During our adventurous road trip this weekend we meandered through small town after small town and I relaxed in my seat taking it all in. Small Mom & Pop restaurants with broken shutters and faded signs. Dinky gas stations where the pump wasn’t visible at first glance. Lots of abandoned family farms.
While motionless at a stop light my eyes fixed on a peculiar sign saying “Is 65% sure good enough? Find out if it’s a boy or a girl!” Peculiar because the sign was attached to a day care facility.
My mind immediately conjured an image of parents in Small Town USA taking their preschoolers in for genetic testing to determine whether, in fact, they are boys or girls. As if birthing/knowing/raising our children only provides 65% assurance and we all want 100%, right?
Confused I started looking at the two adjacent little buildings and saw that one was an ultrasound facility. “Okay! I gotcha now.”, I thought as the light turned green and the semi trucks and I eased back into our crawl.
Somehow I couldn’t stop thinking of that little sign. Even a few months ago a pregnant friend told me she wasn’t going to find out the sex of her unborn child. My reaction? I went into my usual rant about being a planner and wanting to know. All on auto-pilot, all the words and phrases I had used all these years. I might have even said “You are nuts! I had to know.”, like I had so many times before. I wasn’t even thinking. Like the words were simply pre-programmed. I opened my mouth and then fell right out.
Looking back at that conversation I almost cringe. I am still giving people a hard time for not caring about the sex of their baby? In the first place who am I to say/think anyone is crazy for doing anything. Why would I care? Second, haven’t I learned a single thing? Did I really find out if my baby was boy or a girl seven years ago when I laid on that chilly table, goo dripping from my engorged belly? What did I do differently when I found out? A lot.
“We made out like bandits!”, my husband proclaimed when we heard that our baby was a boy. When the technician gave him a strange glance, he explained that girls are so expensive. We just escaped a world of outfits, bows, purses, shoes, accessories… you name it. American Girl, we escaped American Girl! The once simple butter-yellow room was soon accented by navy and denim. Blue wrapping housing blue this, that and the other thing flooded in when everyone found out. It’s a boy!
Evidently the joke is on us.
What do they always say… “if I knew then what I know now” I would do it all differently? Hindsight is 20/20. I wasn’t in the same space. I didn’t know. Rather than beat myself up for making gender specific choices, I’d like to fantasize a bit about sending my message for all new parents. I wish I could go to the ultrasound waiting rooms, maternity wards and the Lamaze classes and give a speech about not caring about if it’s a boy or a girl. About not choosing pink or blue depending on what the “results” were. I’d put it on the line and finally say the words I’ve been holding back for the past few years… I wish I didn’t push all the boy stuff on my children. There! I said it.
Sure, I never thought twice about my kids playing with what I considered “girl stuff” back then, but I never bought it. I remember when a friend gave me an outfit that she said was “too boy looking” for her girls and I donated it because I thought it looked too feminine for my son. Could I have been a little less rigid? Could I have gone toward the middle of the kid’s clothing store rather than taking a sharp right and spending my time knee-deep in skater pants and construction tees? Could I have placed less emphasis on gender in general? I wish I could go back, but today I sit right here knowing what I know for a reason.
Today we talk about the limitless possibilities for all people- boys and girls all around the world. You want to be a nuclear physicist, a nanny or a miner- go for it! You want your toes painted with polish- you got it! You want to play dress up as a princess or a tank engine- no problem! Be both at the same time! There are no rules.
Every step of my past has taken me to where I enjoy today. With both my daughter and my son feeling secure with being emotional and powerful, artistic and analytic, nurturing and athletic. Being everything that they are naturally without judgment, without censorship, knowing that every day we may feel different or the same.
Sure, I still get tripped up on the road to gender freedom and stop myself to explain it to them (or maybe to myself) that even though I was raised differently I can still open my mind to new ways of thinking. It’s never too late to find out that it doesn’t matter.