My only boy.
My sweet, sensitive, scrutinizing, speculative, skillfully smart boy.
When Bennett was born, so many people assumed that because we already had five girls, we were “chasing the boy” and now that we “finally got him,” we “must be so relieved” and “would surely be done, right?” Truth be told, every single one of my kids was thought about beforehand and planned. Mollie happened earlier than we thought she would, but she was definitely planned. Lizzie, Ben and Mary, the last three were no different, and we never found out the sex for any of them. All seven were mysteries until the moment the doctor or midwife said, “It’s a …!”
I don’t deny that I was thrilled to have a boy. It was definitely a surprise and a change. But I’ll be honest, at that point with five girls roughly 10 years apart in age, a new house and kids beginning swimming, it would have been less expensive to have another girl. I already had the clothes. I already had the room design. I already had the sheets. The blankets. The onesies. The stroller. The toys. Even the diapers. Everything already conveniently “girlified.” To assume that I’d kept having kids “to get that boy,” was sort of ridiculous. But it was nice to buy the plaid, the khaki, the button downs and the bucks for a change because for some reason, kids’ apparel manufacturers labor under the assumption that every girl likes pink and sequins, preferably together and in vast quantities.
Not only did I already have the goods for girls, but I already had the mindset. The drama. The ups and downs (you know the ones, the ones that begin around age 9 and happen for no good reason).
Girls and boys are so very different. Nowhere else is this apparent than in my house.
Girls don’t typically (notice I said typically, because I have learned not to generalize) sit for hours and watch how a wheel spins on a truck. Girls don’t typically make blow up noises when anything they can put their hands on can be crushed together.
On the other hand, girls aren’t often given the easy way out, either.
For example: Ben has almost perfect, and by perfect, I mean perfect handwriting.
“Wow, that’s really good for a boy!”
Ben used to not like to read books for long periods of time, preferring the instant information gathering from the iPad (as though being a boy singles him out for this type of behavior).
“Oh, well … he’s a boy.”
“Yeah, well … he’s a boy.”
I didn’t realize until I had a boy that we (and I am using the “royal we”) have different standards.
Girls are expected to write beautifully, read for hours and hours, be kind and gracious, nice to their siblings. Somehow, “boys will be boys” has entered in to our lexicon, become the norm and used to explain away when boys don’t do these normal, basic things.
Bennett has been given no more rope than the girls. He is expected to clean dishes, learn how to wash clothes, mop and or sweep the kitchen floor, learn how to fold clothes, learn how to cook, be sweet and kind to the animals, and in general learn how to be a gracious, functioning and lovely human being. The bar remains the same for all the kids. He has the added advantage of having 6 sisters however, and therefore is exposed to way more than the average male. As a result, he has learned to tune certain stuff out. He has also learned to react without thinking (although that could just be because he’s 8). I joke that he is sometimes more dramatic than all six girls put together. The advantage though will for sure play out later in life. It is my hope that he will one day become the very best husband because he will know and understand what girls go through. How they think. How they react.
Of course this could work in reverse as he could also be the very worst sort of husband. The kind that tunes out and ignores. Shuts down in the face of drama.
Herein is my challenge.