When I found out I was having a boy, I cried. My reaction took me by surprise. At the time, I had a healthy, happy 3-year-old daughter at home. I had long been saying, what do I care about the baby’s sex? What a privilege to even be having another child!
So, when tears spilled out on the way home from the doctor’s office, I was ashamed. Self, I said. You are being a jackass. But it didn’t take long for me to deduce the gloom was because I’d secretly wanted another one of my daughter. Not just another daughter, mind you, but another one of my daughter. Basically, with my ultrasound results, I was hit with the realization that that ship had sailed. Not that we conceived by cloning. I was truly being irrational, and I’ll blame it on pregnancy hormones.
But there was more behind those tears, and the real issue rose to the surface over the days that followed. Deep down, I realized I was scared of having a boy. This was based on what I’d seen among my daughter’s peers and my own friends’ offspring. Good kids, but their themes of speech delays, communication issues, attention problems, and truly epic temper tantrums had secretly left me grateful they weren’t mine. Communication with boys seemed so trying, and I wondered how the mothers managed to connect with their sons under such primitive conditions. I assumed it was the adorable cowlicks and miniature tighty-whities.
When my daughter was two, she could pronounce the word sphygmomanometer—and knew what it meant. I loved that I could talk to her almost from the time she could walk, connect with her through conversation. Because I am a blabbedy talker and writer, I put a high value on words, and to me it seemed I’d been given a child teeming with them so that we might easily bond. Which we did.
So, how was it going to be with a son? Based on my limited experience, I anticipated communication would take much longer. The idea of waiting extra years depressed me. Moreover, what did I really know about boys? Not much. I have one sister and no brothers, and I never babysat much. I’m not a dude myself. Looking back now, I see how my poor dad and grandpa bowed to the pressures of our mostly female clan, grew accustomed to our constant chattering, our histrionics, our hair in the tub drains, our TP-swaddled tampons taking up valuable garbage-pail real estate, our choice of tearjerker films over action ones, and our need to talk through every issue until it was talked to death. That was the only world I knew, and it was decidedly deprived of maleness. Tonka trucks and GI Joes were foreign territory. There were no battles of keeping the toilet seat up or down. I knew nothing of Kleenex wads, girly mags, and Selective Service registration. Football was a thing we cheered for, not played.
My son is four now. Though he has indeed exhibited many of the behaviors I used to quietly find so off-putting in other people’s sons, we never had trouble bonding. On the contrary, it’s been easy. I can appreciate the one-track thinking of his masculine mind, the relative slowness of his development when compared with my daughter. I also feel like I’ve had time to savor each of his stages, because they’ve all lasted longer than his sister’s did. I just understand so much better those “boy behaviors” I used to judge. In the end, the challenges have largely been what I imagined they’d be but not at all how I imagined they’d be. True love made quick work of my foolish fears and opened my eyes to the beauty of little boys. They’re quite different than I thought, and they sure don’t fit in any one box.
When my son bends down these days to put on his dorky little cowboy boots, the band of his teensy tighty-whities sticks out of his jeans. Cowlicks pepper his head like miniature mushroom clouds. I just have to smile to look at it all. Those are the small details I would have attached myself to in other people’s sons long ago, a way to dial back my judgments, the odd problem I hadn’t named until I found out I was having a son—my misconception that wee boys were really kind of a pain in the ass. Now that I’ve got a son of my own, I realize they’re not. And it’s not the cowlicks and the undies that help me connect. It’s the person. He’s his own flavor of awesome. And as with my daughter, I wish I could clone him, too.