I Wanted A Daughter But Got A Son.
When I found out I was pregnant I really wanted a girl.
I wanted to raise a tough, strong, independent woman. I wanted to give her everything I wish I had growing up.
It was fourth grade when a teacher came into our class and said, "I need a couple strong boys who can move this desk down the hall." I watched with jealousy and indignation as the chosen boys carried the desk out of the classroom.
I sat there fuming. I was strong. Why couldn’t I move a desk down the hall? Why couldn’t I get the thrill of leaving class for a few minutes? Why couldn’t I have even been given the opportunity?
It was the first time I felt the injustice of being a girl.
After that, I identified as a tomboy. But I felt like a fraud. I wanted to be a tomboy and climb trees and skin my knees and wrestle and be loud. But I also loved Barbie dolls and Pretty Pretty Princess and desperately wanted to wear eye liner and lipstick.
In Glennon Doyle’s memoir, Untamed, she explains:
"When we are little girls, our families, teachers, and peers insist that our loud voices, bold opinions, and strong feelings are ‘too much’ and unladylike, so we learn to not trust our personalities."
I read this passage and realized I was never a tomboy. I was just a human.
If I had a daughter I would make sure she knew she didn’t have to choose. She could be anything she wanted to be. She could be all of it.
But it wasn’t a girl.
I was having a boy. What would I do with a son?
I was discussing boys’ names with my mom. I liked the name Elliot.
My mom shuddered. She didn’t like the name. “You won't ever see a football player named Elliot.”
I felt a wave of heat as I always do when my mom says something inappropriate and I don’t know how to react. I wanted to tell her how ridiculous it is to judge a person based on his name. I wanted to tell her that being tough and macho are not traits we’re going to encourage in our son. I wanted to remind her that my husband and I think football is a dumb, dangerous sport and our son hopefully won’t be anywhere near it.
But because I’m 36 years old and still haven’t figured out how to have difficult conversations with my mother, I bit my tongue.
I always thought being a girl was hard but my mom’s comment made me realize boys have their own set of limitations that keep them from being fully human.
Boys are supposed to be strong, tough, stoic, competitive. Boys are not supposed to be soft, empathetic, quiet, vulnerable.
Doyle elaborates, “We tell them, 'Don't be these things, because these are feminine things to be. Be anything but feminine.’”
There is no such thing as feminine and masculine. They are all just traits. We can all be all of them. We should all be all of them.
I have about eight girlfriends I can talk to about anything. We share our deepest insecurities and doubts and fears. My husband has the same number of close friends, but when they hop on a call they talk about sports, politics, and what they’re putting on the grill that weekend. Sometimes I hear a tidbit of their conversations and think, God, Sam must be so bored.
And he is. He craves connection and deep conversation but he and his college buddies keep everything on a surface level.
"It must be so lonely to be a man. It must be so difficult to carry by yourself all the things we were meant to help each other carry."
I shouldn’t be the only person my husband can talk to about real things. But I am.
My son is now 6 months old. He’s innocent and pure and perfect. He is not masculine or feminine. He just is. I owe it to him and to the world to raise a vulnerable, empathetic, and sensitive man.
“Let's encourage real, vulnerable conversations among our sons and their friends. Let's ask about their feelings, relationships, hopes, and dreams so they don't become middle-aged men who feel permitted to discuss only sports, sex, news, and the weather."
I wanted a daughter. I thought I was meant to raise a daughter.
But I’m meant to raise a son. And I want to raise a son. So that when the teacher asks for a couple strong boys to volunteer, my son can raise his hand. And tell the teacher she should ask the girls, too.