Chrissie Swan: Are boys the easier option?

"Little girls just seem to have my number. They are all-knowing – they know I have no idea" … Chrissie Swan.
"Little girls just seem to have my number. They are all-knowing – they know I have no idea" … Chrissie Swan. Photo: Julian Kingma

I think I'm onto myself. Yep, the jig is up, as my gran used to say. I have, I believe, taken the easy way to parenthood by being a mother to boys and not girls. In fact, I think that if I ever have a third child and it is a girl, that I will fully lose my mind.

I wonder if other mothers of boys are thinking the same thing I am.

I have friends with little girls. I feel like they know I don't really know what I'm doing in the parenting stakes. And I'm talking about the kids, not their parents. Little girls just seem to have my number. They are all-knowing. They are serious and smart and switched on. They seem to know I have no idea.

I was eavesdropping on a conversation the other day between my six-year-old god-daughter and her grandpa. The lovely old fellow was talking to her about party food and how if she ate too much she'd get a tummy ache. She fixed him with a withering stare and said, "Don't patronise me, Grandpa". Boom!

I have two sons and sometimes I think this is God's way of acknowledging that, as a parent and as a person, I mean well but am generally too goofy to be trusted with a proper responsibility. Raising a daughter seems so ... complicated. It scares me. How could I possibly navigate the scary minefields of self-esteem and eating disorders so prevalent in the lives of girls? How could I ever live with the guilt if I got it all wrong?

Bringing up a daughter feels to me like a greater responsibility, somehow ... I just feel like I'd be getting away with less

I have a very clear idea about the kind of men I'd like to raise. I'm raising them to be kind and respectful, with a healthy appreciation of fun and manners. So far, so good. And I suppose raising a daughter would be the same in some respects.

So why am I so spooked? Are they really that different to boys? They seem so much more sophisticated, even from an early age. Little girls seem more powerful, more formidable. Bringing up a daughter feels to me like a greater responsibility somehow. I just feel like I'd be getting away with less.

My friend was telling me the other day that her daughter gave her a mini-counselling session in the car. After the 10-year-old had stopped singing all the words to the new Bruno Mars song, she turned to her mother and suggested she take better care of her appearance and maybe try wearing a few "younger" things, because it was obvious she was a beautiful woman but she wasn't, and I quote, "doing herself any favours". Ten years old. And she wasn't being disrespectful. My friend was wide-eyed over her latte when she whispered to me, "You know what the spookiest thing is? She's RIGHT!"

How could her daughter, who has only been alive since 2002, know so much? And how would I deal with a daughter of my own, looking at me with my own eyes, telling me truths I knew but didn't want to, or simply could not, admit? That's what I'm scared of.


Girls are strong - the ones I know seem to have been born with a great idea of who they are, and it's up to the parents to figure it out. I'm just nervous that I'll misjudge them. That I'll think they're an A when really they're a B. Tears, slamming doors and the words "I hate you" will ensue.

My sons are so straightforward. And I have found parenting them so darned easy. A joy. Lots of cuddles, lots of laughs, lots of running around, lots of stories and away you go. Girls just seem like the real deal to me. Emotional, thoughtful, analytical. Argh!

I will have to keep my fingers crossed that if a girl ever does come along into our goofy old lives I won't totally lose the plot and take my parenting cues from Ab Fab's Eddy Monsoon or The Lohan Guide to Raising Girls.

This article first appeared in Sunday Life.