I didn’t want to know the sex of my first child. And let it be noted that I told that, explicitly, to the ultrasound technician.
“Well, there’s that little penis!” she said, looking at the picture up on the screen.
“So it’s a boy, then,” I said, not a little pissed off.
She immediately realized her mistake. “Um…that’s someone else’s ultrasound.”
Yeah, lady. Put that one in the category of “really convincing lies.” You can put it right between “I have no idea how I got in this bed with the Taiwanese hooker” and “Who put this joint in my hand?”
In the cab to work, spoiled brat that I was, I cried. “What’s the matter?”, my then-husband asked.
“How can I have a BOY?” I sobbed, pregnant hormones always at the ready and ever-helpful for geysers of tears, in what would become an eminently quotable moment. “I don’t know anything about trucks!”
I didn’t know nothin’ about anything, as it turned out. But that’s another story.
The New Girl
Fast forward seven and a half years. I have two boys, a new husband, and if all goes well (pu pu pu!) as of July, a new baby…girl.
“That’s terrific!“ everyone says when I tell them we’re having a girl. But to be honest, I’m vaguely terrified.
I just mastered the whole Star Wars/Lego/stomp rocket/Harry Potter/Marvel comics thing. I just figured out that Old Navy three-packs are the best bet for both boxers and briefs. I just got married and have someone to whom all testicle-related questions can be directed. I just bought the soccer, basketball, and other random athletic crap for the backyard.
And now, everyone tells me that I am about to enter The World of Pink.
I know a little something about girls. I mean, technically, I am one. But I have to say, as a child, I never went to a “Mommy & Me Mani-Pedi.” Sure, I wore a tutu for those ballet classes on occasion, and I loved my dollhouse like nobody’s business.
But for the most part, being a girl wasn’t that different, pre-puberty, from being a boy. I loved Lego and Star Wars. My best friend was the boy who lived two houses away. I didn’t pretend to be a princess, but instead, wanted to be Peter Pan or Wendy, either one, depending on whether I was in a blue nightgown or my green outfit with tights.
It wasn’t that my mother was making some big gender point with how my sisters, brother, and I were raised. Rather, it was precisely the opposite–in other words, that it shouldn’t even occur to us to feel defined by our gender. After all, that comes naturally later, with the advent of periods, boobs, and puberty in general. As a kid, why should it matter?
My Superficial Fear
Every marketing mechanism in our parenting era, however, seems determined to prove that not only does it matter, but it should matter, and by God, you should enjoy it! The same mothers who look down their noses at child beauty pageants take their girls for the mani-pedi salon treatments, go shoe shopping with glee, and hype up the joys of being a little princess. Everything from headphones to underwear to pencils is for sale in blue OR pink, and there’s no mystery to which color matches which sex.
This concerns me. Unlike some other mothers I know who delight in facilitating their little girls’ early-onset gender definition (buying magazines to tack Justin Bieber pics up on their walls in kindergarten? Buying butt-slimming sneakers for an 8-year-old? Come on!), I don’t want my girl on the fast track to emulating Britney Spears or Miley Cyrus. The girl stuff seems to focus much more on the superficial trappings of being a girl, and my fear is that it sets up a child for a lifetime of valuing those things rather than what I believe is truly important.
I want to raise a girl who will feel comfortable in her own skin, not always wanting to emulate someone else’s perception of who she should be. I want to raise her in a way where she will grow up to be whatever she wants, to not feel valued or evaluated on the basis of how she looks and dresses.
So it’s going to be different, parenting a girl, but if I do it correctly, I think it will be different in the same way that it’s different to parent each of my two sons. In other words, the individuality of the child should dictate the parenting, not the child’s sex or gender.
Is her room going to be pink? No. Sure, she’ll wear pink and lace, but also blue and every other color there is. More importantly, if I can accomplish it, she won’t think what she wears is nearly as big a deal as who she is.
If you’re also expecting a girl, here are some tips for planning a baby naming ceremony, but if you’re on the other side of the gender coin, you’ve got your own issues to sort through, like
whether or not to have a bris