The things that will never make it in the baby books and other musings from a stay at home mom

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

"It's a boy"

The moment when my OB told me that Evan was a boy will always stand out sharply in my mind, not just because of how surprised I was to hear those words but because of the instant conflict of joy and panic that they sparked in me. I was overjoyed to know that we had a healthy baby, delighted to hear that we were going to have the opportunity to raise a boy, thrilled that each of our kids would have the special status of "only" son or daughter in our family. And at the same time, I was completely, totally and utterly terrified of what laid ahead.

If I'd had a son first, I don't know that it would have fazed me as much. But two years into the parenting thing, I had some pretty serious gender biases going. I'd watched little boys run wildly around a room while my daughter sat happily in one place and played with her toys. I'd seen the way they could foil a childproofing expert in seconds while Julia was content to be told "no" and move on to something more appropriate. I'd seen their frustration and ensuing tantrums as they walked later and talked later than their female peers. And time and time again, I'd smugly though "thank God I don't have to deal with any of that." Don't bother to send me your "not my kid" stories here -- I know that for every boy who fits into these stereotypes, there is one who defies them and I know that girls are equally likely to be exuberant handfuls. I grew up on Free To Be You And Me and gender equality and I hated myself for having these silly stereotypes. But I couldn't shake them. I felt for some of those boy mommies. I wondered if I was up to the challenge. And I wasn't entirely sure I wanted to find out.

In the early months of Evan's life, when I was still doing a double take every time I opened his diaper and saw that thing sitting there, I quickly realized that Evan was notably more loving and attached to me than Julia had been. He would gaze at me forever, his need and adoration stronger than anything my independent daughter had ever exhibited. "Boys are special -- they love their Mommies," people told me again and again, and before long, I started to say it, too. More stereotyping, I know. But I was head over heels in love with my new baby and I thought everything about him, even his gender, was worthy of comment and celebration. I was also, truth be told, still feeling a little guilty about my ambivalence about raising a son, and anything that I could say positively about the experience put that guilt to rest a bit. So I proclaimed the joys of the mother/son relationship, all the while worrying about whether I really felt that way. Infant boys were lovely for sure. But toodler boys? The thought still made me shudder.

A year later, Evan has lived up to some of my stereotypes and disproved others. He's definitely done most things later than Julia did, but his early verbal skills have been a pleasant and unexpected surprise. He's got move overall energy and exuberance than she's ever had, but he's not one to take out his aggression on other kids or cause problems in a group. While his interests are more physical than cerebral, he can still be reigned in pretty easily. For the most part, I've been pleasantly surprised that this whole parenting a boy thing hasn't been so tough. In fact, I was even starting to get smug again, feeling grateful that I didn't end up with one of "those" boys. And then Evan got really steady on his feet.

In the past month, Evan has developed a love of the toilet bowl, a passion for shaking the heavy fireplace screen to within an inch of his life and an unmistakable glee for getting himself into dangerous situations. He's amazingly fast, shows absolutely no fear and finds nothing more motivating than the word "no." If you blink, he's gone from your sight, and if you can't see him, odds are very good that he's up to no good at all. This week alone, I've watched in horror as he's thrown sand will nilly in a crowded sandbox, banged wooden maracas on my window panes and broken several childproofing devices I had sworn were indestructible. In short, at 15 months, my son has suddenly become become my stereotype. Big time.

Amazingly enough, I don't seem to mind at all. I'm tired of chasing him, yes, and I continue to wonder a bit about what he'll be like in a month or a year or ten years. But he's just so happy and devilish and full of life that I can't help but laugh at his exploits. He's more of a handful to corral than Julia, but he's also less complicated in a lot of ways. I shake my head at him a lot and I bemoan the physical work of keeping up with him. But truth be told, I'm having far more fun than I ever expected to have with a boy.

When I first got pregnant with Evan, I confessed to a hairdresser that I didn't particularly care if I ever had a boy. "It would be lovely," I told her, "but I won't feel cheated if I never get to raise a son." "Oh, I hope this is a boy, then," she told me. "It's the women who say that who always end up having the most incredible love affairs with their sons." I smiled when she said that and admired the picture of her adult son hanging on the wall. But I didn't really know that I believed her. Now I do.


At 2:57 PM, Blogger Kristy said...

Um. Ditto. (Except the early talking part ;-)

At 5:02 PM, Anonymous Heather said...

um, yeah, exactly what you said. Can I just cut and paste for my blog because I never seem to make the time and everything you say - just rings true!!! Your Evan must know my Ryan :D

At 5:23 PM, Anonymous Gretchen C. said...

I have to tell Ben about this, because he's been nervous about having a daughter (he met me right around the time Erika turned 13, a scary time indeed), and I've been telling him that little boys adore their mommies but little girls adore their daddies.

My experience has been so similar to yours as far as having sons after having a daughter. And by the way, my boys aren't any exception to anything; they are the living embodiment of every little boy stereotype you ever heard.

At 3:58 PM, Anonymous Wende said...

Heh... I can identify with some of this as a mother of an only son. IZ and I always thought girls until the ultrasound told us differently. When we got over the shock of having to pick out a boy's name I went into full panic--what do I know about boys?

When he was a terror of a three year old I was lamenting my plight to a woman who had several children now grown. She quipped, "Boys make you pay when they're little, Girls make you pay when they are teenagers!"

But, he's now eight and what I know is that is himself. Sometimes he is the stereotypical boy... and other times not. Always, though, he reminds me that he is who HE is--and that can't be labeled and is best experienced one day at a time.

I still don't think I know much about boys--but I realize that I don't have to. I just have to marvel in who *this* particular boy is. That's enough.

Until of course I look at his bedroom and my blood pressure rises. I try to keep his door closed. :)

Lovely post.

At 1:09 PM, Blogger Gina said...

I have a friend who says she hopes this baby is a boy - because she wants me to know the joys of raising a boy. Reading this kind of makes me hope she's right.


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