Posted Monday, September 22nd, 2003
Ask any pregnant woman, and she’ll tell you that the baby she’s carrying will be perfect in every way: Sensitive, generous, compassionate, joyful, emotionally open and deeply connected to the planet and all its creatures.
In other words, a girl.
She may not say that. She may not even be thinking it. But she’ll realize the extent of her biases once she understands that she’s generated something that comes preloaded with a penis. The shock of first hearing the words “it’s a boy” as some professional spelunks between your legs is almost inexplicable. One devolves from gauzy inchoate fantasies about motherhood as a prolonged festival of giggling and hair-braiding, to the bleak certainty that the next 18 years will involve endless rattling on a bathroom door, bellowing: “What are you doing in there?”
Don’t get me wrong. I love boys. I loved one of them so much that I somehow managed to collaborate with him on the production of a second. But I know boys. I mean, I really know them. I’ve loved/kissed/pined/renounced and unlisted my phone number over more than one. So when I look at my precious wee angel even now, I understand that he will someday lie to some poor girl to get her into bed. I understand that he will someday attend a sports event with a large foam finger on one hand and a beer in the other. I know that he will one day crush the heart of the homely girl if he has even a filament of a chance with the cheerleader. And I understand that – even if he becomes an international human rights activist -- he will probably think about breasts ten thousand times more frequently over his lifetime, than he contemplates world hunger. In short, even if he is, like his daddy, among the most evolved and sophisticated among his gender, he’s going, at some points in his life, to be a dawg.
I worked, for several summers, at a camp for terminally ill children. And the men on staff were baby-steps from sainthood; they were huggers, and cuddlers, and criers, and singers-of-songs. But I’ll never forget one particularly vicious game of dodge ball with the campers that became more and more competitive – until one of the men on staff, forgetting himself entirely yelped to another counselor, “Don’t pass to the kids!”
Ultimately, I suppose understand that, no matter what I may wish or hope for my son, he is propelled along inexorably by freakish biological imperatives that confuse and frighten me. I know that, for some Darwinian reason, the first stick he picks up will become an AK-47, and the first crusty bug carcass he unearths will be the source of great rejoicing -- in which I will be expected to share. I know that he will drive toy trucks and cars along a single vector, back and forth, on and on, and find this both engaging and profound. And I accept that for a long time, “play” to him will be defined principally as throwing stuff.
Here’s the irony: I can only hope for his sake that all these fears come true. Because the alternative is that he becomes the kid who sits alone under the jungle gym and eats paste. The alternative is that he’s boning up on advanced chemistry at his prom; that he grows up to be some brilliant, reclusive scientist, who eats canned soup – by wringing out his own tie.
So here, then, is what I wish for my delicious little man, in no particular order: I hope he’s a brilliant athlete, and a better poet. I hope he’s tough enough to win his first playground fight; and never in his lifetime has a second. I hope he’ll let himself cry once in a while, but even more – I hope he genuinely listens when women cry. I hope he loves lots of pretty girls, but marries a smart one.
Already, I can look into my infant son’s eyes, and see in them something vast and impenetrable – something made of frogs and snails and shouting and dirt. Already it’s clear that I can’t always access or understand that part of him, hard though I may try. And already it’s clear that I’ll love that part, madly and surprisingly, in spite of myself.
Comments [post a comment]
Posted by jocelyn johnson on Thursday, September 25th, 2003 at 10:55 PM
This peice explores something I've felt, but never even realized I felt. When I imagine giving birth, I imagine a little girl coming out down there, just because I am one. It's interesting to consider what challenges might come if a son suprised me. Hopefully, if my son comes at all, he will linger somewhere between the paste eating nerd (I love nerds) and the poet Laureate that you've envisioned.
Posted by Kay Fracher [ email@example.com
] on Saturday, September 27th, 2003 at 4:21 PM
As the mother only to boys,I must add that having males also means (hopefully) you never have to share your clothes.