In 1992 I gave birth to a delightful baby boy, which was a tad shocking because I knew that I was having a girl. No, no one told me I was having a girl, but I just knew—the way a mother intuitively knows these things. When we visited my 90-year-old Eastern European grandmother, she whispered to me in her heavily accented English, “You did the right thing having a boy,” as if it was in my control the whole time. But, I knew I would have more chances to have my girl. I was young. I was arrogant. I was foolish.
Then life happened. We had unexplained infertility, several miscarriages, a fetal heartbeat that was there one minute and gone the next, and maternity clothes so recently pulled out that needed to be folded and put away. Beloved friends of ours suffered the neonatal death of a son and another dear friend called in tears to tell me that she would be delivering a full-term stillborn son the next day. I heard what life was telling me. I ended up with two more sons, two more fabulous, wonderful sons. And life taught me to be grateful—very, very grateful. For a while, we told people we had three children, “two boys and a boy.” “Oh,” they said, as if a bit disappointed for us and I bristled.
I love my boys, and they love me. It’s true. Ask anyone. But, I’m not going to sugarcoat what it’s like raising boys; my house seethes with testosterone, and I get lonely here sometimes. When my son was about 3, I was at the town pool with a group of fellow moms and their kids. My son had a pail and was mindlessly scooping pool water into it and dumping it out of the pool. One of his female playmates was chattering to him while he did this. At some point, she became agitated and started yelling at him (“I’m talking to you. Talk to me! Talk to me!”). He looked completely befuddled as all the moms laughed and commented that relations between the genders never change.
And, that’s the world I live in—largely silent, except for sudden outbreaks of violence between two of the inhabitants. Have you ever watched National Geographic shows about primates? It’s eerily similar to what goes on in my house. The primates here mill around until suddenly and seemingly without warning they are in a heap on the floor apparently vying for some type of alpha supremacy. As long as there is no bloodletting, I let them be. Grunting often passes for communication and phone calls last for no longer than it takes to get the job done. Nothing extraneous, please.
It’s not the hair, the nails, or the makeup, or even the pretty clothes. I’m not that kind of girl anyway, but sometimes when all four of them (husband included) look at me like I’m speaking Girlish, I long for an ally, someone who also speaks Girlish or at least understands it.
I knew that I was going to have daughters. Until I didn’t. It should be the worst thing that ever happens to me.