My wife tells me that the sperm carrying the male Y chromosome swim faster, but don’t last as long, as the other sperm that support female offspring – maybe that’s where it all starts.

I have a two-year old little girl, and recently we spent a long weekend in Noosa with another couple who are close friends and who have a two-year old little boy who is only five days older that my daughter. This was a great opportunity to study the developmental differences between boys and girls of that age – although it has to be said, not under very scientific conditions (from deckchairs with a cool beverage), and with the smallest survey group possible. Chatting with my friend about the joys of fatherhood over a quiet drink when the house had calmed down one evening, I asked him to sum up what it was like having a little son – what would his T-shirt slogan be as a father of a little boy? He replied straight-away with a happily resigned voice – “So much running … so much running”.

Of course there are unique differences between every child regardless of gender, but I think (with obvious exceptions according to variations of home life, siblings and intake of lollies and red cordial) that there are definite differences between little boys aged about 2-years and little girls aged about 2-years. My daughter runs, but it’s more of a gentle canter – the jogging equivalent of riding side-saddle – accompanied by waving arms and shrieking. Of course the little boys aren’t all playing with guns and eating worms; nor are the girls always playing fairy dress-up and collecting shoes – but I think you can already see different patterns of behaviour in the way they approach and explore the world. They say if you throw a little girl a ball it will hit her on the nose, if you throw a little boy a ball he will try to catch it, then it will hit him on the nose. My daughter plays with trains but in a more docile way than the boys she knows who seem to have a natural ‘play till it breaks’ mentality hard-wired into their imagination. My daughter thinks fart noises are funny but is already smart enough not to ‘pull my finger’. She loves splashing in puddles but doesn’t sit down in them. A stick is more fun to wave around than to bash something with.

If the old English folk song is to be believed, boys made of ‘frogs and snails and puppy dog tails’ have been running around energetically, while girls made of ‘sugar and spice and everything nice’ have been gently nurturing teddy bears in the same way for over 400 years. Is it the primeval urge to develop survival skills for the good of the family tribe that make them generally noisier, dirtier, bolder and rougher? Richard Fletcher in his new book ‘The Dad Factor’ cites a recent study from England which showed that there are real differences in the brains of infant boys and girls (from only a day old) and this is somehow hard-wired during their gestation in the womb when huge amounts of testosterone are released for boys sexual organs to properly develop (see our links page for more articles about the differences between little boys and girls). Regardless, as fathers ourselves (who probably ran around endlessly as little boys), we can influence a child of either gender with our energetic style of interaction with them. Richard sees rough and tumble play of as much benefit to girls “they will be more likely to see physical activity as way of enjoying themselves as they grow up” as to boys “boys demand it, push for it, and throw themselves into it”.

I’m not sure what my own Fatherhood T-shirt slogan would be for my own daughter, probably – “Pink is my new black.” But as any parent would agree, one constant is that anything could change at any time and so I could soon be making up half-a-dozen new ones or even swapping T-shirts with my friend. What is your own Fatherhood T-shirt slogan?


6 comments on “So much running … so much running.”

  1. yari says:

    Having fathered both a girl and boy, in that order, I can say they just come out differently wired, environment has nothing to do with it!

    My girl loved pink, ponies and princesses from day 1. She’s an indoors type.
    My boy loves nothing more than a stick, the bush and bashing things to see how they work (or once worked).

    Its great having one of each, a matching pair.

  2. yari says:

    ps, I’d love to have a great T-Shirt slogan, but just can’t think of one!

  3. neil says:

    Have a look at for more about boys and girls and a couple who raised their child without gender bias

  4. Andrew Curry says:

    Totally agree with the hard-wired thing. I have a 6yo girl and 4yo boy. They will often play with the same toy, and doesn’t matter if it’s a doll or a car, Ella will see how she can dress it up and care for it, Freddie will see how indestructible it is.

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