The Princess And The Brute

Written by Ron Helwig   


The princess and the brute

A dad discovers how his daughter and son differ

By ronald F. Helwig

Okay. I’m one of those guys. I have played every sport with a ball and at least a chance at a little contact. To this day, I play weekend sports and watch a fair amount of professional and college sports on television. That’s me—probably not unlike many husbands out there.

Common among men is the dream of having a son. The importance of having a boy dwindled when we were faced with fertility issues. Honestly, the gender did not matter. After my daughter Mia was born, I would often tell my wife I could not imagine it any other way. The father-daughter bond was instant and amazing. It grows stronger every day; my baby girl had (and has) me absolutely wrapped.

Originally, when I thought of having a child, I thought of having a boy—running, tackling, jumping, throwing, kicking, climbing—engaged in anything active. Turns out my baby girl fit right into that mold. She was rough and tumble, energetic and fearless. And then it happened. She became a princess. She was only one year old when my home was inundated with pink castles, pink bracelets, pink shoes, a pink motorized bike, a pink bike with training wheels, a pink musical bike for inside, a pink karaoke machine, princess movies, boy and girl baby dolls, teddy bears dressed in princess and baby clothes, and many, many bows for princess hair.

Mia still runs and jumps, climbs and plays, falls and skins her knees, but she is a princess at heart. So I adjusted my expectations. I became the prince. I dance with her, let her brush my hair and put makeup on my face. I sing Disney princess songs in the car and have tea with teddy bears. She says I am her prince and we will marry one another and I hope I am still her prince in another 20 or so years.

Then came the brute. Just when I was getting used to the idea of playing dress-up and watching princess movies, my son arrived. He’s now 15 months old and my little girl is three. They play together quite well and are, without a doubt, best friends; however, they could not be more different. First of all, his name is Trent and my daughter calls him The Monster, The Alligator, Buster, and Bus. That should give an idea of his demeanor. He walks around daily wielding a plastic baseball bat. He terrorizes the dog by trying to ride him and pulling his tail. Sometimes he holds the tail, closes his eyes, and goes for a ride when the dog takes off. He plays exclusively with sports balls, bats, and trucks. His third word was ball—that’s right: “Dadda,” “Mama,” and then “ball.” At eight months old, he would roll trucks and say “vroom vroom”—no girl does this.

With my affinity for sports, my excitement is obvious every time Trent picks up a ball. I have bought him a baseball glove and a real baseball (purchased when he was one week old). He has been taught how to swing a bat properly. He has a basketball goal and every type of sports balls. I think he will be a linebacker, because he loves to tackle. He will play middle infield in baseball—he’ll bat left and throw right-handed. We have worked on his swing quite a bit. He will be a guard in basketball—my wife and I are not very tall. Okay, I know he’s just a toddler, but I am certain he loves sports and he has a father that will make sure he is exposed to every sport out there.

The differences between my daughter and my son are plain as day when they walk into a room of unfamiliar toys. They immediately go their separate ways: Mia looking for baby dolls or the nearest kitchen, Trent looking for a ball and only a ball.

If Mia is handed a sippy-cup, she will likely pretend it is a baby and hold and nurture it. She will sing it a lullaby and cover it with a blanket. My son will throw the sippy (likely at the dog or his sister) and yell “ball.”

I knew they would be different, but not like this. The best thing is that though different, I can still tackle Mia and cuddle with Trent. In fact, one of my proudest parenting moments was just weeks ago when I was outside playing with the kids. I teed up a ball and was fine tuning Trent’s baseball swing. Mia asked if she could have a turn and without instruction she got into the proper stance. She took one swing and hit a line drive across the yard. My wife’s jaw dropped and I literally jumped up and down for joy (time for a mental image of a grown man acting like a schoolboy).

Just last year, Mia couldn’t even make contact with the ball. Now, after she took a few more impressive swings, I quickly grabbed her new pink aluminum bat from the shed (I was holding it until she was ready). I handed Trent to my wife and tossed a real baseball to her. She took a forceful swing and hit another line drive off the back fence. So we signed her up for T-ball, which she started in February. The brut will have to wait a couple of years for his time to shine in athletics. And even then, he will likely have to share the spotlight with his sister.

So this is my life. A girl, and a boy. What a perfect combo. I am surrounded by a matrix of estrogen and testosterone which will be confusing, frustrating and wonderful for many years to come. I am fully aware how lucky I am to have the best of both worlds. I look forward to playing ball with my boy while my wife takes our daughter shopping. But I equally look forward to dancing and singing with my girl while my son wrestles with his mom.

The princess and the brute are not so much like oil and water. They are more like peanut butter and jelly: They could not be more different, but they make a perfect combination.

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