“I want a boy or a lesbian,” my son in law announced as discussion turned to the gender of the baby he and my eldest daughter were expecting.
Like many guys, he has dreams about kicking footballs and wrestling with his son –or a ‘tomboy’ daughter. He comes from a family of three boys so can’t imagine how to play with a dainty girl. I’ve reassured him that dainty isn’t genetically strong in this line of the family: my girls played happily with their brothers’ Tonka trucks, climbed tress and wrestled. However, it could be the wrestling (and memories of a few big brother headlocks) that has my daughter day-dreaming about having a baby girl. Or, it could all be my fault. My daughter claims there is a dodgy boy gene in the family, and I am beating up on myself for that.
I have often said loud and clearly that if I had only had my girls I would have been a very smug woman. It’s not that I have anything against boys – or my boys, in particular. I love little boys and I adore their energy but if I had only been a mother of daughters, I am certain I would have thought I was a perfect mother. Yet, if you were to ask my own mother, I doubt that she would concur that girls are easier than boys – I grew up as the only girl in the immediate neighborhood and was as wild as any of the boys as I led them merrily from one misdemeanor to the next, including the sheep rodeo (we released sheep and riders from a neighbors’ outdoor washhouse – think , lots of sheep dung in the laundry!), stealing the ‘jigger’ from a local railway shed on a Sunday when there were no trains so we could ride down the line to the river and catch eels, and sneaking out to open gates and let a grumpy neighbor’s goats roam the village one dark Saturday night.
Before I had children, I could never imagine myself as the mother of daughters. Frankly, I was terrified of having a baby girl. I thought I wouldn’t be able to be a good mother to girls and this was partly due to the messages I heard about my own femininity – or lack of – as I was growing up. I remember the look of disappointment on my mother’s face as she sighed, “Pinky, you swear and cuss like a man!”; and my grandmother telling me how my (girlie) cousin could be dressed up prettily and would sit on a chair while my aunty dressed herself, but even as a baby I had to be dressed last and I would throw all my (carefully embroidered) blankets out of the pram, take off my shoes and socks and find the only patch of dirt wherever we were.
So now it’s payback time. I am becoming increasingly aware of the messages I have given my kids. Although I hope I have never expressed that I love my boys less because it did honestly feel like more of a challenge to mother them a lot of the time (or did the girls seem easier because they came after two active boys who had ‘broken me in’ as a mother?), I am taking stock of how I talk about boys and girls as I eagerly await this new baby in the family. The messages we convey to our children are powerful and indelible. Thankfully though, I know that whatever gender my grandchild is, I will delight in his or her uniqueness – boy or girl! And so, no doubt, will my daughter and her husband.
PS – the baby was a beautiful boy. He is now a delightful toddler who enjoys kicking balls and climbing as well as cooking and cuddles.