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Is it a boy or a girl?

...on serious topics that don't fit anywhere else at present.
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Alan H
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Is it a boy or a girl?

#1 Post by Alan H » May 23rd, 2011, 10:53 am

That's the first thing people ask when they first meet new parents. But these parents believe that people knowing the gender of their baby engenders all sorts of sexual stereotypes and they want to avoid that. A fascinating story:

Parents keep child's gender secret
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

Fia
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Re: Is it a boy or a girl?

#2 Post by Fia » May 24th, 2011, 1:41 pm

That story makes me very uncomfortable, but I can't put my finger on quite why... except that I suspect it will make life for the children more difficult than it could be...

When I was pregnant and folk asked me what I was expecting / hoping for I always answered "a human" :)

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Dave B
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Re: Is it a boy or a girl?

#3 Post by Dave B » May 24th, 2011, 2:29 pm

This story bothers me as well, though I do not consider myself a traditionalist in terms of how kids should be brought up (but this has never been tested by my havimng kids of my own.

The book, The Children on the Hill, by Michael Deakin, made a big impression on me. It's about a family who never say no to their kids and allow them every possibly opportunity to develop their talents and education tailored for the individual child. I do not remember what their attitude was towards gender training, I think they left that up to the kids as well. It was 1980 something when I read this.

Is it necessary, except to pander to the attitudes of society, to put kids on a straight and narrow gender trail? Or would not doing so (ignoring whatever reaction the get for society) give them personality problems in adulthood? I seem to remember other stories where ambiguous gender signals at an early age caused problems later, but no refs for those.

A balance between what they kids need to develop well as individuals and equip them to deal with society without stress must be a difficult thing to achieve.
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Is it a boy or a girl?

#4 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » May 28th, 2011, 12:49 pm

I'm currently reading Delusions of Gender: The Real Science Behind Sex Differences, by Cordelia Fine, so this is particularly interesting to me at the moment. The other reason I'm finding it interesting is that I have just become a great aunt. I went out last week to buy something for my great nephew, and was struck by the way babies' and children's clothes are so clearly gendered. It's not just the pink and the blue (though that's still hugely significant, which surprised me); it's also that so many of the boys' clothes have pictures of cars and tractors and aeroplanes and robots on them, while so many of the girls' clothes have flowers and hearts and butterflies and fairies on them.

It struck me that if my niece had given birth to a daughter, I would have been happy to buy her (and her parents would have been happy for her to wear) a pair of blue denim dungarees with a red tractor on them, so I decided to look for something for my great nephew that had flowers on it. But I struggled to find anything that I liked and that his parents would be willing for him to wear. In the end I got him a little bodysuit with chunky geometrical flowers on it in blue and red and yellow, but it made it clear to me that the gendering of babies and children (and adults, for that matter) is not something that's evenly balanced. If the parents in the story Alan linked to had had two girls who liked to wear blue dungarees and khaki jumpers, who enjoyed playing with Meccano and climbing trees, I don't think anyone in this day and age would have batted an eyelid. But a little boy who wants to wear a pink dress and paint his nails?! Hmm. Much more difficult to be nonchalant about that. What's going on here? Homophobia?

Emma

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Alan H
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Re: Is it a boy or a girl?

#5 Post by Alan H » May 28th, 2011, 2:22 pm

I know what you mean, Emma. My daughter (now in her twenties) wore dungarees as a toddler and her favourite ride-on toy was a tractor (or trappap, as she called it!), bought by Santa.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

ludite
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Re: Is it a boy or a girl?

#6 Post by ludite » May 28th, 2011, 5:50 pm

I can't help but being a bit uncomfortable myself, it was interesting as otther peoples life style choices often are but I get the feeling this is some kind of social experiment and the children are under the microscope.

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Dave B
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Re: Is it a boy or a girl?

#7 Post by Dave B » May 28th, 2011, 6:43 pm

The more I think about this the more worried I become. Looking in the web there are articles on "degendering" but these relate to domestic and work roles. There are probably case examples about the fate of children who are, possibly, given ambiguous "symbols" by their parents - but it might require a lot of filtering and reading.

