Oh boy, a boy!
If you watched Sex and the City as avidly as I did, then you probably remember the scene where Miranda “fakes” her sonogram. The sonogram technician informs her she’s having a boy, to which Miranda simply nods. The technician looks at her like she must not have heard and says, “It’s a boy!!” Miranda realizes the expected reaction and gives a huge smile and says, “Oh boy, a boy!!!”
When I found out last week that our baby is a boy, I was genuinely thrilled. Everyone thought I was having a girl, based on all sorts of silly tests and old wives’ tales, and for some reason I started to believe it all. When the technician told my husband and me that it’s a boy, I first felt shock. I was so sure it was a girl.
But then? I felt happiness and, I have to admit, relief. Phew, not a girl.
For a lot of my life, I was sure I’d be content without any children – and, in fact, I’m still sure I could have been, but I’m also extremely happy with this choice, this pregnancy. At the times I did think about having children before, I mainly thought about having boys. When one of my sister’s silly tests told me I’d have two daughters – no sons ever – I was heartbroken because I couldn’t imagine not having a son.
Beyond that, I never believed I could raise a girl. I wasn’t your typical girl growing up: I didn’t have a boyfriend until my mid-20s; I didn’t go on a single date in high school; I was a bit of a loner and very introspective and nerdy (which hasn’t changed all that much). What could I ever know about raising a girl? What if she wanted to be a cheerleader? What if she wanted to play soccer? What if she hated reading? What if she took it upon herself to go on a diet at age eight because her friends were on diets because their mothers were on diets? How do I get into that?
Then there’s the fact that I love being a woman and love many of the things considered traditionally female: things that sparkle, make-up, and shopping. How could I share these with her but not have her become someone who sees these activities and things as utterly necessary to womanhood and femininity? It was all far too much to consider.
But before we knew if we were having a boy or a girl, my husband and I discussed and agreed that we’d raise either sex the same way: with an understanding of what it means to respect others and that sex and gender do not determine your capabilities or interests. Our son will know how to protect himself, both verbally and physically (if necessary); our daughter would have learned this, too. Similarly, I have to make sure he knows that not all women will like to shop or wear make-up – and that’s okay.
Yet, somehow, it feels like the stakes are lower with a boy. To channel Carrie Bradshaw: I can’t help but wonder, “What about that feeling of relief?” Oh, good, it’s not a girl. Phew. What kind of mother to a girl could I be if her impending entrance into my life made me worry so much about how to raise her and how to simultaneously shield her from all of the negative body-hatred issues there are out there while teaching her how to comprehend, analyze and (if possible) dismiss them?
I feel like I had to learn a lot of this on my own because my mother wasn’t really aware of it. She grew up overweight and taught me much of what she learned growing up: don’t tuck in your shirt if you’re fat, lose weight if you want someone to be interested in you, be careful what you eat in public, and so on (all things she still believes). It’s not something I blame her for; it just is what it is. Her intentions were the best: to guide me and shield me from the hatred and prejudice she had experienced. Obviously, when we have children, our goals are the same: to shield them from hatred and prejudice while providing them with the tools and judgment necessary to navigate this complicated life, including how to be a good man or woman . . . if we have any idea how to define that.
What do you wish your mother/father/parenting figures had told/taught you? What have you had to unlearn/learn for yourself? Do you feel your parents/adult figures raised you in a way that was gender or body specific? If you’re a parent, how did the gender of your child(ren) affect your parenting, if it did?