Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Fireman Pole and the Phychology of Gender

Yesterday I observed something that called to my attention one of the many undeniable differences between the genders. Jack decided that it was the day for him to learn about the fireman pole (yes, this is the official term). The fireman pole is a pole affixed to the "big kids" half of the playground equipment, towering four feet above the ground, jutting out from the platform surrounded by nothing. I have, in the past, made a habit of keeping Jack away from this area to prevent his mindlessly walking off the ledge. I haven't policed the area in a while, though, assuming that if he has not yet developed the good sense to avoid running off the edge, it is a good time for him to develop it.

This is, of course, where I made my first incorrect assumption: I thought (as most rational women would) that, presented with a situation that causes him pain or damage, he would avoid it in the future. Thought process as follows:

walking-walking-walking-->FALL-->pain. Ow--> That hurt.-->I would like to avoid pain like that in the future. --> Perhaps I should look where I am going next time so that I don't fall off that threatening ledge.

Alas. Not so with my little boy. His first attempt at sliding down the pole was predictable: he reached his too-short arm out to hold the pole and, leaning farther to wrap his other arm around, fell four feet down onto soggy woodchips. He cried; I hugged him, brushed the woodchips off his knees and hands, and set him off to play on a safer piece of equipment. I had barely left the spot when I turned to see that he had returned and was attempting the very same manuever. With the same results, except this time, he didn't cry and brushed his own knees off. Thus, his thought process looked more like this:

running-running-running--> JUMP!-->ouch.--> that was totally wicked!-->I bet that if I try that again, I can get even more air...

This happened 6 times. Each time he picked himself up, I was sure that this fall would be the one to teach him his lesson. Each time, however, he ran directly back to the ladder and seemed even more excited to try again. It was only as I was tempted to pull him off the equipment and strap him into his stroller to prevent more self-inflicted injury that I remembered something that I read. Somewhere.

The book's premise was that boys and girls are different, and it mentioned that while women tend to avoid situations with any inherent risks, men will weigh risk against possible benefit. The benefit in this case being the thrill of hurtling through the air from a distance twice your height. The risk, of course, being breaking your ankles.

Seems reasonable enough once you look at it from the male perspective. I'm telling myself that my policy of non-intervention was a good parenting move. I may change my mind when Jack takes up snowboarding.