Five year old Sahana was sitting at the ultra sound technician’s office with eyes tightly shut! We were about to find out the gender of the baby in my tummy, and Sahana wanted none of it. She wanted a baby sister and she wanted it to be a surprise! The nice technician said she was not going to say it out loud, but write it for us. When we found out, we told her she could open her eyes. She immediately demanded to know the sex of the baby! So much for keeping her eyes shut. Her face fell when she found out. A boy??? Eewwwwww!
I didn’t feel quite the same way, yet, I have to admit, the word boy sounded ominous for a second. Being an only child, and having parented a girl, I was ready for another one. But what did I know about boys? How would I ever relate? Sean kept reassuring me, boys are easier, and I tried to feel calm about parenting a rowdy boy! Poor Ryan never had a chance, I had already labeled him, before he was born.
Ryan turned out to be a laid back, sweet baby with the exuberance of a puppy. He loved rolling around in the grass, sliding on smooth surfaces scaring his mother that he will have no knees left by the time he is ten, romped around making loud scary sounds but also spent hours in his world of imagination with action figures and toy cars.
Parenting a boy and a girl has had its unique joys and challenges, for sure. The girl is verbal, shares stories…..unasked. I can easily put my arms around her in a crowded mall. She puts her arm around my waist and gives me a squeeze back. She has no problem being affectionate in public, but not the boy. If I put my arm around him in public I can feel his little body stiffen. His face goes red if I kiss him in front of his friends. Yet in the privacy of our home, he sits on my lap, we cuddle as he either reads a book or tells me stories of his life…. when asked. I live for those moments.
Sahana, as a little girl, lived in the world of ‘what if’s. Life was a beautiful, magical journey and she was full of joy and wonder of it all. Mostly I marveled at her imagination, sometimes I did say, “One more what if, then we will talk about something else!” Ryan is philosophical and pragmatic. He likes to think of profound thoughts like is God real even though He doesn’t have a mom and dad. Or what were the bad guys thinking when they flew two planes in the twin towers in New York! I mean what is the point in killing themselves and thousands and thousands of people. They made a very, very bad choice, indeed. He went a step further and called them ‘stupid’ with my permission.
Sahana’s school stories mainly were of academics, grades, school projects, girl dramas and crushes as she got older. And she is… let’s just say she can make a career as a thespian if things don’t work out as an anthropologist. Ryan’s stories of school generally revolve around two main ideas – recess and lunch. Last year, if asked what he liked most about school, he answered….. you guessed it, recess and lunch. This year physical education has found a place in his heart. I eagerly wait for math and reading to be included there somewhere…hasn’t happened yet! He seems blissfully unaware of any slights against him. “So and so told me not to sit next him today because I talk too much and he wanted to have a quiet bus ride!” “Did that make you feel bad?” I asked anxiously, ready to wrap him in my arms and wipe some tears. His surprised response was ‘Why?’ Ohhhh! Because…….
Ryan gave a reason for not talking to girls much, lately. He loves, or rather loved, playing with girls. He defended them when other boys said “Girls are disgusting.” His line was “Girls are not disgusting, your mom is a girl, do you think she is disgusting?” He came up with that on his own. So when I saw my champion defender of little girls not talking about them any more, I was curious. “Don’t you play with girls?” I asked. I loved that he stood up for his girl friends. He mostly ignored my question for as long as he could , finally he couldn’t withstand my interrogation (not many people can) and ‘fessed up, “I get cool stuff from the boys, they talk about real things. Girls talk too much about ‘what if’s!” He summed it up for me, the difference between parenting a boy and a girl. They balance my world, both the ‘what if’ and the ‘real’!