Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father’s day surprises mom

Just two days after father's day last year, my husband (with my help, of course) had himself a son.

A boy; the gender than engenders the fear and loathing of some prospective parents and unadulterated adulation of others. Partiality be not proud.

Collectively thought of as all rough and tumble, wrapped in the added benefit (some may claim) of being the carriers of names into future generations, boys in many, many cultures are prized.

When I asked him to guess what we would be having, way back when, he never even hesitated. "A girl," he said without question.



I could see the look on his face change from trepidation to disbelief.

To actually admit to having a preference seems monstrous. And yet many of us have our hearts set on one or the other, and we convince ourselves we will be happy with either.

It was plain as the nose on his face: This B.O.Y. was B.I.G.

Back then he was still known to rant about being raised by a pack of shewolves (his mother's many friends) whom he insists (ever so playfully) damaged his tender male psyche with their 1970s off-the-cuff male-bashing ways.

"Oh, they'd deny it," he says, "but I'd have to listen to them talk about how men really were horrible. And there I was, devastated because I knew that someday I was going to be a man."

My husband knows chapter and verse about the evils of gender inequality, and yet he believes that it’s all in the past. Women, he says half-jokingly, rule the world.

So it was no small thing for a man who bristles at having been surrounded by women for more than 30 years to come to the realization that he would have “the rich man’s family:” A daughter and a son.

I have to admit that I worried about the potential for favoritism.

Would the line of demarcation in our family become drawn at his’ and hers’ restrooms? Would father/son ski trips toss an avalanche of ill feelings toward the double X chromosome dwellers in our household?

Yet, this past year as our son squirmed his way into all of our hearts, I’d kept my squinty eyeballs peeled for any hint of The "MY BOY BILL," chest beating-type of sentiment that would ultimately make me want to get off the carousel.

I was possessed.

When our local public radio station aired an interview with Dr. Margaret Meeker, author of the book “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters,” I turned up the volume.

I don't know what I was thinking, really. If I were to be honest, I'd have to say that I thought perhaps I could catch something that he was doing that would forever alienate our daughter and send her skipping down the path of depression and self-loathing at break-neck speed.

But as I listened, I realized how lucky she is to have him as her father. How, even in these tiny years, he's engaged without being overbearing. He watches and guides, showing her every step of the way that he’s there and willing, and yet in many ways letting her lead the way.

Not even the slightest tinges of favoritism have I seen.

In fact whenever Ittybit brings up her own superlatives pertaining to gender – girls NEVER drive trucks or boys CAN’T wear pink – her dad is the first to disagree.
“I know women welders and women truck drivers ... AND oh, and lookie here ... the T-shirt I’m wearing is P.I.N.K.”

But most interestingly, perhaps, is that he can often meet her on her terms whether on the playground swings or among the princess things.

I suppose the real lesson in there was for me: "Mom, don't go thinking you know everything there is to know about girls."

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