Today’s Book Review is It’s a Boy, edited by Andrea Buchanan. A very interesting project, it’s a collection of essays from women writers on raising sons.
I found it quite startling just how many (the overwhelming majority) were about the woman’s experience of coming to terms with the fact that she wasn’t going to have her preference, a girl. Even the last essay, by Kathryn Black, which is a story of the experience of children creating a houseful of children (boys and girls) almost slips into that mode, even while it is a peaen to the joys of boys and children of all ages.
As a feminist, I’ve always been a bit dismissive of the traditional male desire to have sons “to carry on the family name”. But reading this collection, it seems to me that it must be a totally natural desire to have a child of your own gender, to carry on whatever it is of yourself that you’d like to pass on. Like it or not, in our society, men and women still view the other gender as Other, so with that lens, it seems perfectly natural to want to have a child of your own gender.
There’s a parenting website I used to frequent, which asked once what you really wanted to have – boy or girl. The question was framed in enough of a non-judgemental way that the answers seemed to be honest. About 99% of the all-female respondents wanted a girl.
The best essay in this collection on this topic is the first, by Stephany Aulenback:
“It doesn’t take a PhD to see that my fantasies about my imaginary daughter
weren’t actually about my imaginary daughter at all. They were fantasies about the girlhood I wished I’d had, and beyond that, about the life I wish I could be leading as an adult.”
I imagine that if I had had a girl, that kind of fantasy would have disappeared in about a week, but it’s a penetrating insight into the everybody’s wishes for their children, at least until they arrive in their messy reality; to have the life you would have lived, if only you had done everything right the first time.