Since society consists of a bunch of people more or less getting on with and cooperating with the rest any person who stands out attracts attention. I get the feeling that the personality of any kid given a gender-ambiguous or gender-ambivalent upbringing is liable to suffer. They may not be able to read or transmit the "accepted" signals and be in danger from their true gender peer group. This could vary from ostracism to bullying, both of which can affect personality into adulthood. This is probably the fate of boys more than girls and those boys may possibly find the girls more accepting of them. Until puberty raises its hormonal head at least.

It may be that some parents with such intentions are able to home school their kids, I worry that this might compound the problems, just make them worse later.

Even if we do not like the way society is it borders on criminal in my mind, a kind of abuse, to make kids the "tools" of the parents opinion. As bad as indoctrination with a faith.
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
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Nick
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Re: Is it a boy or a girl?

#8 Post by Nick » May 28th, 2011, 9:11 pm

More thoughts later, maybe, but for now, a short story. In a previous life, my beloved, a right-on feminist, had a baby boy. She was determined that he would not be raised in a sexist way, and made sure he had a doll to play with and other "equalising" toys. But his first word was "car" and his second word was "truck" and he showed not the slightest interest in any of the girls toys, whereupon she reached the conclusion that maybe he was, after all, a boy.

Though I have some sympathy with the thought that a male who turns out to be gay, or even a transgender person, should be steered in a direction which is ultimately inappropriate, I have to say I am pretty pissed off by this: [my bold]
Stocker teaches at City View Alternative, a tiny school west of Dufferin Grove Park, with four teachers and about 60 Grade 7 and 8 students whose lessons are framed by social-justice issues around class, race and gender.
FFS, give the kids a break! I think that borders on child abuse, and their idea of "unschooling" borders on neglect.

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Re: Is it a boy or a girl?

#9 Post by Fia » May 28th, 2011, 9:52 pm

Crossposted with Nick...
Emma and Alan, both my daughters wore dungarees and were happiest when grubby: a grubby child is a happy child :)
I wouldn't high street shop for children's clothes. It's the start of the rot for forcing gender attributes, as Emma has discovered. I've given my nephew an eclectic selection of bright and cheerful clothes, made in Nepal and India - who don't have the pink / blue fixation - for the western market. Although the glow in the dark skeleton jammies were a triumph :D
Emma wrote:But a little boy who wants to wear a pink dress and paint his nails?! Hmm. Much more difficult to be nonchalant about that. What's going on here? Homophobia?
No, Emma, I don't think it's homophobia. Firstly crossdressing is only a 'problem' for men, and they aren't all gay. We women can wear what we want. It's far harder for men. It's the culture imbued in the difficulties you faced when shopping for your nephew. Which is what I think concerns these parents, although I don't agree with their solution.
Dave B wrote:It may be that some parents with such intentions are able to home school their kids, I worry that this might compound the problems, just make them worse later.
Yes Dave this concerns me too. These parents 'Freeschool' which is a particularly unstructured way of home schooling.

Folk think of gender as one or t'other, yet is far more complicated than that. The child will know what biological gender it's body is, even if it's community doesn't. In a way I admire them in taking this stance.
But then:
Dave B wrote:As bad as indoctrination with a faith.
Yes, thank you Dave that's where my uncomfortablenesses comes from, it's the indoctrination of the parents ideas beyond a level that can give that child the life choices it needs. Good parenting is surely to bring offspring up so they have the tools to be who they want and need to be, and fly from the nest to do so. I feel these parents are doing this child a disservice.

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Val
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Re: Is it a boy or a girl?

#10 Post by Val » May 29th, 2011, 7:20 pm

I probably have more experience of gay male friends than most and I know that the toys they played with as children, , play with now as adults, and ultimately work with, have nothing to do with it. One of my best friend was a lumberjack, and the roughest, buchiest gay man I know is a nurse.

cue someone who will not doubt remind me of the Python song.

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Alan H
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Re: Is it a boy or a girl?

#11 Post by Alan H » May 29th, 2011, 7:39 pm

Val wrote:cue someone who will not doubt remind me of the Python song.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zey8567bcg

:D
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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robzed
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Re: Is it a boy or a girl?

#12 Post by robzed » June 1st, 2011, 8:56 pm

I get the impression society norms are only the part of the story.

