"I could handle boys, with their cut-and-dried needs, but girls were so much more complicated. Girls have elaborate hairstyling requirements. They whine and mope, manipulate and triangulate. How was I going to deal with that?"
In the ongoing quest to shatter every single sugar-coated motherhood cliche - I don't love my daughter! I hate playing with my kids! - CNN runs an essay (by way of Parenting) on Why This Woman Didn't Want A Girl. (Dozens of people have emailed us about it.) As a pregnant woman with two boys, the author, Amy Wilson, resents the implication that she "must" want a girl to round things out. Fair enough; any superior supposition about pregnancy has always struck us as pretty intrusive.
I do this partially in defense of the two wonderful sons I have. But it's the truth. I love what I have, and I have what I love: boys. I understand them. I understand the clothes, the toys, and the Matchbox-car skids on my wallpaper...Not that having two boys is easy — their physical interaction can be, shall we say, overwhelming. But I love even that, because when I say I am the mother of two boys less than two years apart, I get a respectful nod or even a big thumbs-up for having that much testosterone in my daily life.
She's starting to lose us here, but we persevere. Then we hit that quote about girls being manipulative - how will she, gaining everyone's respect for being such a guy's girl, "deal with that?" And this:
My sons sneer at all things princess, and so do I. We love to pore over the Birthday Express catalog so the boys can plan the themes of their parties through 2013. My role in this is to gasp, "Oh, I think you should have a pink-poodle party!" "YUCK!! That's for GIRLS!!" they shriek, and I laugh along with them. What will I do when I have someone who wants a pink-poodle party?
Sure, she says, not all girls are like this - she has a niece who's not a girly-girl - but what if she is? What if, presumably, she's a moron who likes stupid things? And, oh yeah, there are the social reasons:
I also worry that girls have it harder — whether they're tomboys or wear tutus. I fear I won't know how to protect my child from a world that may often tell her that she's not good enough as she is. That, in order to get ahead, she's going to have to deny some part of herself. Having a daughter means there's so much more, as a mother, that I can do wrong.
"A world that may often tell her she's not good enough as she is," hm? Like, say, a parent who makes unilateral sweeping statements about her sex and condemn her possible interests before she's even born? I'd say that'll set her up pretty well for the world, actually.
Okay, I'm being harsh, I know - and as a non-mom, I know how easy is is to criticize. People have all kinds of feelings, I have friends who've worried about their ability to parent to one sex or the other based on their experiences and inclinations - and all these ideas are, I guess, somewhat grounded in the pink-and-blue world of cliche. What's troubling about the author's rationale is not that she doesn't want a girl - fair enough - but that all her reasons seem to be founded on a contempt for girls that she's not examining. (And at the risk of overthinking, there are worse things than being in a culture where baby girls are valued.)
Many modern parents have struggled with seeing their children succumb to the lure of "gendered" toys and paraphernalia, but more often than not it seems the reality leads them to relax their view on the evil of a Barbie when weighed in the context of a smart, real child in an intelligent, loving home over whose values a parent has some control. Kids don't exist in a vacuum - even girls. Now, when there's a weird expectation of vapidity,of "whining, manipulation and triangulation?" Well, that's another matter.
It should be said that the piece features the post-script, "Her daughter, Maggie, is 16 months old, and Wilson "gets it" now, she really gets it." Now that's a piece I'd rather read - because we already know plenty about sweeping judgments. The specific reality's generally more complex.
Why I Didn't Want A Girl [CNN]