This is one of my favorite topics.
I find differences between men and women quite fascinating and have spent considerable time dwelling upon them. However, until now, gender differences is a topic I have been afraid to blog about. My fear has been rooted in the belief that, whatever I write, one of the genders will interpret my innocuous comments as derogatory and then find some way to punish me for my perspective. (Since I am married to someone in that particular gender, I can assure you that my fear is not entirely unfounded.)
Nonetheless, I made an observation this morning that seems safe so I have decided to test the waters. Also, since my readers are all imaginary, I figure I am probably pretty safe. Here is my harmless and benign observation:
Today I took my two daughters to their first day of "Ocean Institute". It is a week-long science camp where they will learn about marine science. Classes are divided by age groups and all of the "campers" had to register at their appropriate stations this morning. The lines were quite long and I had to get through two of them, one for each daughter.
During the wait, I noticed a few of things. First, I noticed that about a third of the students were being dropped by fathers and about two-thirds by mothers. The fathers stood stoically and occasionally engaged in short, quiet conversations with their children. The mother's had their heads on swivels and were determined to speak with every familiar person they could pick from the crowd. They did this while shouting instructions at their children about behavior, sunscreen, safety, and lunch.
Side note: One woman in my queue tried to engage me in conversation but I successfully rebuffed her with a steady diet of one-word replies. But don't feel bad for her, I noticed that she had made several new friends by the time her child was registered.
I also noticed something about the pace at which we progressed. Each queue of people would lurch and pause as students were registered, materials were given, and signatures were collected. When a student and father approached the registration station, there would be about a 30 second pause before they moved on and the line lurched forward. When a student and mother approached the registration station, the pause would be several minutes. I observed that the mothers generally required a verbal review of all of the written materials about the program. They engaged officials in long dialogues about the curriculum, about logistics, about appropriate clothing for each activity, about lunches and snacks and allergies and siblings in another age group and emergency telephone numbers and their child's personality and volunteer opportunities and on and on and on. It looked like most fathers stated their child's name, initialed the box, and then got out of the way.
I am not saying that one approach (fathers vs. mothers) was better or worse than the other. I am merely noting that the difference was as striking as it was consistent by gender.