Do you know what you’re having?
This has always struck me as a strange turn of phrase considering the fact that I’m pregnant and percolating a foetus and not, say, hanging out at a cafeteria sandwich bar.
When I first heard about the Toronto couple that chose not to disclose the sex of their child, Storm, before I had a child of my own, I thought it was all pretty over the top. I appreciated the sentiment in theory, for sure, convinced as I am that socialization affects people little and old so much more than any of us realize, but it seemed a bit contrived. And I thought, if anyone wants to help us change diapers at any point, I certainly don’t see myself refusing. But now, I’m quite tempted to take a page out of their book.
The toddler boy child I’ve had the utter pleasure of mothering these past years is such a well-rounded, colourful, joy-filled and creative little being. He loves anything and everything with wheels, is voracious in his love of books, bright pink pants, cooking make-believe meals, jumping, kicking balls around, and a little purse that he uses to “do groceries” around the house and yard.
Being on the farm this past year, and hearing my once-regular-city-child now be referred to as a “little farmer,” or hearing neighbours talk about how great it is we have a boy because we’ll have someone to “take over the farm,” I’m pretty dismayed. Maybe a girl child would also get pegged this way (regardless of her inclinations), but I sense she might not. And, in all fairness, I don’t get called a farmer nearly as much as he does.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with ‘traditional (more stereotypical) boyhood,’ but there is something problematic about forcing that identity and self-definition onto people, perhaps especially when those people are quite young and don’t have the critical wherewithal to appreciate that those assumptions and expectations are just that—someone’s else’s idea, not a Truth that they need to embody. (And I really fear the day will come when my child refuses to wear his fave pink cordoroys—to do or wear or be something he is—because of something someone said to him.)
Throughout this pregnancy and in thinking about this second child, I’ve been mentally preparing to field discouraging questions and react to irksome (albeit well-meaning) comments—either of the “you’re a mother of boys! It’ll be all dirt and fart jokes and trucks from here on in!” or the “you must be wanting one of each” variety (as though there are two types of one-dimensional people out there: girl people and boy people).
And while it’s true that I’ve ached for more women friends and woman strength on this farm, my child is not the gruff man who lives in town and calls me ‘little lady,’ nor is he the neighbour who rolls into the driveway talking about P.’s farm/tractor/pigs/you-name-it. The pull of shitty hegemonic masculinity might be great, but I need to have faith that any boy child my partner and I raise will not become that man. I also refuse to believe that I will necessarily have a stronger bond with a daughter than a son; that I will only get to talk about periods, or porn, or feminism with a child of one sex; that our son will get along better with a brother; that a male child won’t want braids (or that a female child will want them); that a daughter will be more eager to knit with me.. and so on and so forth.
Having felt quite strongly, as a child, that some of the men in my life would maybe have loved me better had I been a boy, I’m especially sensitive to this obsessive over-gendering. It is limiting and it can hurt a lot.
We’ll probably end up disclosing the sex, but I say kudos to that family committed to progressive pronoun use and to diligently not letting anyone box in their kid.
And what I hope I’m having? The opportunity to bring a new healthy babe into this world (in a way that feels safe and empowering for me) and to raise the child as though no one gives a damn about his or her sex. And rest assured, the child will wear all of his brother’s gorgeous pink hand-me-down sleepers and onesies regardless.