Warning: anecdote coming up :-)

We dressed our daughter in more 'male' type clothes and we both played with a selection of balanced toys with her. She still likes to play cars with her brother, loves any games on computers, Wii, PS2, etc.. But from a fairly young age (2 or 3) she very strongly identified with Disney Princesses, liked wearing dresses (strongly), played baby with dolls. Conversely our second (a boy) is definitely more boyish in his choices.

Of course, the difficulty is that you don't know how your behaviour changes even though we are both aware of the issue. But I get the impression there is a some automatic gender adoption going on built into the child's wet-wear.

We have notice a specific phrase ('this is just for girls' or 'this is just for boys') being said by her since she started school.

We recently got told by 'an elderly gentleman' that Johnny (our second) shouldn't be pushing a toy buggy. (They both have toy buggies, which they occasionally use to push their teddybears around). My wife pointed out to this gentleman that I pushed our kids in the buggy as a father, as Johnny probably will. (I feel I push the buggy as much as Claire and maybe more when we were together. I always feel more male doing so. Maybe I'm just strange :hilarity: )

I remember a story of a girl brought up as a boy by her father - she had some serious gender issues as a teenager and early adult. But how does a sample of one where we don't know the whole story help?

-Rob

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robzed
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Re: Is it a boy or a girl?

#13 Post by robzed » June 1st, 2011, 9:26 pm

Another thought: it sort of bugged both of us that first question you are asked when you are pregnant is usually not 'How far along are you?' or 'Are you feeling ok?' but 'What are you having?'. Like Fia, our answer was 'a baby'. The next question was, "haha, no really ... do you know yet?'.

Then when the baby is born, I hated the first question: 'Did you have a boy or girl?'. No other question would do. Then, if the baby was there, the immediate change in people's behaviour was extremely annoying (at least to me).

It's not that these people are being polite, in my opinion. They have an obviously and driving need to know. I'm sure it wasn't just so they could use the right pronoun.

Gender is an obsession with humans. Is this nurture/culture rather nature/genetics?

The people who mistook the gender of our girl or boy weren't corrected. The kids didn't care and it made me happy :wink:

-Rob

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Is it a boy or a girl?

#14 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » June 2nd, 2011, 12:46 pm

Fia wrote:
Emma wrote:But a little boy who wants to wear a pink dress and paint his nails?! Hmm. Much more difficult to be nonchalant about that. What's going on here? Homophobia?
No, Emma, I don't think it's homophobia. Firstly crossdressing is only a 'problem' for men, and they aren't all gay. We women can wear what we want. It's far harder for men. It's the culture imbued in the difficulties you faced when shopping for your nephew. Which is what I think concerns these parents, although I don't agree with their solution.
I agree, but I still think there's an element of homophobia involved when people feel uncomfortable about boys doing "girlie" things. Or, perhaps more importantly, fear of homophobia. And perhaps a little bit of misogyny, too. You're right: it's much easier for girls and women. We can be "tomboys", and even win approval for that. For a boy, or man, there are only pejorative terms. The one that comes to mind in particular is "sissy". And for a long time, "sissy" boys (as they were called, even by psychologists) were considered (perhaps are still considered) to be likely to become homosexual. See, for example, this from "Transsexuals, homosexuals and sissy boys: on the mathematics of follow-up studies", by James D. Weinrich, The Journal of Sex Research, Vol. 21, No. 3., pp 322[--][/--]35, August 1985:
With the advent of prospective studies, the connections between childhood gender nonconformity and adult sexual orientation and gender identity/role (GI/R) are finally being established. Many of the gender nonconformers are so-called "sissy boys," who have been followed up in studies by Bakwin (1968), Zuger (1966, 1978), Lebowitz (1972), Green (1979), and Money and Russo (1979).

