As we’ve been mulling over the fact that we’re having a boy this week, Mike and I have been talking about all things little boy and little girl. It started right after the first ultrasound.
“OK, tell me three good things about little boys,” Mike said to me while we were sitting in the white, tiled hallway of the hospital in Chiang Mai.
“Well, you wanted one to start with,” I said, tired, and not really ready to begin processing the news we had just been handed.
Mike laughed. “Is that the best you can do?”
“Yes,” I said, then pointed to the television on the wall. A news presenter speaking Thai was sounding rather frantic while footage of destruction marched across the screen.
“Is that a tsunami?”
It was. We watched footage of what was unfolding in Japan silently for a while. Then we talked about how we sure hoped the coastal area wasn’t too populated. And what we could make out of how the tectonic plates had shifted. And about the 2004 tsunami and what we’d seen of its aftermath. After that we weren’t much in the mood to talk about gender.
But as the week has progressed in a relaxing blur of pineapple fruit shakes, warm seas, and Thai food, we’ve found ourselves circling back to the topic repeatedly.
“Three good things about boys are…???” Mike will tease me at random intervals.
In response to this I usually pretend to think hard, then shrug my shoulders and shake my head.
“Good things about boys?” I might say. “I’m really trying here, but I have to say I’m drawing a blank.”
(I usually only say things like this when we’re sitting at a table in a restaurant or in some other public place where I run less risk of being tickled unmercifully or pestered with a shower of kisses.)
But the fact of the matter is, I have come up with some good things about little boys. And as I’ve been busy synthesizing happiness this week, I’ve also spent more than a little time mulling over the issue of gender stereotypes.
What ideals and expectations do we consciously or unconsciously hold about little boys and little girls? How many of these are grounded in fact? How should we let them influence our parenting? Do we even have much of a choice on that front – is it possible to be gender neutral when raising kids?
I know the answer to that last question is no – it’s not possible to be completely gender neutral in how we approach raising kids. Nor, am I convinced, would that be totally desirable even if it were possible. As for all the other questions… Well, I have some more digging and thinking to do.
But before I spoil things by doing too much research and finding out too many actual facts on the subject, I thought I’d share my rather unscientific and less than rational list of good things I’ve so far come up with. In no particular order, here are ten good things about boys:
1. Boys burn more calories on a daily basis than girls, so it stands to reason that boy babies in utero also need more calories than girl babies. The doctor in Thailand also told me that I should be drinking multiple glasses of milk every day. This all means that I can safely (nay, I should) be eating at least one extra scoop of ice cream every day that I am pregnant.
2. Mike’s aunt Kathy assures me that boys make excellent weed-pickers, rock-pullers, and wheelbarrow-pushers. I am assuming this also extends to carrying my luggage in airports. Bonus.
3. Mike tells me that not only are boys born without poo shame they also tend to hang onto this quality throughout adulthood – hence saving themselves a great deal of social angst. (For more on poo shame see, The Existence of Poo).
4. In one backed up be medical research, a little boy is much less likely to suffer down the track from my oh-so-fun medical condition, lymphedema, than a little girl.
5. Boys tend to have better spatial orientation than girls (I do believe this one is also backed up by science). On a practical level this will mean that with two men in my family I can almost entirely abdicate navigation responsibilities.
6. A boy may be less drama in the long run than a girl. (Think teenage years and, really, most of early adulthood).
7. Boy clothes are easier (and often cheaper) than clothes for girls, and boys’ hair is easier to care for.
8. There will be fewer princess movies, princess costumes, and all things princess in our house.
9. Hopefully our little man will grow up less burdened by an acute awareness of his physical appearance than little girls can be. I hope he’ll wage fewer battles in the hero’s journey towards the realization that self-esteem must be built on something more than being thought beautiful and desirable by others.
10. Finally, as my good friend, Danielle, pointed out, “Dads toilet train boys easiest.” I’m doubly thrilled on this front, as it means Mike will get to use his water and sanitation training and I just love to see him living in his strengths.
Cheers from Southern Thailand, where this list is a work in progress. In fact, Mike, I, and little Mango McWolfe may just go sit by the pool now and work on it some more. Have a great weekend! Catch you next week from Laos.