Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Difference Between Mommies and Daddies

Ryan was having kind of a rough morning this morning. He’d been up for a while and had already had breakfast and some playtime in the exersaucer when I came downstairs. He grinned at me for a bit while he played, but then he started in on that heartbreaking sad/tired/something hurts cry. I took him out of the saucer and bounced him for a few minutes, then took him into the bathroom to watch himself in the mirror, then finally carried him into the study to let him relax on my shoulder as he calmed himself down. He was flopped against my neck like a rag doll, with one hand twined in my hair and the other in his mouth, his cheek squashed against mine, heavy eyes looking past me as I leaned way back in my chair so he was nearly lying flat. Herb looked at him and asked, a bit ruefully, “How come you never do that with me?”

It got me thinking. It’s true, Ryan doesn’t do his ragdoll imitation with Daddy like he does with me. But that’s not surprising, because Herb and I have very different ways of comforting him when he’s upset or fussy. I’m more likely to snuggle him, sing to him, or rock him, whereas Herb will tickle him, roughhouse with him, or look him right in the eye and make funny growling noises. With me, Ryan plays by snuggling his face into my shoulder then peeking at me and giggling. With Daddy, he plays by launching himself backwards out of Daddy’s arms and then laughing when Daddy catches him. Herb and I admitted to each other after Ryan was born that we would always play the same good cop/bad cop roles – I would always be the good cop and he would always be the bad cop. It’s a natural choice, given our temperaments. But even aside from our temperaments, there’s just a basic difference between how mommies and daddies interact with their babies. Mommies are the comforters, and daddies are the toughies (in a good way).

Herb laughs at me because I am constantly babbling at Ryan. I talk to him all the time about what I’m doing, what he’s looking at, asking him questions, repeating words. My mom admits she did the same thing with me and my sister. Every walk is accompanied by a full narration. Strangers in the grocery store often turn around to look at me because I’m having a one-sided conversation. But when Herb spends the day with Ryan, he can go for hours without saying a word. Of course, they can also spend hours imitating each others’ facial expressions, so it’s not like they’re not interacting. But they do it in a completely different way than Ryan and I do. Even at the tender age of five months, Ryan is learning (at some level) that men and women are different.

And viva la difference!

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