These studies define the term "sissy" (or similar terms such as "feminine boys") in various ways. Although the details differ, the definitions overlap considerably, and it is extremely unlikely that any particular boy rated as a "sissy" by one author of one of these papers would not be so rated by another. In this paper, a sissy boy is a boy whose gender noncomformity (dressing in female clothing, desire to be a girl, friendship with girls, feminine role-playing or gesturing, and lack of interest in athletics) is persistent and clear-cut enough for adults to take notice. It has long been suspected that these boys are disproportionately likely to develop a homosexual or bisexual orientation, or a transsexual or transvestite GI/R in adulthood (Kraft-Ebbing, 1901 ...). And indeed, all of the prospective studies suggest that a substantial proportion of these boys (approaching 100% in one study) grow up to identify themselves as homosexual when asked their sexual orientation by an interviewer. However, they differ in the percentage of other outcomes reported. In particular, there has been controversy about whether such boys ever become transsexuals ...
If you type "sissy" and "homosexuality" into Google Scholar, you get loads of other references, including the 1987 book, The "Sissy Boy Syndrome" and the Development of Homosexuality, by Richard Green. Here's an abstract from an earlier article (Childhood indicators of male homosexuality" by Frederick L. Whitam, Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 89[--][/--]96, 1977):
Questionnaires were administered to 206 male homosexuals and 78 male heterosexuals. The most important aspects of the questionnaire dealt with six "childhood indicators" of later adult homosexuality: (1) interest in dolls, (2) crossdressing, (3) preference for company of girls rather than boys in childhood games, (4) preference for company of older women rather than older men, (5) being regarded by other boys as a sissy, (6) sexual interest in other boys rather than girls in childhood sex play. Significant differences were found between homosexuals and heterosexuals with respect to all six indicators. Moreover, it was found that the stronger one's homosexual orientation the greater was the number of childhood indicators. It is concluded that there are behavioral aspects related to one's sexual orientation which may begin to emerge early in childhood.
Val wrote:I probably have more experience of gay male friends than most and I know that the toys they played with as children, , play with now as adults, and ultimately work with, have nothing to do with it. One of my best friend was a lumberjack, and the roughest, buchiest gay man I know is a nurse.
If those studies were reliable, and their findings statistically significant, there will always, of course, be plenty of gay men for whom such so-called "childhood indicators" were not present to a significant degree. But even if the old studies were flawed, and the link between these "childhood indicators" and later homosexuality is weak, that doesn't alter the fact that such a link was for a long time widely believed to exist, and I suspect still is. And I think that such a belief is likely to have an impact on adults' reactions to displays of supposedly feminine behaviour in boys. I've certainly seen a fair bit of evidence of that, though I don't think it's the only thing involved.

Emma

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Is it a boy or a girl?

#15 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » June 2nd, 2011, 1:16 pm

robzed wrote:I get the impression society norms are only the part of the story.

Warning: anecdote coming up :-)

We dressed our daughter in more 'male' type clothes and we both played with a selection of balanced toys with her. She still likes to play cars with her brother, loves any games on computers, Wii, PS2, etc.. But from a fairly young age (2 or 3) she very strongly identified with Disney Princesses, liked wearing dresses (strongly), played baby with dolls. Conversely our second (a boy) is definitely more boyish in his choices.

Of course, the difficulty is that you don't know how your behaviour changes even though we are both aware of the issue. But I get the impression there is a some automatic gender adoption going on built into the child's wet-wear.
Seems likely. But what I find unconvincing is the idea that girls have some inbuilt preference for pink frilly things, flowers, butterflies, hearts, kittens, dolls and dressing up, and boys have an inbuilt preference for cars, lorries, tractors, trains, ships, spaceships, robots, dinosaurs and fighting. There may well be an widespread automatic tendency to identify yourself as belonging to a particular gender and then try to be as much like others of that gender as possible. But what that gender is seen to be "like" will vary over time and from culture to culture, and will be determined by lots of things, and not just the behaviour of the parents. Even two-year-olds are influenced by television (and can become aware of brands, for example), and there are usually plenty of adults and other children for children to assess and categorise and imitate.
robzed wrote:We have notice a specific phrase ('this is just for girls' or 'this is just for boys') being said by her since she started school.
Presumably she's picking that up from the other children, some of whose parents may be much less aware and less balanced about what behaviour they encourage than you are.
robzed wrote:We recently got told by 'an elderly gentleman' that Johnny (our second) shouldn't be pushing a toy buggy. (They both have toy buggies, which they occasionally use to push their teddybears around). My wife pointed out to this gentleman that I pushed our kids in the buggy as a father, as Johnny probably will. (I feel I push the buggy as much as Claire and maybe more when we were together. I always feel more male doing so. Maybe I'm just strange :hilarity: )
Hmm. I shall resist all temptations to regurgitate gender stereotypes about men wanting to be in the driving seat, get behind the wheel(s), take control, etc. :D But the buggy-pushing thing is a good example. There is nothing intrinsically female or male about pushing a thing with wheels, whatever it contains. Did the elderly gentleman (I hope at least he was someone you knew, and not merely an interfering stranger) explain why Johnny shouldn't be pushing the buggy?

