Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mostly Boy

Before I married Jeff, I spent much of my time chasing after cute boys, trying to gain their attention and earn their affection. Somehow, life isn't much different these days - except that my life is richer and fuller than I could have ever hoped it to be, with four adoring males in my life. How did this girl get so lucky?

I suppose this is the lighthearted way of easing in to what continues to trouble me. It's my Achilles heel of parenting, I suppose. Some complain of the Mommy Wars; I don't much care what other moms are doing and not doing. Me, I have an issue with the Gender Wars.

"You need a girl."

"Are you going to try again for a girl?"

"Three boys?! Poor Mommy!"

"You wouldn't understand about the pink hearts on her shirt, because you don't have girls."

I seethe when I hear comments like these. How often do you hear the opposite? How often do you hear these comments made about boys? While I understand that most who say these things aren't trying to be hurtful, the bottom line is the same: what you have isn't good enough.

"You need one with blonde hair."

"Are you going to try for one that's not deaf?"

"Your son is gay? Poor Daddy!"

You wouldn't understand that gender doesn't matter.

Sometimes I hear people say, "Oh, he's all boy." And while this one doesn't make me angry as much as the others, it does make me wonder. What does that mean, exactly, to be all boy? I believe what they mean is a short-hand version of "Oh, that child is so full of energy! He's on the go, and no one better stand in his way, or he might get aggressive. He is definitely assertive about what he wants. He pushes and shoves and only runs, never walks. He is loud and exuberant and fills up all the space in this room. He loves cars and trucks and and sports and blue stuff."

But when someone describes a child as being all boy, it leaves room for little else. It crowds out the space for what else that child is, or what he could grow to be: sensitive, kind, compassionate, empathetic, tender, gentle, loving.

(In the same vein, saying that a child is "all girl" (do people say that?) leaves little space for what else they can be: strong, assertive, independent, powerful. I'm pretty sure no one ever described me as "all girl.")

I was smitten with Jeff long before I got his attention and earned his affection. We were very close friends, however, and I suffered through watching him court other girls. One day in his dorm room, he showed me a list he'd created. It was labeled "How to Be a Boy." It detailed a great number of ways he thought he needed to change in order to be more like a boy, things like "Don't call her back right away. Make her wait." and "Don't write any more poetry for her." The list was a contradiction to the qualities I adored most about Jeff - all the things that made him "mostly" boy. Qualities like his expressive poetry, his kind and gentle actions, his sensitive and caring words and his sweet perspective on life.

Luckily, the list didn't work. The girl moved on from him, and Jeff (eventually) moved on to me. Where I continue to adore and appreciate how "Mostly Boy" he continues to be.

So when people make these comments to me, I bite my tongue. I mentally retort with a snarky comment or a question that makes them equally uncomfortable. But it hurts my feelings. It makes me angry.

Still, these comments make me stand taller and prouder than ever of my Mostly Boys. Who are loud and exuberant, who fill up the space of a room, who like to wrestle and have boundless energy. Who write poetry and weave wall hangings and sew gifts for each other and wear pink shirts. And to ease the hurt, I remind myself of the kindest, most affirming thing anyone has ever said to me when she found out I was having another boy. "Oh Anne, I am so glad. We need more women like you raising boys."

So that's what I'm doing. I'm raising Mostly boys.


Anonymous said...

I really appreciate this post. Of course, I am getting the opposite comments (but nonetheless, the same). I get especially irked when people make these comments in front of the them the impression that they aren't enough for me. So, my comeback to these annoying comments is, "Yes, I sure am blessed with three girls!"

Anonymous said...

Hee hee...the "anonymous" comment was from your three girled mama friend, Caytie!

captainadventure said...

I saw this and thought of your post