What are little girls made of?

“Manhood, once an opportunity for achievement, now seems like a problem to be overcome.”
~ Garrison Keillor, The Book of Guys










I've known boys and girls were different ever since my brother started knocking me over to steal my toys when we were toddlers together on a farm in rural Minnesota. It was brought home to me again and again while playing war games, rocket ship, frontier explorers, cowboys & Indians, 2-against-1 football, and never, ever (and I do mean ever) playing house. Then there were also the toads that could be squeezed and made to pee all over my bedroom carpet; the jokes and guffaws issuing through the closed door when I spent too much time primping in the bathroom; the daredevil antics on bikes and skates; the endless competition to be the fastest, strongest, or most daring at anything (even card games and Monopoly). This idea of differences seems as though it is fast disappearing in our current culture. Yet I saw it in action through my camera lens last night, when we babysat Susan Fern for a few hours of cousin play time. Caleb and Susan, 10 days different in age and nearly the exact same size since birth, are kind of like twins born to two different mothers. They are ecstatically happy playing together, evidenced by the squeals of Susan and the equally high-pitched squeals of Caleb when they are together. They make great companions. Yet they approach all of life so differently. This progression of photos, showing Caleb sitting in one place on the floor, entrenched in a Thomas book, shows what I have been observing for months now. Susan, trying desperately to connect; Caleb, oblivious. Susan, more oriented to relationship than things, changing toys constantly and paying little attention to them. Caleb, giving rapt attention to whatever skill he is mastering at the moment or whatever curious object is currently occupying his fancy. I include these photos here because I think they are both hilarious and enlightening!

I enjoyed this balanced chapter, which reflects both the testosterone-driven character qualities of boys as well as more sensitive traits that have been undervalued in the past. This is from Building Strong Families, a book from Crossway available for free online:
Then finally in this passage we read, “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone’” (Gen. 2:18). Adam needed help. He needed a companion. A man is made to connect with others. I call this the Friend Pillar. So along came Eve, to complete God’s image as male and female. She brought relational genius to the human race. Women generally are much more alert to and adept at relationships than are men. Adam would learn how to relate from Eve. Of course the ultimate attack against aloneness occurs in the magnificent relationship of marriage, but men need help and friendship in every context, whether single or married.

So I see these four “pillars” as a man’s core components: the king to provide, the warrior to protect, the mentor to teach, and the friend to connect. These are the qualities we seek to develop in boys who would become mighty men.