Some of my friends laugh to hear this reaction, scoffing, "Oh, it'll be fine. You'll be crazy about the little guy." True. I believe them. I managed to fall in love with the other three, and they weren't what I'd call pleasant babies. And yet someone has to raise this kid. In the same way I spend a lot of time with my girls, teaching them and helping them to develop into reasonable and moral little human beings, I will need to be ready to mother a son. For me, that's the gist of it. Parenting isn't the same as growing a chia pet. You can't just water it and stick it in the window sill. I mean you can...but you may be disappointed. Chia pets are kind of icky.
I've had eight years to focus on parenting little girls. If someone were to ask me, Lauren, how are you approaching the task of raising little girls into well-adjusted, happy adults? I would be more than happy to provide you with my check lists and ideas. Some of my opinions are based on the successes that I've observed in the families I admire most. Some of the wisdom is hand-me-down from the people I trust. Some of it is good ol' fashion trial and error, which I continue to plug away at. But my point is that I have a plan. So much of my daughters' future will be their choice, but the foundation and infrastructure is in place. Everyday we are attempting, in large and small ways, to help our girls practice habits and develop the qualities that will serve them well, wherever they end up and whoever they grow up to be.
But the tool belt for boys looks very, very different.
For example, when I walk through the grocery store and see the high schoolers loitering in Starbucks during their lunch break I cringe at the many versions of "baby prostitute" these girls seem to come up with. My gorge rises in my throat. The need for young women to advertise themselves as sexual objects is disheartening. There are so many times when I want to say to them, "Stand up straight. Wipe that whorish make up off your face and put some clothes on. You are a beautiful girl. Men will like you anyway. Stop trying so hard, it makes you appear desperate." Of course I never say a word, but I think about these things. The teenage-girl issues are on my radar constantly, every day. And as my own girls come home from school heavy laden with questions and concerns about the big wide world I feel prepared. I try to anticipate what's coming. I know, more or less, how they feel. I am qualified.
But when I imagine the worlds of porn addiction or video game retardation that will someday beckon my son, I feel myself pale. I don't feel ready. I don't know what's coming...at least not completely. I do not feel prepared and for me, that is one of the worst feelings in the world. Raising children is too important to bank on the fact that you can love them enough to trouble shoot their problems in the moment. Even when I know life will take its course and some of my plans will absolutely, inevitably go awry, I feel more confident with a few blue prints in hand.
In the end I think it's good to be nervous. A little bit of fear makes people try harder and proceed with greater caution, and in my ignorance I think a few nerves are okay. But whatever anxiety I feel about dividing my attention between parenting philosophies about girls and boys, I want to begin this adventure with an open mind. Ignoring the whispered criticisms about how rowdy, unmanageable and rambunctious little boys can be. I can't count on my fingers and toes the number of times I've heard people make harsh, unkind generalizations about the nature of raising sons versus daughters. Girls are harder; too much drama. I don't even want daughters. Or, Seriously, boys will destroy your house one thing at a time. Prepare yourself, it's a nightmare. I'm guilty of having made some of these same generalizations in the past. But what occurred to me as I've reflected on the differing attitudes of girl-centric families versus boy-centric families is that although some stereo types may be true, they don't encompass the entire experience. Not even close! To say you don't want either daughters or sons because of the various stigmas attached is to say you hate all oceans because someone in Florida once got bit by a shark.
I think we are all slightly self-satisfied in our own experiences. My chocolate chip cookie recipe is the best one. The way I do things is the best way. Raising daughters is a joy and a tender privilege those of you with sons can't begin to imagine. But expecting a son has jerked me out of my pink-colored world. I'm suddenly disinclined to believe that the experience of raising a little boy is all about pee on the floor and broken lamps. Those things might be part of it, but they won't be all of it. My older sister (who has both a son and a daughter) said it best: No matter what people tell you, one isn't harder than the other. Certain aspects are harder with each gender, but in the end it's pretty even. Raising kids is just really, really hard, no matter what.
This week I've listened to a hundred voices weigh in on the subject. Boys are so much easier; you'll see. You cannot imagine how crazy little boys can be; it's going to be a really hard adjustment. Girl's are so emotional. There are basically no cute clothes for boys; prepare yourself for a future of sports apparel. I'm almost ready to put cotton balls in my ears! I don't really mind the advice, but when you line it up in a row you discover one, indisputable truth: If you are looking for the "easier path" in parenting, if you begin to entertain the idea that one road is better than the other, than perhaps you should invest in goldfish. Because the parenting life is not for the faint of heart!