Book Review: It’s a Boy

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.

  4 comments for “Book Review: It’s a Boy

  1. August 3, 2006 at 9:32 am

    I was surprised, too. I wanted a boy. (I got one.) I always felt like an outsider among groups of girls, growing up, and I was afraid that I would dislike my daughter if she turned out to be one of those kinds of girls.

    Now I have both a boy and a girl and what I find is that my daughter (who as yet is only 2) forces me to confront my insecurities or discomfort with the feminine.

  2. susoz
    August 5, 2006 at 4:22 pm

    So, you don’t say which you wanted!!??

    That assumption from other women that I must have been disappointed to be having a boy really annoyed me when I was pregnant (and since). I found it ironic that I, a lesbian, was more accepting and indeed excited about the idea of having a son than most of the heterosexual women I know, whose relief when they had daughters – more than relief, smugness – was palpable.

    I was happy to have a boy, I felt it would prevent me from projecting my own ‘stuff’ onto him. I manage to project a lot anyway, but at least there’s some knd of barrier to that.

    I also think that the more strongly someone wants one gender or the other, the deeper their sense of what that gender is or has to be.

  3. August 5, 2006 at 9:01 pm

    I started to, but it’s hard to be succinct about, for me.

    The short answer is that I’d always imagined having a girl if I imagined having a child, which I don’t think is the same as wanting a girl. But when D turned out to be a boy too, I was surprised at my reaction. I was very happy to have another boy, since C was turning out so well, but it meant I was never having a girl, so I had to let go of all that imagination (probably for the best, when pondering that quote above).

  4. JenniferV
    August 15, 2006 at 9:23 pm

    Weighing in way late with my experience… I think I too always imagined, rather than particularly wanted, daughters. There’s the obvious female-body-incapable-of -producing-the-male-Other thing, but also for me there was the fact that I was one of two girls and no boys in my family, so boy children were indeed outside my own experience of immediate family. When I was pregnant with my first child, I certainly didn’t consciously desire it to be one sex or the other. On the other hand, when I was pregnant with my second, the future sibling relationship came into play and I found that I had a strong preference for another girl, because I thought two siblings of the same sex would have a better relationship (and then there was my limited imagination trying to reconstruct my own childhood again, no doubt!) I do occasionally wonder how I would have felt about the second if my first had been a boy. Would I have been as strong in my “two of the same sex is best” belief, or would I have wanted “a girl for me”?

Comments are closed.