts) that would never work for the other (background music, online reminders, rewards), while Frank suggests yanking TV time. Preparing for a school presentation? I've learned that the over-careful teen (ironically at ease before an audience) requires only a quick run-through and scrawled notes. His normally adventurous brother, meanwhile, needs exhaustive rehearsals, numbered index cards and plenty of confidence-boosting. Frank, proudly confident for them both, thinks that reading the report aloud, once, should do.
Why do I interpret my kids' diversity as a mandate to continually deconstruct and refashion my approach, while my husband strides confidently ahead, applying solution A to cause B? I struggle not to blindly ascribe it to maternal instincts, just as I try not to credit tire-changing skills to the Y chromosome; and yet I admit that I can't do the deed myself, so that explanation may not be so far off. Maybe it's more about men's innate urge to solve problems now, while a woman's inclination is to probe, fabricate, collaborate (Mars-Venus, anyone?). Are Gender Differences A Myth?
I know my husband can out-parent me in several categories, and I'm more curious than upset when I notice the unequal ways we respond to our sons' divergent temperaments. I've been wrong sometimes. Perhaps I could learn something from my straightforward husband's less cumbersome approach.