On having boys, instead

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.


  1. Maria Vio­let. Maria after my sis­ter, and Vio­let for my wife’s Grand­moth­er. Sigh. 

Introducing the Pringle

Over break­fast this morn­ing, while look­ing through the news­pa­per ads, my sev­en-year-old son asked me what a Pringle was. I explained, and we dis­cussed why they come in a can­tube, instead of in a bag like nor­mal chips, but there’s noth­ing like expe­ri­enc­ing some­thing for your­self.

So today, while I was at work, I bought one of those lit­tle cans of Pringles.

Their first Pringles
Their first Pringles

We shall see what he (and his lit­tle broth­er) think of this.

Name a Children’s Book Every Child Should Read

This post idea is from Plinky.com, fwiw.

Name one chil­dren’s book every child should read.  This is tough.  I grew up being read to.  I grew up read­ing.  Our kids get books read to them every night.  Our old­est reads him­self to sleep every night after we read to him.  I’ve been steal­ing our fam­i­ly’s old chil­dren’s books from my moth­er’s shelves for years now (usu­al­ly with her per­mis­sion).  I love books.  I love board books and easy read­ers, chap­ter books and young adult nov­els.  I can name, off the top of my head, prob­a­bly a hun­dred chil­dren’s books I like.  So the most dif­fi­cult part of answer­ing this ques­tion is pick­ing just one book.

And that’s the fun of it, too.

My choice is The Tale of Cus­tard the Drag­on, by Ogden Nash, in the edi­tion illus­trat­ed by Lynn Mun­singer.

Cover of The Tale of Custard the Dragon

Here is why.  The sto­ry has a drag­on in it.  That’s prob­a­bly enough, for me, but I also like that the drag­on is owned by a lit­tle girl, Belin­da.  I like that the book is about courage in the face of dan­ger, but also accept­ing your true self.  It has sym­pa­thet­ic char­ac­ters that are still flawed (Ink, Blink, and Mus­tard are kind of mean, but still part of the fam­i­ly).  I like that Nash rhymes “win­dow” with “Belin­da” (as in “win­dah”).  That he rhymes “pirate” with “gyrate.”  That the poet­ry flows eas­i­ly when read aloud.  That the pic­tures are delight­ful­ly detailed and whim­si­cal.  Every child needs a lit­tle adven­ture, and a lit­tle whim­sy, and an under­dog to root for.

I give this book as a gift when­ev­er I can.

Here it is in prose form Here it is at Ama­zon (for just $7.00!)

What one book would you choose?

Fully Charged

This sort of thing makes me sad I don’t have babies any­more. I get over it fair­ly quick­ly, mind you, usu­al­ly with the help of my two-year-old’s lat­est tantrum, but I think I under­stand why peo­ple buy gifts for oth­er peo­ple’s babies. ‘Cause some­one’s got to be seen wear­ing this!

Ultra Fit Jr Brannock Device

This is a kid-friend­ly (mean­ing col­or­ful and plas­tic) ver­sion of those big foot/shoe-siz­ing devices found at rep­utable (read:not Tar­get) shoe stores. $50 is expen­sive for one of our own, but we spend that much on over­priced shoes when we go some­place to have the kids’ feet sized prop­er­ly. (It is hard for us to leave with­out buy­ing some­thing, after using their ser­vices.) Via Den­ny’s deli­cious.

Get me the hell out of March

Every March, it seems, the boys get sick. Our eldest was home sick on Mon­day. Our youngest came home from school today at noon, fussy and snot­ty and poop­ing goopy. I think there has been one week of the last ten where nei­ther boy has need­ed to be home for some­thing, usu­al­ly ill­ness, but also Par­ent-Teacher con­fer­ences, hol­i­days, what­not. But it is the ill­ness which real­ly dri­ves a dag­ger through an oth­er­wise pro­duc­tive week, what with the need to stay home, the doc­tor vis­its, the cry­ing… And next week is Spring Break. Expect my out­put to drop dras­ti­cal­ly.

