It’s coming, this I know, as I watch their eyes widen while they take in the sight of my four girls. It’s been going on for nearly a decade, so now my lips automatically purse into a thin line, and I wait for it.
“Four girls?! Wow, you must have your hands FULL. Poor Dad, he is seriously out-numbered. Are you going to try for a boy?” The grocery teller’s eyes are full of sympathy as she awaits my reply.
“I feel really lucky to have all girls,” I honestly reply, while gritting my teeth, hoping that she’ll note my less than friendly facial expression and end the conversation. She doesn’t seem to notice.
“Really?! Well you just wait till the teenage years,” she laughs. “Poor daddy!” Without another word I grab my receipt and herd the girls toward the exit.
“Mommy?” My seven-year-old asks as her little brow furrows. “Why do people always say ‘poor daddy’ and ask if we are going to have a boy baby? Are girl babies not as good as boy ones? Is daddy sad that none of us were boy babies?”
Anger boils up inside me. Her sister asked me the same question about a year ago. I briefly wonder how long before my youngest is pondering the same thing. I paste a smile on my face.
“No way, your daddy loves having all girls. I love having all girls.”
“Well, I think a lot of people don’t think it’s a good thing.” Her earnest little face is still frowning. It had been the third such encounter of the day so I understood her doubt. (Eight in a single day is our record for a family outing.)
This is the crux of my problem. Wherever we go, people feel compelled to comment. For all of the thousands of comments we’ve received, I can count on one hand the number of times it has actually been complimentary when it comes to all my kids being the same gender.
Funny enough, my sister, K, has four boys. “We hear the same thing, constantly. Words of sympathy, jokes, people asking if we are going to keep trying for a girl. The thing is, I would have loved to have had a girl. Am I sad that I will never have one? Yes. Do I feel blessed to have my boys? Of course, I do; I wouldn’t trade them.”
The thing is, I understand that people are not trying to be rude or hurtful. In most cases, I think people are just attempting to make friendly conversation. But words hold weight. And to a small child carefully observing faces filled with sympathy and mock horror, followed by words of condolences, the weight of those words can be crushing.
My girlfriend, P, has three boys. “We really wanted to have a little girl. I wish we could try one more time, but financially we just couldn’t manage. I’m still trying to come to terms with the fact I’ll never have a daughter. Then I have strangers asking me if I am going to try again for a girl and it just brings the hurt right back up.”
I know before having kids that there were things I always thought I would do, rituals, rites of passage that I just always assumed I’d get to experience with a son and with a daughter. I know my husband had the same expectations. He expected he was going to teach a son how to open a door for a lady, or how to shave. Yet he loves having girls.
More than anything it was a confirmation that we are getting older, and for the first time in our lives, a chapter was officially closing. All of our youth, we dream of futures that are filled with infinite possibilities. When all of your children are the same gender you close a chapter on the possibility of the experience in raising a child of the opposite gender. It takes a little while to wrap your head around it. That doesn’t mean you aren’t thankful for your kids. I wanted all girls. I prayed for girls, every single pregnancy. But it still took me a day or two to resign to the fact that I’d never be raising a little dude.
But whether you are someone who is ecstatically happy that you have all of one gender or not, they are your kiddos and you adore them. I think most families, with kids of the same gender, would agree that they’d be a whole lot happier without the constant commentary from strangers making jokes or disparaging comments. Whether the strangers realize it or not, the kids are listening and it can be hurtful.
I know we make quite the entertaining sight when we show up in a pink explosion. Sometimes bedecked in tutus, bows, and bedazzled crowns. But unless you’re going to give us a thumbs up and tell us how awesome it is to have all girls, I wish you’d keep your commentary to yourself.