Paula and I have made it through our first couple months as houseparents at a children’s home. We started off as relief for the other houseparents, but recently one set of houseparents left and now we have our very own group of teenage girls. So my world has changed drastically during the last year. My wife and I were empty nesters for a while. Then I was a truck driver which meant that I had no nest at all. Now my nest if filled with 6 teenage girls with vastly different backgrounds, races and personalities. I am the only male, outnumbered 7 to 1, unless you count the dog and he is just as baffled and confused as I am. Sometimes he comes over to me with a sad expression and lays his head on my leg and we try to comfort each other like two soldiers behind enemy lines.
I think me and the dog are just trying to make everybody happy, but this is not easy. The girls are always calling us. Every time Rascal gets comfortable, a girl will call him and ask him to sit then to lay down which is what he was doing in the first place. Poor dog. For me it’s: “Can I have _______ ? Will you get me _______? Can you take me to ______?” Or some off the wall question like: “How do my eyebrows look?” Even after 26 years of marriage, I’m not sure how to answer that. Do I dare answer that? My wife and I have taken care of both boys and girls at this point, and the children love to ask us which we like better. It’s kind of like parents being asked by their children, “Which one of us your favorite?” The sensible answer is “We love you each the same.” But I have never been a sensible person. So if the boys ask, I say the girls. If the girls ask, I say the boys. If both are asking at the same time my reply is, “I don’t like any of you.” My answer fluctuates depending on the circumstances. I think I’ve always known boys and girls are different. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out, but I continue to be surprised by the vastness of the differences.
Girls are nicer to look at. They also smell much better. When we had the boys the house smelled like a high school gym locker. Now it smells like Bed Bath and Beyond. I’ve never been in that store, but I have an imagination. Even the soap that I bathe with smells like Carmel Popcorn. I like Carmel popcorn.
Girls are much more organized. One of the girls recently cleaned out the friderators and put labels on the door so I wouldn’t screw up the system. The rooms are decorated. They are much more germ conscious. Toilets are cleaner; they don’t have to practice aiming so urine is not so prevalent on the floors. The toilet seats are always left down which really annoys me, so when they are at school sometimes I go down there and put the seats up. My wife and I fought about this for years. She thinks I should put the seat down when I’m done. I think she should put the seat up when she’s done. I think I’ve actually won that argument since it hasn’t been brought up in years.
Girls don’t wine as much as boys about doing chores. I’ve even had a few say they like to keep things clean. I’ve never heard a boy say that. Don’t get me wrong. They still wine an awful lot, but not as much as the boys who seem to have a real aversion to cleanliness.
As far as fun and recreation, I have to give it to the boys. Boys like to go places and they love sports. For girls, it’s pretty much watching TV, reading or listening to music. Girls sit much more than boys. Boring!!!
Girls are much easier to get to sleep and easier to wake up, but they are way more moody in the morning. It’s not so much that they get angry, it’s what they get angry about. When boys get angry there is almost always an identifiable cause. With girls, just your presence is enough to make them mad. It’s like walking through a minefield never knowing if your next step will cause an explosion that will cost you your legs. I used to really like mornings. Mornings were peaceful. They are not peaceful anymore. Normally mornings make me want to sing and maybe even dance around the house a little. I’m happy in the morning. However, girls don’t like happy people in the morning and they certainly don’t like expressions of joy. Happiness simply will not be tolerated. Unhappy people tend to make happy people unhappy. I guess this brings consistency to the household.
Of course, both boys and girls get angry, but they don’t deal with their anger in the same way. A boy may get so angry he will punch something or somebody. He may even hurt himself. Girls are more likely to throw things like furniture or anything else in a room. When a boy gets angry at a person they will usually try to hurt the person physically, while girls prefer to hurt somebody emotionally. I’m not sure which is more brutal, but I know I would rather be hurt physically than emotionally.
Which one’s better; which ones worse? Tough call. Sometimes all of us are hard to deal with in one way or another. That is one of the big challenges in life: dealing with one another. It doesn’t matter if we are at church, at work, at school, or playing sports, getting along does not come easy. Differences can be madning, frustrating, or even humorous, but they are not necessarily bad. Both genders have things they need to work on and good things come when people bear with one another.
Parenting is tough. We can’t always see the road ahead and sometimes we wonder if we are helping or hurting the situation. We feel over worked and under appreciated a great deal of the time. We don’t always see the fruits of our labor. I think it all comes down to fortitude. Are we willing to go the distance. Perhaps this is where Christianity has it’s greatest application to life. Within the family we grow to learn patience, kindness, forgiveness, etc. None of us are perfect. Thank God there is grace and forgiveness.