I wished my daughter into being. I know this. I wanted a girl really, really badly to make my family complete. Not that having another boy would have made my family any less complete, but there is something about having a boy and a girl combo that makes the family dynamic just a little differently special even though I did have my doubts about having a daughter and have now gotten a whole set of new concerns.
Given our history and the need for medical intervention, we assumed our second child would be a boy too and yet I kept hoping it would be a girl, a daughter. However, to be honest, I did have temporary doubts about this hope. Before TJ was born, I worried about how I would raise a boy. I grew up with sisters and didn’t know the first thing about how boys needed to be nurtured (ahem..the same way as girls, but I didn’t know). Instinctively, I KNEW I would do just fine. Still, I wondered.
Once TJ was here (we only found out the sex of the baby on his birth day), and as days turned to weeks turned to months and my comfort and confidence in raising a boy increased, and I got pregnant again, this time, out of this comfort, I, at first, wished that the second child be a son too. After all, I had gotten the hang of raising a boy so raising another may not be all that different even if I accounted for each child’s individuality.
I had started using ridiculous reasoning for why the second one should also be a boy- reasons such as:
♥ I won’t have to worry about creating body image issues with my son but I would have to be more sensitive about what I say about my body around my daughter (not quite true, there is research evidence to show that maternal talk about body image also influences sons);
♥ I won’t have to spend sleepless nights thinking about curfews or where my daughter was, at what time, and with whom (I would worry about all of this even for my son. Worrying is just part of a parent’s profile or job description);
♥ I feel unprepared to have tough conversations about sexuality and respecting one’s own body (this is true for a boy or a girl but I figured if I did it with one boy, doing it again with another is basically rehashing the same script with a few updates, perhaps. With a girl, the script may need to be re-written).
♥ I loved the idea of saying, “my boys” but with a daughter, I couldn’t possibly say that. (so? I just say, “kids” and use “my boys” when I am referring to my son and husband now…why did I ever think this was a big deal?)
♥ I would have liked to be the only female in the household and that would have made my existence somewhat more special going from a household of majority women, growing up, to majority men. (why was this even a thing with me?)
♥ Any guy related talk that needed to be had would be handled by their dad and I wouldn’t need to worry about having any kind of “big talk” with my sons. (excuse myself, but sons or daughters, depending on the concern of the day, may need a mom or a dad or both to have the big talks).
Deep down in my heart, I knew that I wanted a daughter. I was just too scared to admit it because I feared my own incompetency in raising one.
Today, when I look at my daughter, I wonder what kind of a person she will grow into. I admonish myself for ever having doubts about anything related to her. She has filled my life with the greatest joy I have ever known. She shows signs of blossoming into an extrovert with abundant smiles for everyone. She is perceptive. She is extremely comfortable around us, as is expected. She loves exploring and discovering new things.
She loves engaging her brother with smiles, sounds, and touches. She watches his every move and will NOT take her eyes off him if he is in the room. She adores him and she lets it be known in every way a baby possibly can.
Yet, there are things I worry about, things I never thought much too deeply about with TJ, my son.
Things I worry about with my daughter:
♥ Every time E makes adorable but loud sounds akin to a bird’s squawking and I ask her to quiet down so she doesn’t hurt her throat, I worry that I am stifling her into a stereotype where women are expected to be quiet or silenced into submission.
♥ Every time she wears pink, very, very few of which I bought her myself but which were mostly given as hand-me-downs, I worry that I am buying into the pink-blue binary in which many people choose to raise their daughters and sons or at least the way society socializes our kids.
♥ Every time I have to admit that she looks ridiculously cute in soft feminine colors, especially pink, I worry about my internal conflict between despising pink for its uber girly stereotype and instead, finding empowerment in owning pink and its connotations. It is, after all, simply a color and all the associations are ours to have made.
♥ Every time I want to defy color stereotypes for my son and deliberately purchase him something pink (e.g, shirt, sippy cup, stroller cover), I worry about how that would be used again for E except then, it will look like I actually bought into the pink is for girls stereotype.
♥ Every time I see the Barbie doll I bought last year that somehow got out of the donations box and because of which it still sits in a toy box in its packaging, I cringe and worry about body image issues and wonder if I should buy her a curvy, full-bodied doll (do they even make those?).
♥ Every time I even think of buying a doll, I worry that I am buying her a stereotype again – that of girls playing with dolls, and yet I think nothing of buying my son trains, trucks, and cars. Why am I not as worried about raising a son who is a stereotype?
In case you are wondering, I also worry about worrying too much about stereotypes.
♥ Every time I see a girl in a princess’s gown, I secretly roll my eyes and promise that my daughter would never wear that and yet I feel conflicted about it wondering what I would do if my daughter grows up and starts to want to wear those hideous things.
♥ Every time her brother hurts her, regardless of whether it was intentional or not, and she cries, I console her by hugging her while saying, “You’re okay” or “Anna (big brother) wasn’t doing it on purpose” or “You’ll be fine”, I worry if my words are somehow normalizing abuse (not that, that is really abuse per se. He is a 2-year-old who is still learning to adapt to life with another child around. I could write a really, really long post on just how much he loves his sister too).
All said and done, I have to admit, the far-reaching influences of socialization in how we raise our kids is so pervasive. It is almost easy to give in and much too hard to have to resist and defy the grain. I always say, for all my feminism and worries about stereotypes, if she grows up wanting to play with dolls, doll houses, wearing pink, and princesses gowns, then I will respect that even as I will be dying a slow death on the inside. If she exercises her agency in the choices she makes, in wanting to be a princess for Halloween, for example, then so be it.
After all, isn’t one of the points of feminism to allow for women to have choices and a voice in the decisions that influence their lives? Besides, if she can grow to be President or Prime Minister or CEO or Astronaut or Scientist or Stay-at-Home-Mom and decide to rock her pink princess’s gown while making a difference in people’s lives, my heart will swell with just as much pride as it would if she wore a suit or dress.