Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Worried Pink

I’m a little freaked out about having a daughter.

Before Friday, when pressed about the baby, I said I was sort of hoping for a boy, but I thought it might be a girl. Then I would quickly add the disclaimer “but it doesn’t matter.”

I was “hoping” for a boy because it meant we wouldn’t have to move out of our two-bedroom condo. Lumpyhead and Akutaq can share a room for the next several years of course, but eventually we will have to move. I’m adjusting to the idea that our current place will not be where we spend the rest of our lives. I can’t say I’m all broken up about that – it’s not my dream house or anything – but it’s daunting.

Since Lumpyhead and Akutaq will be so close in age, we hope they will be friends. I was playing the odds that two brothers had a better chance of being close than a brother and sister. Obviously brothers, no matter how close in age they may be, are not guaranteed to be great friends; and some brothers and sisters are inseparable.

So really, it doesn’t matter. I was just looking for a way to answer a throw-away question. But I am worried.

I worry about posting this. Will it be misinterpreted, someday, as “I wish you had been a boy"?

Boys are easier. Boys are cheaper. Boys don’t get pregnant in high school.

Then there are the worries about expectations. I’m not expected to play catch with my son or teach him to parallel park or chat with him about the designated hitter. (His father and I will do these things, but they’re not traditionally expected of me.) I’m expected to teach my daughter about makeup and proper accessories and ladylike behavior. (These are not my strong suits. I can teach her to burp, which one assumes she’ll come out of the womb knowing how to do.)

I’m looking for the upside of being a mother to a girl. As far as I can see, there’s more pressure and more expectations and rife emotional issues.

My mother always told me that my grandmother was her best friend; I know she is disappointed that we don’t have the same kind of relationship. I don’t expect to be Akutaq’s best friend or confidant. It will be great if that’s how things turn out, but I expect she will think I’m lame and clueless and will resent the things I do. I will embarrass her and inadvertently disappoint her. I will annoy the shit out of her. (So will her dad, but he’ll always be Daddy and it won’t matter. The eyerolls and grating tsk-cluck sound will be directed at me.)

I never worried about these kinds of things – and still don’t – with Lumpyhead. Why is it different?

I can dismiss the worry about traditional expectations pretty easily. We’ve given tradition the finger and are creating our own definitions in our house anyway, so who cares if she learns about makeup from me or Amalah’s Smackdown or her friends or my gay cousin? (She’ll need one or more of those resources, because all she’s getting from me about makeup is “You’re beautiful without it. The end.” Not so helpful when you’re in junior high and it’s crucial you figure out that eyelash curler.)

She’ll learn the important stuff from me, though, like self-esteem and respect for others and intellectual curiosity. She’ll learn that her looks are secondary and her body not an object. It will never occur to her that women can be limited in their career or life choices.

And she’ll be able to rattle the rafters (of our eventual new house) with a burp.

I hope.


Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah said...

I'd be lying if I said my girl hasn't been more challenging so far (I mean - you've met Claudia), but there are also upsides.

1) WAY better clothes.

2) The sweet part. The shocking beauty of your own daughter. Watching her mother her baby dolls.

3) When I was nursing them Ian used to kick me the whole time and Claudia would gently lay her hand on my arm. But it's not just with nursing, it's with everything. Ian loves me more violently.

I agree. A girl is scarier, but it is so worth it. So far. I'm not really looking forward to the teenage part.

daddy in a strange land said...

Heh. I swore up-and-down that I was gonna be all gender-neutral/anti-gender-role-stereotype in raising The Pumpkin, and though I think I'm doing a good job in some aspects, there's no getting around all the pink clothes in her closet and the fact that, somehow, she loves carrying purses or copying her mama put on makeup. Oh well--feminists can wear lipgloss, right?

Michele said...

I thought I was totally OK with just having boys and then one day I saw a mother and daughter shopping and the mom just casually linked arms with the (20-ish) daughter and they giggled about something and it just hit me in the gut. I will never have that. There is just something about the mother/daughter dynamic - as beautiful and also whacked as it can be - that is still so amazing. I envy you.

And the clothes are SO much better.

nonlineargirl said...

Good post. You have reasonable concerns and my experience won't change them, but...

My mom never taught me about clothes and hair and makeup. (I'm still a little sketchy about those latter two.) I grew up wanting to do something very different from her, but ended up working on the same issues from a different perspective, so we always have a lot to talk about.

Some things are nature (Ada seems more interested in "babies" - dolls, mostly - than her boy pals) but nurture is important too. Today Ada was wearing overalls, with a pinafore over it (I wanted to see if it fit her, since it was a gift we have not used yet). While playing, she put on a baby sized fur stole and a fireman's helmet. Equal opportunity gender role player, my 14 month old.

I said I didn't care what I had, but once I found out I was having a girl, I was so excited. Partially because I only had a sister growing up, but also because in many ways, play and roles are more open for girls. Helping a girl continue to feel the world is her oyster as she grows up will be the work, but it is work I am excited for, lipstick, combat boots and all.

tammy said...

I'm glad I have to boys - for all the reasons you mentioned, but sometimes I see little girls, or girl cloths & I'm sad. Or I hear someone is havog a girl & I am momentarily jealous. Then I think about teenagers...

Jill said...

For what it's worth, my one girl is way easier and less emotional than her three brothers. She plays ball, she hugs her "babies." It's all good.

sweatpantsmom said...

Girls are fun, you'll see. And my eight year old? Her burps peel the paint off the walls.

But my ten year old is total girlie-girl, sweetness and sensitivity.

We have no idea where she came from.

Veronica Mitchell said...

Cheer up. Boys are more likely to get arrested.

My mom is a strong, loving woman for whom I have great respect, but she couldn't put on make-up if her life depended on it, and she's had the same hairstyle since 1960. You don't have to be girly to be a great mom to girls. She raised three, and while none of us ever learned her hook shot, she seems pretty happy with the results otherwise.

Em said...

my opinion on the matter:
my kids are boy and girl and are very close.
she can ask bump for help with any questions of dress.
my mom and i are very close and we never ever did traditional girly things together so you never know what you might share with her until you meet her.
you can sew and knit for her -- tulip toes!

Violet said...

I think you're probably being mislead by stereotypes of what little girls and little boys are like. Girls can be agressive, completely uninterested in makeup and highly independent. Boys can be clingy, interested in clothes and sensitive.

having said that, I have a daughter, and did secretly want to have a daughter rather than a son - though only because I felt I'd be able to relate to a girl better.

Auntly H said...

My mom didn't re-start shaving her legs until I went off to college and waited until I got my diploma to add make-up to her routine. When I hit the middle school peer pressure cooker, mom got me through most of the growing up crap, referred me to friends who could offer advice on the girly-girl things, and silently bore the weight of my irrational requests for "normal" parents. I'm really glad they didn't give me away during those years. Both my parents were/are there for me and taught me the stuff I really needed to know. I'm still lousy with eyeliner and mascara, but I'm not on stage nor screen so who cares? Something tells me you and A. will do just fine.