If you had an extra 15 minutes, what would you do?

What would you do with an extra fif­teen min­utes in your day? Frankly, I would prob­a­bly roll it into some of the oth­er things I’m already doing: who does­n’t need five more min­utes to show­er, five more min­utes of sleep, and five more min­utes at the car mechan­ic where there’s noth­ing to do but read your book? But in the spir­it of the ques­tion, which comes from my min­ing of Real Sim­ple back issues, here’s what I would do with fif­teen extra min­utes out­side of the nor­mal flow of my life. Fif­teen extra min­utes just for me.

I would read com­ic books. This is the same answer I give to the ques­tion, “What would you do with an extra $20 a month?” I used to col­lect comics, but most­ly to read them, not to save them for some future bonan­za. I miss read­ing them. I miss the expo­sure to all that cre­ativ­i­ty. But I have nei­ther the time, nor the mon­ey right now to indulge.

But I know when my boys start read­ing comics, and they will, I will enjoy read­ing them, too.

What would you do with an extra fif­teen min­utes?

Should my little kids carry ID?

So, a lot of the stuff I’ve been read­ing about child safe­ty sug­gests that your kid should have some sort of ID on him or her. That is, a pho­to with some basic con­tact infor­ma­tion on the back. That way, if they get lost, or (God for­bid) hurt, some­one can get hold of us. Tar­get gave us some stick­ers and safe­ty info with a recent pho­to order. They sug­gest the whole recent pho­to, CD, info, etc. route we’ve already tak­en. But they also sug­gest, in the case of evac­u­a­tion or emer­gency, giv­ing your kids an index card with their basic info on it. If you get sep­a­rat­ed, they say, that info will help bring you back togeth­er.

So, I thought, what about hav­ing them always car­ry that info around? Like a kid ID card.

Ini­tial­ly, I was a bit leery about it because of the stranger-anx­i­ety thing. You know, you don’t put your kid’s first name on his jer­sey so strangers can’t call it out and act all chum­my. But real­ly, if my kid’s been (God for­bid) abduct­ed, an ID card isn’t going to make much of a dif­fer­ence.

Then I thought, how para­noid do I have to be to make my five-year-old car­ry (what is essen­tial­ly) pho­to ID? Not like I had any iden­ti­fy­ing any­thing with me when I was grow­ing up. Not like my kids are ever any­place with­out an adult. And where would he car­ry it? He would leave his shoes at home (and he has) if we did­n’t remind him to put them on (and we did­n’t, that one time). And then, the two year-old? What would we do, stick a FedEx return stick­er on his back every time he leaves the house?

But the thought of them alone, with a (nice) stranger… scared… cry­ing… just one para­noid par­ent away from hav­ing phone and address at hand… the five year-old can prob­a­bly mem­o­rize our phone num­ber, but the two year-old can’t.

So, what do you think? Kid ID, or phone num­ber tat­too?

Free child safety kit: how can you not?

More gems from the stack of stuff res­cued from the base­ment: a child ID card for my old­est son, from a school pic­ture tak­en two years ago. Got me hunt­ing around on the Inter­net for info and resources, and I found this Dura­cell-spon­sored child safe­ty site with info, pdfs, and a “take a recent pic­ture of your kid” email reminder ser­vice. Essen­tial­ly, you should have a recent, head and shoul­ders mugshot of each of your kids, avail­able in a dig­i­tal form (on CD), and at hand. We did­n’t, but we will by tomor­row. Do you have one?

Nanny needed for one half hour per day

So we’re think­ing about what to do for our babysit­ter-enabled evening this week­end, and we real­ize that what we real­ly want most is to have some­one get our kids ready for bed. The bed­time rou­tine of prod­ding, cajol­ing, and (usu­al­ly) threat­en­ing the kids into their paja­mas is a bru­tal gaunt­let at the end of a long and tir­ing day. Can we hire a nan­ny to just get the kids ready for bed, then we’ll come in and sing or read to them? That would be awe­some.