Recently, a couple I know learned that they are expecting twin boys. They already have a boy, so this brings the male count in the household to four, including the father. Some of the responses were the predictable sympathies to the mother, but even the “that’s great” posts had the undercurrent of giving a silver lining. “This may seem bad, but it’s not,” was the subtext, although no one would say that.
It’s a subtext because our society, in general, tends to view a home with kids of both genders as the ideal. A “million-dollar family,” some call it. The implication, I suspect, is that the ideal parenting situation is being able to experience both raising a girl — with her (stereotypical) experiences of Barbies and gymnastics and prom dresses — and a boy — with his (stereotypical) experiences of Transformers and baseball and tuxedos. Plus, if a family has a mother and a father, it is supposed to give both parents the opportunity to have that gender bonding time. “Guy time” or “girl time,” as it were.
I’d be lying if I said I was unaffected by this. When my wife got pregnant with our second child, I tried to be indifferent to the gender. But with our firstborn being a daughter, I sort of wondered (read: hoped) that maybe our second-born would be a boy. When we got the ultrasound done and learned it was another girl, I was a little sad.
For about two days.
After that, a lot of other thoughts started flowing into my head. Some of them were purely practical, like the fact that clothing is a lot simpler when you have kids who are all the same gender in the house. But I starting thinking about other advantages, too.
Before I go on, though, let me say this: there are virtues to any kind of family, whether it be all boys, all girls, or a mix of each. What I want to focus on now is how I, as a husband and father, learned to appreciate the cool things about being the only guy in a house full of girls … cool things that I think also apply to mothers and wives who are the only girl in the house.
The biggest is this: I get to be a “guy ambassador.”
This is both a cool honor and also a responsibility. I already knew, going into parenting, that I would be the most visible and important example of what a man is to my children, an example that would shape how my daughters saw boys and how my sons would be boys. But now, I knew, that responsibility would be just a little bit greater. My daughters, I knew, wouldn’t grow up with brothers in the house to shape how they viewed boys. They would see me, alongside others they would see outside the house.
But that’s also an honor. I get to be the one who gets to introduce to the girls things that are so often marketed toward boys. I get to explain to them how the game of football is played and what Transformers are. I get to talk to them about why the boys in their classroom play somewhat different games at recess than the girls do. I get to take them to the hardware store and show them what different things are for.
Some of these things interest them; some of them don’t. But, regardless, I know that I get to contribute something really important to their lives: I get to round them out. I get to add some Star Wars to a world of Barbies and American Girl; I get to bring some baseball to a world of gymnastics. I get to make them fluent in not just the things that we aim toward girls, but at the kinds of things that will let them walk in broader circles. They may not come to love football, but they won’t be clueless at a Super Bowl party, either.
I hope the mother of those three boys I mentioned earlier has similarly awesome adventures.
Tags: all daughters