When I spied a programme entitled Four Sons versus Four Daughters in the TV listings magazine, I immediately set the Sky+ box to record. As a mum of four boys I was fascinated by its promise to reveal how my life and parenting style would have been changed had I given birth to an all pink brood, instead of all blue.
Part of Channel 4's Cutting Edge series it took a Wife Swap style approach, letting each set of parents spend a long weekend taking care of each other's children. We saw a mum used to being sidelined by football mad boys, plunged into the sparkly pink world of four girls, while her counterpart swapped endless nail painting and shopping trips for water pistol fights and go karting.
And that for me was where the whole thing fell down, because the offspring they chose for the swap were painfully stereotypical. The girls did ballet, loved make up, chatting and cooking, while the boys were monosyllabic, and did nothing but kick a ball around and play fight with water pistols.
No wonder the poor outnumbered parents were so keen to swap. I pitied the poor old dad who spent his days in a haulage yard only to come home and be painted with glitter by his overbearing daughters, and the put upon mum who had no one to keep her company as her football mad husband dominated his brood of boys.
Life in my house full of boys is nothing like that. Of course certain things did strike a chord. I agree that everything from a carrot on a dinner plate to a stick found in the park is instantly transformed into a gun, and the piles of plastic action heroes looked suspiciously like the mess that spews forth from the toy boxes in my house.
But in my family of four boys I am far from a female island awash in a sea of testosterone. Both my eldest boys, Jacob, 6 and Max, 4, love to chat, help me with the cooking and the housework and adore having their nails painted (though I imagine they will grow out of that last one). Jacob does ballet, hates football and likes nothing more than a trip out to buy him new clothes. And none of them would dream of squirting me with a water pistol while we were at the dinner table.
Equally, I felt that the girls were out of control on oestrogen. They seemed to be virtually addicted to nail varnish, and there was hardly a frame that didn't contain one of them painting their nails. I grew up in a family with two girls, and there is no way my dad would ever have submitted to a makeover after a hard day at work, and nor would we have expected him to.
I also have a friend who has two girls and her eldest could beat all four of my boys in a game of footie, can quote chapter and verse on the offside rule and is rarely to be seen out of her club's strip.
I think it's a shame that Cutting Edge took the easy way out and reinforced all our prejudices about girls and boys. Not all girls are pink, sparkly shopping addicts and not all boys are obsessed with ball games and it doesn't mean that you will be left out just because all your children are the opposite sex.
What's your experience of bringing up girls and boys?
Are they very different?
As a mum of boys, do you get cross of the stereotypical 'poor you' view?
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