Monday, May 29, 2006

Snakes & Snails . . . Sugar & Spice

Dave and Joshua returned home from Chicago last night. Their reports were primarily positive; the trip was a good experience for both of them. Dave received an unexpected bonus: an education in teen-parent dynamics. He shared with me his observations of differences between how girls interacted with their parent-chaperones and how boys interacted with theirs.

The girls who had parents on the trip interacted with them cordially and frequently. If they saw their parents in the hotel lobby, for example, they would chat together for a moment.
Some of them even went on a few amusement park rides together before going their separate ways. In stark contrast, the boys who had parents on the trip studiously ignored them. If the parents compelled communication, the boys responded in monosyllables or grunts, accompanied by rolling eyes.

Dave's amazement at this striking difference was solidified by the case of a guy who ran out of food money and did not ask his father for more. As Dave put it, "He would rather go hungry than ask his father for money!" The father found out about the situation from other channels. My guess: a girl told her parent, who told the guy's father. After all, none of the boys told their parents - it had to have been a girl!

As we ate supper tonight, I asked Joshua about these differences.
His response:

That's the way it always is. It was the same way last year in Nashville.

As Dave and I pushed Joshua to think about why this is the case, he eventually agreed with our suggestion that perhaps the guys subconsciously feel a need to demonstrate their independence. They can't risk looking childish in any way. The girls, on the other hand, may not feel as much pressure to assert their autonomy. Or maybe they don't equate publicly socializing with their parents as a sign of immaturity or childishness.
Is this an example of cultural conditioning to meet particular gender expectations? Is it an example of girls having achieved more sophisticated psychological or social maturity at this age than guys? Is it something else? What do you think?


Joanne said...

I think it's the nature of the beast that is ingrained in our culture. I totally relate to the grunts and monosylabic language. I find out more from Jason's girlfriend than I do from him sometimes!

When the kids were teenagers, I was the Youth Leader of the corps. I gave each of them a choice of having me step aside if they were uncomfortable with my position. Each said no, they wanted me to stay. How they each reacted was interesting. For Jenn, it was no big deal, and she would actively seek me out to talk. James and Jason on the other hand would only seek me out if they were about to do something that they thought would get a rise out of me. It ended up becoming a competition because they could rarely shock me, so they would try to come up with something bigger and better. Ahhhhh, they have made life interesting and a great deal of fun. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Barbara said...

Not having girls, I haven't really thought about this, but I guess that I've experienced it on recent field trips. In Ottawa, Spencer only spoke to me if I spoke to him first, and then it was quick and to the point. On a recent filed trip with Matt's grade 10 class, Matt sat with me on the bus there, but didn't want to walk with me while we were there.

Daejeon James said...

I used to walk really fast in front of my mum at the mall as a young teenager. I think I was afraid of my peers seeing me dependent on a parent. Most of our time is spent in a pseudo-independent environment in highschool. So to be percieved in a different light than "normal" was frightening. Although I couldn't explain it at the time.