The car ride home from school is always full of great conversation between me, my son and my daughter, who is four years younger than her brother. I must say that I have agreed in the past with the age-old statement that “girls are smarter than boys, that is, until I had to respond to my son’s question, “Is my sister smarter than me?” My son stated that he felt his sister was smarter than him because she could hold her bottle at younger age, she knew how to spell words earlier than he did and she could recite rhyming words earlier than he did. Because I was raised believing that girls were smarter than boys I almost regurgitated a response that would have affirmed my son’s belief. However, I used details from my daughter’s experiences to come up with an answer so my son would not get out of the car feeling dumber than his little sister.
My daughter stayed home quite often with her father when she was a baby. My husband was determined to teach her how to hold her own bottle. As a result, she was able to hold her bottle about two months earlier than my son could when he was a baby. My son stayed home with his grandfather for the first two years of his life. Although my father-in-law helped my son reach numerous developmental milestones, his level of care was immaculate. When I would pick my baby boy up after work he smelled like a bottle of baby lotion, his hair was slick, shiny, and his clothes and bib looked as if they were fresh from the dry cleaners. Therefore, my son probably did not have to hold his bottle on his own because granddaddy took his job as primary caregiver seriously.
My daughter grew up chasing two girl cousins. One of her cousins was three years older than she was and the other was five years older. My daughter would sit at the dinner table with her cousins as they completed craft projects and wrote entries in their journals. The two creative writers would often quiz adults on proper spelling for words as they labeled art projects or completed passages in their journals. Most people argue that children learn best from their peers. This would explain why my daughter enquired about spelling words younger than my son. She was imitating the creative art/writing projects completed by her older cousins.
Even those car rides to and from school became a time for her to learn. While I was helping my son master letter/sound recognition, math facts, bible verses, and rhyming words, she was listening, too. So when she was old enough to engage in conversations with me in the car she wanted her own chance to practice rhyming words (even though most of her words could not be located in Webster’s dictionary, yet the sounds were on point).
When I briefly recalled my daughter’s experiences and put them into perspective in a manner that was easily understood by my son his confidence in his own abilities was stable if not better. When we arrived at our destination I said, “Son, your sister is not smarter than you. You both have had chances to do different things.” I shared some things that he was capable of doing way before his little sister, for example, taking care of our dog. I explained that just because he can take care of the dog better than his sister does not mean that he knows more about animals than his sister, it just means that he has had more practice doing so. When he looked up at me, smiled, and said, “Mom, you are always right.”
I just smiled and said, “I am not always right, I just have had more chances to give answers.”