Shortly after having my first son, I got a text from someone I didn’t know very well, congratulating me. Apparently she didn’t get the message that I’d had a boy, because she sent me a poem:
A son is your son until he takes a wife,
But a girl is your daughter for the rest of her life.
Um, what? It chilled me and I deleted it. Was my son eventually going to abandon me for some shrewish harridan? The thought had never crossed my mind. For all the things I fretted about during pregnancy (and there were plenty!), gender just wasn’t one of them.
Maybe part of that, though, was knowing I wanted two children. Surely I’d have a girl next. In fact, I sort of assumed I would. Most families I knew were symmetrical in that way: one boy, one girl.
It wasn’t in the cards: I’m due to give birth to my second son in three months, and unless I have a severe case of amnesia, a sudden cash influx and a burst of energy, this one’s going to be my last.
I am now officially a Mom of Two Boys.
There are clubs for people like us. Support groups even. I didn’t realize this until I began to wrestle with pangs of wistfulness after finding out this baby’s gender. It’s weird to know that one part of your fate is completely sealed. I will never have a daughter. Not going to happen. I will never go prom-dress shopping, or braid someone’s hair, or get into horrible teenage screaming matches that seem specific to girls, or help a daughter prepare for her wedding. There will never be that natural gender alliance that my husband enjoys with our son.
My mom and I fought a lot when I was a teenager, but now I talk to her pretty much every day. My mother talked to her mother almost every day, too. On the other hand, my dad didn’t really talk to his mother much at all. And my brother speaks to my parents regularly, but I don’t think he confides in them, and they don’t pry.
Will I be shut out when my sons grow up? Will they no longer need me? I keep flashing to those horrible, stereotypical mother and mother-in-law figures (most of them Jewish!), who appear everywhere from Philip Roth books to “Seinfeld” to Woody Allen and on and on and on, someone needling, hovering, needy and desperate over losing control.
And the son stigma really does exist. Historically, having boys was a way to carry on the family name and tradition. These days, it seems to evoke a kind of pity. I can’t tell you how many times someone has asked me, “Oh, so you’re going to try for a girl next, right?” when I reveal that I’m having another boy. Just Google “gender disappointment” for a list of groups and threads with women (mainly moms of boys) who pine for girls, wondering what they might have lost as moms of “just” boys, or articles wherein moms of boys “cope” with their disappointment.
It’s not particularly PC to express sadness over gender, though. It’s self-indulgent! Come on, you should be happy to have children at all! Which is true. But it doesn’t negate the very real feelings of loss, knowing that there’s one life relationship that you’ll simply never experience. It doesn’t mean you’ll love your son any less. Personally, I’m happy that my son will have a brother. But I’ll also always wonder, “What if?”
Yesterday I had lunch with a colleague who also has two sons. I asked her if she ever feels sad about not having a girl or worries that her sons will someday grow distant.
“Look,” she said, “I just know I’m going to make an effort to be so fun they’ll want to hang out with me, and so will their wives.”
I hope this is true for me. I hope my sons think I’m cool and fun and will genuinely want to spend time with me, even as they get older. True confessions: I’ve even asked my older son about this.
“You know I’ll love you forever, right?” I find myself saying to him out of the blue, after school pick-up or in the middle of “SpongeBob SquarePants.” Usually he rolls his eyes or says, “Of course!” with a silly chortle and tries to kiss me wetly on the lips.
This morning he came into my room to kiss me goodbye before leaving for school. I was folding his shorts (not as cute as girls’ shorts, but whatever) on the bed.
“Mom, you know you’ll always be in my family, right? Even when I have a family, we’ll still be a family. Because you’re my family now!”
Such a simple calculus.
“That’s right, dude,” I said. And that will never change.
Of course, his current crush is a screeching 7-year-old on YouTube who sings versions of “Whip My Hair,” so hopefully some things will evolve. And if they don’t? I’ll keep my mouth shut.