Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Frogs and Snails

(Image from artfido.com)
I've been giving a lot of thought to my lot in life this week.  My destiny to be surrounded by boys.  I've had fun taking in the reactions from family and friends as we announce that we are having yet another boy.  Taking in the horror, the humor, the trepidation in people's voices or their ellipses in their Facebook comments.

When you announce you're having a baby and it is pretty clear that this baby was planned, "Congratulations!  I'm so happy for you guys!" rolls readily off the tongue.  But when you announce the sex of your baby and it's clear that this is likely your last pregnancy and that this baby will be your third boy and that you will never have a daughter, the "Congratulations" comes with a bit of a question mark, some hesitation, some wonder:

"How are you feeling?"  
"Were you hoping for a girl?" 
"Oh, I was hoping for a girl for you guys."
"Well, it's gonna be busy in your house!"
"It's gonna be fun!"
"Well, at least you're ready for it!"
"Are you ready for it?"

I've received delicate condolences, sympathy, camaraderie, laughter and even something sounding a little like blame from my mom who sometimes says silly things like, "Well, that's what happens when you have sex on the day of ovulation!" 

Does she have a camera in our bedroom?  David wondered, horrified.

Does she have a camera in my body?!  I wondered, mystified.

I've enjoyed the processing of all this, taking it all in, trying to separate how I really feel from how others assume I might feel about having a third boy, or rather about not having a daughter.

I have had moments of grief, no doubt.  Moments where I have to take all my dreams and imaginings of our daughter and lay them out in front of me:

Her big blue eyes.
Her feet scurrying by in little white tights.
Her little girl sass; her little girl charm.
The way her hair would look bouncing around in messy pigtails.
The way she'd look snuggled up to David on the couch.
The way her brothers would tease her/protect her.
The way she'd love me and hate me all in one breath.
The way she'd understand me and challenge me--my biggest critic, my greatest admirer.

And of course, I've imagined how I, unlike any other mom on the planet, would dress her in a style and fashion so adorable, onlookers would swoon at how precious she is.  I would dress her in hippy dresses and ruffly pants and bright, bright colors and everyone would know that she is my daughter.  Little girl Jill.  Little girl David.

I lay these things out and then I wrap them in paper, package them away, and put them up on the shelf.

Then, I get out the other box.  The one that has my imaginings and my dreams for my very real, very lively little boy dancing in my belly.

When we found out Charlie was a boy at the ten-week ultrasound, I was underwhelmed.  Oh, another one.  Fine, another boy.  Been there, done that.  

Little did I know that Charlie would not be just another little boy.  He would not be just a replica of Finny.  Although he would wear the same clothes, lay on the same sheets, and play with the same toys, he would be this totally different and wonderful creature.  He would be Charlie, head of tender, messy blonde curls, voice full of tough and gruff--sweet and shy, daring and careful, obstinate and agreeable, independent and snuggly.  Layered.  Lovely.  Sweet.  Hysterically funny.

So, this time around when we decided at the last minute that we did, in fact, want to know the gender of the baby, my reaction was different when David peeled open the envelope and said, "Baby Boy."

I smiled and thought, another one.  Another boy.  Who will this one be?

What dance moves will he create in our kitchen?  
What jokes will he tell at our table?  
Will his hair be curly or straight?  
Will he be focused and pensive or imaginative and spontaneous?  
Will he adore putting on plays with the couch cushions or swinging the golf club in the backyard?  
Will he wear whatever I put him in as Finny does or pitch a fit when I dress him in anything other than pajamas or orange pants like Charlie does?  
How will he fit in?  How will he shape our family?
And will he be as close to Finny and Charlie as they are to each other or will he be the outlier, the third wheel, the independent one who came along a few years later?

Three boys, oh my! I've heard it again and again.  And what does that mean?

Our house will be messy.
The couch cushions will never be on the couch and when they are, they'll be covered in fingerprints, Sharpie marker, and a little bit of pee-pee.
There will always be a slight yellow ring around the base of our toilet.
Every object, every toy, every piece of pipe cleaner or paper towel roll will become a sword or a blaster.
I will wash a lot of cotton t-shirts and a lot of stinky sandals.
I will say No! Don't touch! and Take your hands out of your pants!  A lot.
I will laugh more than I'd every imagined at poop, toot, and butt jokes.
And I will be asked by one more person on a daily basis where my penis is, as if I've misplaced it, left it on the counter at the grocery store next to my forgotten umbrella.

But anyone who has ever loved a boy knows that frogs and snails and penis curiosity are only part of the big picture, a spill in the corner of the canvas.

Anyone who has ever loved a boy knows that little boys are actually some of our most delicate and fragile creatures.  

And some of our most vulnerable.  Because my little boys have big feelings that I sometimes worry the world doesn't want or expect them to have.  Because my little boys love to make beaded necklaces and bake and play princesses and I sometimes wonder, to my own shame, if that's okay.

Because we encourage girls to break into the "boys' world."  To play sports, be competitive, major in engineering.  But when a boy is nurturing and tender-hearted, when a boy wants a doll or a turn with the princess palace, we hesitate and wonder, "Is this okay?"  

When a girl wants to play soccer, we say, "You Go, Girl!"  But when a boy wants to take ballet, we frown and dissuade him, push him in another direction.  A tougher direction, one that allows him to live comfortably within his stereotypes, without the judgment of the world on his shoulders.

We encourage his love of superheroes while we discourage his interest in violence.  We discourage his interest in caring for dolls, but encourage him to desire fatherhood.

The life of a boy is full of contradictions and unjust expectations.  

Don't get me wrong, a little girl has plenty of unjust stereotype placed upon her as well.  But it is not my destiny in life to raise little girls.  It is my privilege and blessing to raise a troop of boys, and so I make it my mission to raise the best of the best.  Top Guns.  Little boys who are not limited by their gender or by what the world expects them to be.

Little boys who put on the princess dress and then slosh through the mud wielding their paper towel holder swords.  Little boys who tackle each other with deep dinosaur growls and moments later end up in a heap of tears on the couch because Darth Vader is dead, because he turned to the dark side, because in the words of tender Finn, "He turned away from God."

Little boys Jill. Little boys David.  Frogs and snails and puppy dog tails, and sometimes even feet scurrying by in little white tights with batgirl capes flowing behind them.  That is what our little boys are made of.

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