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My daughter prefers male friends

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TOMBOY-2Many parents who find themselves in this situation worry; the mother especially may think that she is bringing up an emotionally unbalanced person-a child who is not what she appears to be. It is normal to doubt because children of the same sex play comfortably together. They are likely to enjoy the same type of toys or like similar type of recreation. Some school of thought may argue that, were it not for nurture, a girl child would demand to have a set of train toys like her brother, play computer games, act as robustly and boisterously as her brother.

If we look closer at the girl child behaving like a boy when she plays or form friendships, we would find that we take notice only when they play together because in basically everything-going to school, work or simply enjoying their meals, we observe little or no difference between them.

But then in our anxiety that she leaning too much to the masculine tendency, if we could but look closer, too, we would see that she becomes easily bored with masculine activities to pick up that doll which offers more creativity in her plays- she makes dresses for them- scold ‘her ‘for any misdeed and heap praises for being a good girl; a fun training in parenting, one would say. Is it nurture? It may be. But I think it is Mother Nature gently nudging the girl towards motherhood and the role of nurture.

However, it is common for children of both sexes to play together without noticing the differences. And as they grow older it is not strange to see boys and girls begin to exclude each other from some activities; when boys begin to form boys club and want to defend it from girls’ intrusion.

It is not out of order, therefore, for a parent to worry that instead of the son to hang out with fellow boys, he follows the girls who surprisingly like his company; or a girl is the only female in a group of five boys.

Nobody would blame the mother of a teenager who makes a fuss that, instead of making friends with her kind, she prefers the company of the opposite sex. A parent should worry because a growing child has much to learn even though part of that learning is figuring out the opposite sex. She still has much to learn about herself though and much as we view peer influence with trepidation, we know that peers gain from each other and she can learn easily by talking with her friends.

But it does not at all mean that a girl who befriends only the opposite sex is flawed; it would be more a question of what she finds of interest; she may see boys as more intellectually fascinating or challenging. Boys tend to have a wider knowledge of current affairs and politics than girls, a girl who wants to know what goes on around her would prefer to keep boys’ company because they stimulate her in that way. Boys tend to read wider, and as the Internet has shrunk the world, they have more time and may be more knowledgeable than the girls to surf the net.

My observation though is that girls who have only male siblings, those in-between male brothers and middle daughters whose parents appear to overlook and the youngest daughters or the so- called babies of the family are the ones who are likely to have male tendencies because they are used to their brothers’ influences.

You need to watch out, however, that she is not battling with an issue of sexuality or the serious thinking that she ought to have been born a boy instead of a girl. If she has no serious problem with her sex, it would be another phase in the life of a growing child who looks down on her mates because she is more brilliant, knows the latest dance-step before the other girls; almost all of us knew one ITK or ‘over sabi’ when we were growing up.

A woman whom I know once observed: “I was what you could call the typical tomboy all through my teenage years. Put me around a dresser, I would pick a pair of shorts before I was 10 years old. I was close to my three elder brothers whom I admired a lot because of their brilliance. Quizzes and exercises on current events were the past time in our home. In the extended family, I like the company of my male cousins because of their outdoorsy lifestyle. When they went into the bush to shoot birds and squirrels, I went with them.”

“But I never learned to use the sling and when the green snake who felt disturbed by the approach of human beings made a dash from the mango tree, I was the first to run. My aunts made fun of my nimble footedness and narrow hips; they joked that I was in much hurry to come to the world so I grabbed the only sex available and ran away. But I loved my girlish wears and apart from intellectual exercises that I beat the boys in, I have never felt like a boy or wanted to be one. And my female cousins liked me because we shared many things; but to confess, at that stage, I found their so called female interests boring.”

Another thing to consider is her physical strength; some girls enjoy street fights like their male counterparts. If she can fight well and is built stoutly, the boys will respect her and take her as one of their own. In my former area in Central Lagos, there was this group of several boys, among them was this very tall girl-she was head and shoulders taller than all the boys. Most evenings, you would see them marching purposely together. Many times, I tried to catch the girl’s eyes to tell her to look for ways to become a model or contest in a beauty pageant-she was that beautiful.

The second time our eyes met, she frowned. I thought she put up a guard thinking that I was judging her. But I never had the opportunity to talk to her because she left the area. But I discovered that their engagement, encounter or outright confrontation was at Onikan Stadium; sports, nothing else; so it is not always what you think when a boy and girl get together.

Another reason may be natural; the belief that a man in a former life has come as a woman this time around. We say this when the individual although is of a sex but behaves more like somebody of the opposite sex. So we say that he flocks with the women so he can learn and regain what he has lost

But the past is past and in the present, we say that while your daughter can enjoy her male friendships, that you can help her to come to terms with who she is. Encourage her to make friends with girls her age and invite them home. Entertain them with food. If you have tickets to events and can accommodate others, ask her to bring another girl. Arrange beach outings.

Girls open up to each other by discussing personal experiences more than the boys do. Take note of the hairdresser’s place where women discuss. Although they may come from different backgrounds, experiences in childcare, marriage and other things make them understand each other. Your daughter can relate to her friends as they plait hair together; parents did not spend much money on children’s hair in the past, friends did it for friends while they shared confidences they dared not tell parents; help her choose that good friend.

Note, however, that confident is the child who can navigate both worlds; she can relate to men because she knows what they talk about, but she will always hover around a man’s world, never gaining a full admittance.


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