Monday, July 11, 2011

On "Hoping for a Girl"

I'm not one to complain about comments regarding family size or the fact that I have all boys.  Nor am I someone who is just jumping at the chance to be offended.  I don't really like the conversations among mothers with largish families that gripe about comments they receive.  To me, most of the comments are benign and they sort of come with the territory.  I see them as a great opportunity to strike up a conversation or give someone a little piece of the Gospel to think on.  Up until now almost every comment I've received in the grocery store, at church, from the neighbors, and elsewhere have been complimentary and for the most part, kind.  There have been more than a few "Three boys?? Wow, you've got your hands full!"  That one has never really bothered me.  I DO have my hands full and I'm glad that they are so.  Anything else I've pretty well been able to let roll off my back and say a silent prayer (or grumble).

However, now that this new little one is showing him or herself, the comments have been flying in wherever I go.  Again, not necessarily a bad thing.  People like to connect and converse and that is great. I like talking to people, especially about my family.  (You're waiting for the 'but' here, aren't you?)  BUT, the comments about my childrens' gender have started to get to me, like really really get to me.  "So are you hoping for a girl?" or "were you trying for a girl?", ESPECIALLY when it is front of my awesome little boys, has already become routine.  I've gotten this now from complete strangers, clerks, old men at church, and friends.  Why would that bother me?  Think for just a moment about the implications of such statements...

*Am I hoping for a girl?  No. I'm hoping that this little one is the exact gender that HAS ALREADY BEEN DETERMINED BY GOD.  How messed up would it be to hope that John Paul or Michael or Luke was actually a girl?  I really don't see the difference.  This child has already been created and is already a little boy or girl.  

*I like having three boys.  In fact, I love it and I know this is exactly what our Lord wanted for our family.  My boys are beautiful and awesome and your question seems to imply that I should somehow feel 'gypped' that none of them happen to be female.  Would I love having four boys?  Without a doubt, yes. Would I love having three boys and a girl?  Without a doubt, yes.

*My husband and I are open to life.  We consider each child a blessing and a gift.  With each baby we've been given, I have been more and more in awe of what an amazing and undeserved gift that that is.  It is unconscionable to me to think about demanding that such a gift come in a certain gender.  

*I know several people struggling with the sorrow of infertility.  Through them, I am reminded how fragile and undeserved this gift of a child truly is.  It seems the height of selfishness and greed to complain that any of them were not the gender I thought best.

*It has happened several times now that another mother or father (sometimes with their own kids in tow!) will tell me how they "wanted x but got y instead" with a forlorn face.  Really. My heart breaks and I feel sorry for that child listening to their parent describe to me how they have disappointed their parent simply by being the gender they are.  

*I suppose I am ultra-sensitive to all these types of comments due in part to the fact that I come from a family of six girls and one boy.  The boy was number 2 in case you are wondering.  My entire life it was made clear to me by strangers and family friends about my "poor" dad and brother and how disappointed they must be to not have another boy in the family.  That does an ugly number to a little girl's psyche.  While I laughed it off or made jokes, I see now how it was ingrained in me that somehow I wasn't good enough for my dad the way I was.  It didn't even matter much if my dad and brother REALLY felt that way, just the words spoken often enough were all it took to slowly seep into my being.  I spent much of my life identifying myself as a tomboy and when my dad left us, I felt like I was somehow responsible for taking care of my mom and being the 'man' of the house.  Rather than think that my own personal experiences negate my argument here, I think they actually prove my point.  Those comments said in the presence of children (and not sufficiently argued by parents) can have a lasting and hurtful effect on a child.

I truly recognize that most of those comments are not malicious in any way but even so, they can still cut deep and leave a scar on a little child. They also underly a "child-as-commodity" philosophy that seems to fly in the face of a culture dedicated to life. And they can rile a defensive and maybe slightly hormonal mama bear to say or do something that maybe she shouldn't.  So, um, stop asking.  Please.




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