So. I’m pregnant. And full disclosure: I really wanted another girl. I wanted our eldest to have a sister to relate to, I loved the idea of my two boys being bookmarked with a little less testosterone, but mostly? I wanted another little girl to share in the thing my mom and I had.
She used to buy this terribly amazing ice cream that had actual Butterfinger swirled into it. It was like our emergency fire extinguisher: we broke the glass for mean girls and stupid boys and post-fight-make-ups and really bad period cramps. Two spoons, one tub, no shame.
We’d sit in her bed with our comfort food and watch some show or movie targeted exactly to our demographic. Sometimes we’d talk and sometimes we’d sit in silent solidarity, but all times we ate more than we should have and the togetherness helped.
As an adult, I joined her for morning coffee and whenever we were together we loaded up our cups to start our day, sat at the table or on the couch to sip and plot out the hours before us.
We shared clothes, we paired up to go to the bathroom, we bickered over popcorn etiquette at the movies. We laughed at each other, we shared the dark stuff, we held hands.
I miss that.
For some reason I was sure this was a girl. I was sure this baby was going to bring me more of that.
So when we found out that I am in fact growing another boy I was first grateful and ecstatic that he is developing well and second… disappointed. I needed to grieve the loss of the image I had in my head of me and my two daughters talking about life in the bathroom while we sprayed our hair. I needed to grieve what I felt was less than I wanted of this mother-daughter-ness; in some way, maybe a little less of my mom.
I shared my processing with another mom I trust which is just always a good idea because she gave me this key to unlock a new imagination: she told me that of her two teenaged kids, her son is the one with whom she cuddles up on the couch, the one who wants to talk about his feelings, the one who eats ice cream with her while they watch a show. I’ve never seen this modeled. For all my post-patriarchy talk and feminist ideals, I realized then that I’d still been holding onto this notion that girls are sugar and spice and boys are newt tails or something gross; that the differences inherent in different hormone levels mean connections can’t be as deep across the gender divide.
“Maybe one of them will be gay…” I comforted myself.
But! I know better than to assign this crap! I have known literally since the day he was born that my own son is a tender-heart, that he’s a feeler. I am the beneficiary of many, many snuggles and thoughtful kisses on my face and random expressions of his limitless affection. Both of my boys play rougher than their sister, but both of them are so aware of emotions – one of my boys gets this look on his face when he sees people sad that makes me think he’s feeling it, too. All of them are complex and not one of my children fits neatly into the Gender Boxes typically presented in our culture. All of them are brilliant, clever, interesting people with deeply particular preferences and quarks.
I love what I have with my daughter. I love that as she watches me go through things only women go through she internalizes and we get to anticipate them for her together. I love that I know answers to some questions only she will ask. I love that while her brothers wrestle as if they are going to kill their dad, her and I sit and laugh because we have no interest in their brand of physicality.
And I love what I have with my sons, too. I don’t know what the dynamics will look like as we all grow. I don’t know who will join me for ice cream and Downton Abbey. I don’t know who will be up for morning cups of motivation. But I know now that the thing I had with my mom was merely and marvelously friendship and I want that with all my kids, regardless of their gender. It will never be what it was with her because friendship is not a thing, it’s just a word we use to talk about something too specific to the people involved for any other words.
Yet when my daughter flits around at hearing music I see my mother’s free spirit. When my oldest son tinkers in deep concentration over a Lego set I see my mother’s McGyver-like ingenuity. When my youngest smiles I see my mother’s signature cheeks and arched eyebrows – so much that it catches my breath sometimes. When they trust with childlike abandon and talk about God’s love and show each other deep, creative kindness she’s there in their midst.
I wasn’t wrong: I do connect with her in some way through my daughter, but not only through her, and not because she is a girl. These remarkable humans I get to call my children show me the parts I miss most of my mother every day. They bring her back to me in ways they can’t help and couldn’t try. My relationship with each of them will be it’s own thing, and the ways we remember her, the ways her spirit shows up will be a delectable part. In some way they will share in a space I used to share with her and that has nothing to do with their anatomy.
So, little-one-with-boy-parts, know that you are loved and wanted by your Momma and that your GoGo would be more than giddy to see you in the world. Know that whoever you are and whatever you like – if you’re shy or bombastic, if you’re a snuggler or a loner, if you like chick flicks or slasher movies, I am excited to be a person who loves you. And I can’t wait to be your friend.
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