Thursday, October 14, 2010

Confessions of a (Sometimes Immature) Mother

Just look at this boy! Julian sure is full of surprises.

It was enough surprise that he turned out to be a boy (still getting used to that) AND that he arrived in only 1 1/2 hours of labour AND that he weighed over 10 pounds.

But now it turns out he's going to be a thumb-sucker.

Anna and Holly both had soothers by the time they were about 6 weeks old. Actually, I think I gave the soother to Anna at only 3 weeks. I had a soother when I was a baby and I guess I thought that if it had been OK for me to have one that it was OK for my babies to have one. Also, Partner-Guy believed that babies with soothers cry less and he was terrified of crying babies, so I thought a soother couldn't hurt.

When Jasmine was born I knew that I didn't want her to have a soother. I had learned at La Leche League that it is healthier for a baby to satisfy herself at the breast and I had learned from experience that once a soother is given it must eventually be taken away. I had urged Anna to give up her soother which she eventually did at 3 years 8 months of age. Holly had agreed to give up her soother when she was 3 years old but when the day came she clearly wasn't ready and so she picked a date further in the future and she stuck to it and gave it up without the slightest hesitation. But it was a milestone that I would have preferred to do without.

So no soother for Julian either.

And I do love seeing his little hand groping all over his face as his eager little lips seek out his thumb. It's just one of the many little details that make him different from his sisters. And he is different. But all babies are unique, right? And his gender doesn't matter, right? And I can't assume that everything about him is related to him being a boy, right?

The truth is, it's not just that I actively wanted another girl. I actually didn't want a boy. Partner-Guy was more of the we-just-want-a-healthy-baby mindset, but I really couldn't picture myself birthing a boy and raising a son. From before Julian was even conceived we were referring to the next baby as a girl and even Anna, Holly and Jasmine referred to the baby throughout the pregnancy by the girl-name we had chosen. One of my friends, a mother of two boys, had given me bags and bags of boy-clothes just in case and I couldn't even bring myself to look at them. I was convinced that we were having another girl who I could dress in all the beautiful clothes of her older sisters. In fact, for Julian's first two weeks with us he wore nothing but white undershirts because I couldn't stand the thought of dressing him in blue for the rest of his life.

And it wasn't just the clothes that swung my bias against boys. I had been to La Leche League for 5 years and every baby boy I had seen either looked like a clown or was just plain ugly. Whenever one of my friends or acquaintances would have a baby I would dread having to come up with something positive to say if the baby was a boy. Five of my friends do have sons and I genuinely try to be as kind to their sons as to their daughters, but it requires a dedicated effort and it doesn't come to me very naturally.

So what created this anti-boy sentiment in me? Is it the bad experiences I've had with men, related and otherwise? (I've been known to comment "Why would I want a son....they just grow up to be men.) Is it that most of the mothers I know who have sons let them act like brats and seem completely oblivious to their behaviour? Is it that boys tend to do worse in school than girls? Is it that I don't think any boy could ever be as wonderful as my daughters?

I don't know. But I do know that I think it is much harder to raise a boy than to raise a girl. The pressures on boys are different and more complicated than the pressures on girls in modern society. I mean, in a simplified way, girls face the pressure to be beautiful and successful, attributes which are not mutually exclusive. But boys face the pressure to be both nurturing and macho, or to be both serious and playful. I'm not sure I understand enough about what makes a man great to raise a great man.

But this is where Authentic Parenting comes in. All I really want for Julian is for him to achieve his full potential, just as that is what I want for his sisters. I want to celebrate his emotions, his milestones and his relationships with the same fervour that I have for his sisters. He's my baby who just happens to be a boy.

And I do LOVE him with all the fervour that I love my daughters. Loving him has nothing to do with his gender. I don't love him for WHAT he is, but simply because he IS.

Still, I wish I could get over the little nagging sing-songy voice in my head that keeps taunting me: You got a boy-oy. You got a boy-oy. I feel like it's telling me all the things that make me cringe whenever I hear them. Things like, boys are different, just wait 'til YOU have a boy, boys will be boys. I don't want to raise a mainstream boy. I want to raise a boy who is nothing like most boys I know. Am I going to have to work on getting over THAT? I don't want to give him trucks to play with. I want him to play Playmobil and read books and draw pictures and watch Little House on the Prairie with his sisters. But I want him be himself and do what comes naturally to him without any of my ideas or any mainstream ideas eithers. I may not be mature enough to handle this. It's a good thing Julian has a Dad.

And no, I don't think my boy-baby looks like a clown. He is absolutely beautiful.

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