Mothers of Daughters, Mothers of Sons

I always wanted to have a little girl. I can remember, before my first child was born, crying and crying as I imagined how I would pass on to my daughter all the skills I had learned from my mother and grandmother. I would teach her to sew. We would make quilts together and treasure the colors and textures and infinite possibilities of scraps of fabric. My baby, however, was a boy. I had no regrets about him. He was perfect and I loved him to pieces and I couldn’t imagine wanted to change anything about him. But my dreams did not go away.

As we began thinking about a second pregnancy, I started researching how you could influence the sex of your baby. I really wanted a girl this time. We did everything that the books suggested and had--a boy. I remember one fleeting moment of disappointment, but he was so totally irresistible just as he was that it couldn’t last.

I don’t think it was unfair to my boy children to have wanted a girl. After all, that’s what I wanted. There wasn’t anything I could do to make it go away except try to pretend that it wasn’t there. And, in my experience, operating on the basis of pretense puts you n pretty shaky ground. Somehow, acknowledging what I wanted, and trying to get it, was a good experience in itself. And I didn’t love the boys any less.

As a matter of fact, as they got older, I started to see lots of advantages n having children of the opposite sex. We all bring our childhood experience to our parenting--either unconsciously treating our children as we were treated, or consciously trying to treat them differently, or most likely, a combination of both. Yet the more tangled the connections between our own childhood and that of our children, the less space we have to think freshly about what is actually going on for them in the present.

I think having children of the same sex adds a knot to that tangle. That’s one me way that we can see ourselves in them, want to relive our own childhood in them. I think of play, for example. I had no experience in the kind of play that attracted my boys, and never liked it very much. In a way, that has been a disadvantage. But, in another way, to the extent that it’s been a totally new experience for me, I’ve had to figure it out totally in the present. I can imagine bringing a lot more past history and emotional baggage to girls’ play--really wanting my girl to like certain things and not like others, being very invested in having her grow up into the kind of woman that I was striving to be.

This realization helped me appreciate my good fortune in having boys even more. But it never made me give up my longing for a little girl. I still wanted to pass down he tradition of the women in my family.

What has made an enormous difference in the last year is realizing that I don’t have to wait for a girl. My boys have seen my love of creating things of beauty--and they want a part of it. I’ve been slow to see it, but they’ve persisted. So my six-year-old is learning to knit, the three of us have spent cozy hours together sewing a doll and making simple felt clothes, and they are both excited about the newest patchwork project. It’s very reassuring. We get to love our children, regardless of who they are, and we get to share what we love.