Emma

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Sel
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Re: Is it a boy or a girl?

#16 Post by Sel » June 2nd, 2011, 5:16 pm

Just a quick insert here. We encouraged our two girls to be active and independent. They were taught to cook as well as fix the car, repair a toilet and build a deck.
The elder girl is a journeyman Millwright with a full Interprovincial/international ticket. She does contract work, mainly in the oil patch, repairing and refitting turbines. She is also a superb cook.
The other is more of a homebody but hates cooking. This younger one can repair anything in the plumbing or electrical system that goes amiss in the house.

Both qualify as outsiders in this world. But then, so do I. We are all quite comfortable being considered free spirits and "different".
"The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge." Bertrand Russell

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robzed
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Re: Is it a boy or a girl?

#17 Post by robzed » June 2nd, 2011, 6:45 pm

Emma Woolgatherer wrote: But what I find unconvincing is the idea that girls have some inbuilt preference for pink frilly things, flowers, butterflies, hearts, kittens, dolls and dressing up, and boys have an inbuilt preference for cars, lorries, tractors, trains, ships, spaceships, robots, dinosaurs and fighting. There may well be an widespread automatic tendency to identify yourself as belonging to a particular gender and then try to be as much like others of that gender as possible. But what that gender is seen to be "like" will vary over time and from culture to culture, and will be determined by lots of things, and not just the behaviour of the parents. Even two-year-olds are influenced by television and can become aware of brands, for example, and there are usually plenty of adults and other children for children to assess and categorise and imitate.
I agree with all of this. Nearly all items that are gender specific must be learned because most are modern. Evolution & our genes can't have caught up. I also believe that there is good evidence gender-specific colours are culturally assigned. And my school left me with no doubt girls can be as aggressive and dangerous as boys.

What I'm more interested in is if, and by how much, gender for caring for infants is cultural and/or learned.
Emma Woolgatherer wrote:Hmm. I shall resist all temptations to regurgitate gender stereotypes about men wanting to be in the driving seat, get behind the wheel(s), take control, etc. :D
I can't comment for other males (or females), but I prefer if Claire drives the car. As for the buggy, I suspect that as well as a strong desire to look after children, I also probably like the attention that have a small child brings. I say this, having come to realise it might be a factor recently, because apparently I 'run off' with our 3rd (now 7 weeks) to show him off to everyone :-)
Emma Woolgatherer wrote:But the buggy-pushing thing is a good example. There is nothing intrinsically female or male about pushing a thing with wheels, whatever it contains. Did the elderly gentleman (I hope at least he was someone you knew, and not merely an interfering stranger) explain why Johnny shouldn't be pushing the buggy?
Regarding 'nothing intrinsically female...': Exactly my point.

As for the elderly gentleman we had never seen him before. He said Johnny was a boy and it was a girl's toy.

Johnny didn't see it this way, although he's 4 and at nursery. I'm sure at some point he will give it up as 'a girls toy', but for the moment lack of peer pressure / other parent pressure means he likes playing with his sister and racing buggies is where it's at. We are happy when they are happy.

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Re: Is it a boy or a girl?

#18 Post by robzed » June 2nd, 2011, 7:28 pm

Emma Woolgatherer wrote: Even two-year-olds are influenced by television (and can become aware of brands, for example)
The nursery do an interesting exercise with the 3 year old kids and parents and get the kids to identify as many brands as possible. We were shocked how many brands they can name from the logo alone.

These are kids that cannot read.


-Rob

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Dave B
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Re: Is it a boy or a girl?

#19 Post by Dave B » June 2nd, 2011, 9:15 pm

The capacity for learning, from day one, is incredible is it not? Pity it usually decreases with increasing age, the poor parents are at a terrible disadvantage!

I still remember the videos of those two pre-speech boys mimicking their parents having a row!
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
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