IT'S true what they say... boys wreck your home while girls wreck your head
Portia Reynolds (originally from Zimbabwe) is an architect and her husband Stephen McCabe is a coffee roaster who runs McCabe's Coffee in Newtownmountkennedy in Wicklow. They have three sons (Kai, four, and twins Fionn and Jude, 18 months) and while she believes they behave differently to girls, they also have very individual personalities.
"Kai, our first child, is quite shy and is happiest with family or in small groups of friends. He has great ball skills, is a keen swimmer, loves jigsaws and animals and is currently obsessed with dinosaurs. He has my big brown eyes, but his father's blonde hair and a long, lean body.
"As a big brother, I couldn't have asked for more. Kai is incredibly affectionate and kisses his brothers and declares his love for them often. He is also very helpful: fetching nappies, showing them how to ride a bike and, now that they are walking, shepherding them. He had a tough time when they were born, as I was in hospital for three weeks prior to their birth and they remained in ICU for three weeks, so Kai was left with my mother while Stephen managed the coffee company and he was brought up to see me every day.
"Luckily, he didn't take it out on the babies: I think he was just so relieved to finally have everyone home that nothing else really mattered.
"But it isn't all roses – he didn't like it when they started to crawl and began to take his toys, so war was declared often. And sometimes when he doesn't want to go to school or gymnastics he doesn't see why I am always with his brothers, but he has to leave. On the whole, though, they all get on very well and are good friends.
"Fionn is fair, with a shock of blond hair and blue eyes and a wiry little body. He was a chilled, laidback baby with a ready smile who never really seemed out of sorts. Jude is my African – brown hair, brown eyes and a lovely tan, with a strong body. He had reflux as a baby and always wanted to be upright, making him active and needy.
"At six months, however, that all changed. Fionn became an adventurer, while Jude settled down and watched the world go by with a steady interest.
"Fionn is the trailblazer – he's fearless, crawling into the Atlantic waves without a care in the world, diving head-first into swimming pools, climbing to the top of any structure available.
"He crawled first and walked first, but Jude is never far behind. He's far more cautious and more fearful but if his brother is doing it, he'll try it out.
"They have begun to play well together but they will also hit each other and fight over toys or food and Kai is often called in as mediator. I come from a family of four girls, and Stephen has two sisters, so neither of us really has much experience with boys – which didn't seem to matter in the first year, but I do notice that we're rougher with our kids than parents of girls – we toss higher and swing faster.
"If given a choice, I'd have asked for a girl – I toyed with the idea of trying again – mostly because daughters have a better reputation of remaining close to their parents as they grow up.
"But I've since met many people who assure me that this isn't so.
"My sons are all very affectionate and I plan on keeping it that way – I want them to be comfortable with expressing their emotions.
"There is the old saying that boys wreck your house and girls wreck your head. And so far, it's true. Kai has no deception about his thoughts and feelings, but the house is in a constant state of chaos.
"I'm not sure if it's easier to have all boys, but I hope they remain friends and are constant companions as they grow up.
"As they are one gender, they're more likely to have similar interests and share groups of friends. But I don't think it's a guarantee.
"I think it's important for boys to learn physical and emotional boundaries and respect.
"Wrestling with them teaches them what hurts, what's out of bounds and what works.
"Rules should be laid down that you stick to – enforcement is a must – and they must know when to apologise if someone has been hurt or upset, whether intentional or not.
"And if they don't respect you, it's worth remembering that in their early teens they'll be bigger than you and it might be too late to rein them in."
Sue Jameson will be speaking at the Cuidiu annual conference Positive Parenting, Positive Support with David Coleman, on Saturday, May 18, in the Stillorgan Park Hotel. For more information visit www.cuidiu.ie