I wrote with honesty and anguish about how disappointed I was when I found out that my 4th babe was a boy. I wrote a follow-up post, too. It's about the ridiculous things people have said to me about the sex of my children.
I'm not done with this topic yet. It really matters to me. I'm still completely appalled at how determined our culture is to make me raise a boyish-boy son and to make me want to value his contribution to my family more than my daughters'. And it's not that I still feel disappointed that I had a son. I adore my little Julian. He is absolutely as wonderful as my daughters were at his age. But he isn't MORE wonderful just for being male.
Here's why I didn't want a son:
1. I mostly don't like any of the little boys I know.
Why do the little boys in my neighbourhood stand on their front lawns and pretend to shoot guns at my daughters and I as we walk by? Why do I always see brothers beating up and tormenting their younger siblings? Why does every little boy who talks to my daughters have to turn every little interaction into a competition? Why do all the little boys at playgroup and La Leche League try to destroy and/or hoard all of the communal toys?
And why are all of their parents oblivious to these behaviours?
You see, if these behaviours are just normal boy behaviours, then I don't want a boy because I don't want any child of mine to act like that. Why would I have wanted a boy if I had to expect all these aggressive and anti-social behaviours from him? And if these aren't just normal boy behaviours, then why don't the parents of these boys that I've described do something to help their boys learn nicer behaviours?
2. I can't stand all the stereotypes about boys.
If all the aggressive behaviours of boys that I've described above are TRUE, then I genuinely don't know how to be the mother of a boy because I CAN'T STAND those behaviours. BUT, if boys are actually socialized to behave aggressively (which I believe that they are, but that's another post all together), then I should be able to prevent those behaviours by 'socializing' my son in the same manner as I am 'socializing' my daughters. Right?
Well, maybe. Unfortunately, people are constantly ready to throw ancient gender-stereotypes at my children. They tell me that my daughters are CUTE, but my son is BIG and STRONG. My daughter who wants to do everything herself is STUBBORN, but my son is INDEPENDENT. They tell me that my daughters will spoil my son but that my son will protect his sisters. Excuse me?
And why do people insist that my curious, happy one-year-old boy is 'such a boy' because he gets into the cupboards or because he insists on playing on the stairs at every opportunity? My daughters did those things at the same age--so were they 'being boys'?
Babies are babies. A boy is just a girl who's a boy.
I refuse to believe that there are 'boy behaviours' and 'girl behaviours' in children who are too young to understand sex or gender difference.
3. I hate the way that everyone wanted me to have a boy.
Just a few of the stupid comments I've heard:
- Still trying for a boy, eh? (while pregnant)
- This one better be a boy! (while pregnant)
- You better get the order right this time. (while pregnant)
- Daddy must be happy this time.
- Finally Daddy gets his little boy.
- So your husband finally got the recipe right!
- You got your boy!
- Well that took long enough!
- You can finally call it quits, eh?
- I guess you're done now, right?
4. I don't trust men so I don't know how to raise a boy into a man.
Throughout my twenties I seemed to gravitate toward men who were first-class liars. Not just liar-liar-pants-on-fire-liars (No, I didn't sleep with my ex-girlfriend after I deliberately ran into her at the gym), but the kind of liars who would lie about what they had for breakfast. Chronic liars. Guys who couldn't open their mouths without lying. Guys for whom lying was synonymous with breathing.
Add to that that I have two brothers, neither of whom has spoken to me in 7 years nor even acknowledged that I have children. They seem to have a world view which includes requiring me to live by their values even if they don't do what they think I should be doing.
And then top it off with having a father who was emotionally unavailable for most of my life. He didn't have my back when I was growing up, he didn't stand up for me, never validated or empowered me, never recognized my obvious talents. I've forgiven him and I have a very good relationship with him now and I've figured out that his weaknesses are no worse than mine.
Still, I have serious baggage where men are concerned. There is no man in my life who I would consider to be an ideal role model for my son.
5. Mothers are always blamed for whatever their sons do that deviates from what is considered 'normal'.
If a boy is shy or sensitive, it's because the mother babied him too much. If a boy is aggressive and bully-ish, it's because the mother didn't give him proper boundaries. If a boy is not athletic and coordinated it's because the mother didn't give him enough opportunities and encouragement. If a boy is lazy it's because the mother did everything for him. If a boy is attention-seeking it's because his mother didn't give him enough attention. I could go on and on....
I don't believe any of those ridiculous statements--but I've heard every one of them as an elementary school teacher.
The way I see it, I'm going to have enough guilt about my parenting skills without leaving myself open for society to blame me too.
6. I think it's harder to be a man in modern culture than it is to be a woman.
This could be an entire post in itself.
Why is it that girls who become astronauts and engineers are celebrated, but boys who become daycare workers or dental assistants get the raised eyebrow? Have you ever noticed that people still use the expression Male Nurse?
I've observed that men are expected to be both macho and sensitive, but I find those two attributes to be mutually exclusive. By contrast, I find that women are expected to be both sexy and intelligent, two attributes that I don't find to be mutually exclusive. Men face pressures that women don't. I'm sure there are many who would disagree with me about this point in particular. I'm just saying that for ME, being a woman in 2011 seems a whole lot easier than being a man.
After re-reading this post, I feel compelled to reiterate that I absolutely love my son Julian and I really believe that he is the perfect addition to our family.
But I'm still not done with this topic.
TOMORROW: Gender Fluidity, The Genderless Baby and How I Intend to Raise my Son
|Totally gratuitous picture of Julian (13 months), learning to walk while on the beach at Lac Morency in The Laurentians|