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By age two and a half, infantile puberty ends and a girl enters the calmer pastures of the juvenile pause. The estrogen stream coming from the ovaries has been temporarily stopped; how, we don't yet know. But we do know that the levels of estrogen and testosterone become very low during the childhood years in both boys and girls—although girls still have six to eight times more estrogen than boys. When women talk about "the girl they left behind," this is the stage they are usually referring to. This is the quiet period before the full-volume rock 'n' roll of puberty. It's the time when a girl is devoted to her best friend, when she doesn't usually enjoy playing with boys. Research shows that this is true for girls between the ages of two and six in every culture that's been studied.

I met my first playmate, Mikey, when I was two and a half and he was almost three. My family had moved into a house next door to Mikey's on Quincy Street in Kansas City, and our backyards adjoined each other. The sandbox was in our yard, and the swing set straddled the invisible line that divided our properties.

Our mothers, who soon became friends, saw the advantage of their two kids playing with each other while they chatted or took turns watching us. According to my mother, almost every time Mikey and I played in the sandbox, she would have to rescue me because he would inevitably grab my toy shovel or pail while refusing to let me touch his. I would wail in protest, and Mikey would scream and hurl sand at us as his mother tried to pry my toys away from him.

Both our moms tried again and again, because they liked spending time together. But nothing Mikey's mother did—scolding him, reasoning with him about the merits of sharing, taking away privileges, imposing various punishments—could persuade him to change his behavior. My mother eventually had to look beyond our block to find me other playmates, girls who sometimes grabbed but always could be reasoned with, who might use words to be hurtful but never raised a hand to hit or punch. I had begun to dread the daily battles with Mikey, and I was happy about the change.

Copyright © 2006 by Louann Brizendine

From the book The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, published by Broadway Books, a division of Random House, Inc. Reprinted with permission.
As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.

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