I am really fascinated by Maya’s ability to play. Being an only child, her choice of playmate is often limited to me, Dave, or her various stuffies, her favourite, of course, being Pinky Bear. I am often ordered to “Be Pinky Bear mommy!” and she will have a lovely little conversation with him, or we will all have tea. Playing with me, however, is easy. I’m completely focused on her and take orders well. “Mommy take this dolly’s dress off!” It’s been really interesting, however, to observe her interacting with other kids. Our landlords who live above us have twin boys who are a year older than Maya. She ADORES them. Every time we pass by their front door Maya starts walking up the steps to let herself in. If I say “No Maya it’s dinner time, we’re going to go home for dinner” it will be followed by many tears and a lot of wailing. I truly believe she would move right in if she could. The twins, together, are like little maniacs. I have never seen so much energy. Watching them exhausts me. Their mother likes it when Maya comes to visit as she says that Maya calms them down.
My understanding of the differences between the sexes had been that there is as much variation amongst men and women as there are between men and women. But I started to doubt this when I started watching toddlers play. There is a little inside play area in the mall close to our house. It’s a great place to go when it’s raining. Based purely on observing these toddlers playing, I am convinced that nature plays a much bigger role than I had thought in the nature/nurture puzzle. Boys play rougher. They are, literally, like little monkeys climbing up the walls, swinging off of them, jumping from cushion to cushion. It is chaos. Maya, being used to this type of play with the twins, will join in and race around with them. And that makes me happy.
But a few times I have watched Maya in the play area, there have been all girls. The difference is startling. They work together and build things. It is order. Once they built a stage out of the cushions and had the audience sit on the chairs and they performed a little concert. When they were trying to figure out what song to sing on their little stage Maya said to one girl excitedly “We can sing Pokerface on Rockband!” Maya seemed confused when this little girl just stared blankly back at her. She looked to me for help. She doesn’t yet realize that not all little girls are being indoctrinated into liking their parent’s music. With some prodding, they finally decided on a suitable kid song, “Twinkle twinkle little star”. Three of them, all around 3 years old, got on this little stage and sang to their audience of other little girls. It brought tears to my eyes. They all took turns. Eventually the girls got bored and decided to move on to another game, but Maya was having none of that. She kept one cushion from the stage, stood on it and kept on singing. Not anything recognizable, but her own song, sung loudly and made up from her own little language. I was so proud.
When we were coming back on the ferry from my mom’s house we spent most of the ride in the little play area they have there. There were about 4 older girls between 5 and 6 that were playing in an enclosed area on the top of the slide. Maya decided to join them. I was curious as to how she would fit in with these older girls, one rather large, loud, and flailing. I gathered they were playing baby as I heard two of the girls start to argue. “Babies don’t go to school!” “Yes they do!” “No they don’t!!” “Yes they do!” “Babies don’t go to school!!” “But my baby sister goes to school. She goes to music lessons.” “BABIES DON’T GO TO SCHOOL!!!” “Yes they do!!!!” “No they DON’T!!!!!” Their voices started to rise even louder. I waited to see how these girls would resolve this deadlock, but soon realized that young girls of 5 or 6 likely don’t have very sophisticated conflict resolution skills. I wasn’t convinced there wouldn’t be blood. I decided I should try to intervene. As I was about to open my mouth, my little Maya, barely 2 and a half and thus far totally silent, stood up, looked right at the girl who was insisting that babies do, in fact, go to school, and said calmly and determinatively “Babies don’t go to school.” And that was that. The argument ended, the girls dispersed. The little girl followed Maya down the stairs, still trying to convince her that babies do go to school because her baby sister takes music lessons, but Maya was having none of it. Maya listened patiently, waited for her to finish her argument, but wasn’t convinced. “Babies don’t go to school.” I was thrilled. It was the first time I had seen Maya where she seemed to have come to her own conclusion, all by herself. Those two weeks of law school she attended when she was just a week old were paying off!