A while ago, a friend prompted me to think about what it means to me to have two boys, instead of the girls I so publicly wanted when we were pregnant. I came up with a response then, but thought it might be worth fleshing out my thoughts some more. For my benefit, at least.
(File under: I like myself better when I have time to be introspective)
I was raised by women. Mom, three sisters, and (early on) a maid. Dad has always been there, yes, but he’s a very organized, disciplined man, not the sort to consort freely with messy kids. (Yes, Sweetie, there’s some of that in me, too.) So I believed that I understood, when I was approaching fatherhood, what it was like to raise a girl. More importantly, I had no idea what it was like to raise a boy. I never had brothers, injured my pride early on when it came to sports, and found my comfortable niche among the geeks (all of whom were boys: revel, current-gen geeks, in your geek girls).
My girls were going to be cute, cuddly, loving, sometimes pouty and weepy, always ready to melt a heart and be… well, girly. Their clothes were going to be better, and yet they could read the boy books and do the boy things that I did, too. I sorely wanted that. Plus, I had the best name picked out.1
But we knew it was a crapshoot, and I did not want to be disappointed at the birth of my child, so we specifically asked after the gender at our ultrasound. And sure enough, there was a penis, front and center. I had a lot of time to get used to the idea, and I did. When our first boy was born, I was in love, scared witless, and so very, very tired. By the time I was rested enough to think again (some six months later?) there wasn’t any bit of my desire for a girl left. And really there’s not a lot of difference between a baby boy and a baby girl, except how you have to be wary during diaper changes.
When we got pregnant for a second time, I went through it all again, but with the added pressure of knowing this would be our last child, too. And we asked about the gender again, and we got a penis again. And sure enough, when he popped out, there it was. And again, I confess to no disappointment then, none at all, whether it was masked by exhaustion or whether I’d burned it all up over the pregnancy, I don’t know.
I do know that as I have watched them grow up (they are nine and five now) I’ve had times, twinges, my wife called them, when I have wished for a girl again. Not to replace my boys, certainly, but to add to the memories and the experiences I’m having watching them grow. Two boys is a wonderful, garrulous, whiny, heartwarming, bonding, bruising thing, no doubt. I do sometimes wonder what it would be like with some girlyness mixed in.
But in the end, I’m okay with two boys, instead. As they say: with teenage boys, you need to pay attention to where the penis is, but with teenage girls you need to pay attention to all the penises. I’ve handily avoided most of the drama that accompanies owning a teenage girl, and yet I get to raise my boys as sensitive young men in a world that could certainly use some.
And after all, you love them all so much it hurts.
When my eldest confessed, when he was five, that his secret favorite color was pink, I shed a little tear for future him and loosened my grip on the girl I will never have.