If I only had a daughter . . .

These boys are pretty darn cute

If I only had boys that were not so strong, determined and active . . .

If only my son didn’t upset a little girl (again) . . .

If only other parents didn’t shower me with their unsolicited wisdom about my boys . . .

If only my boys were mainstream, reverent, subdued, robotic . . .

If only my sons could be drugged out of every high energy, intelligent and creative thought they ever had [insert sarcasm] . . .

If only . . .

Recently I met a woman, and when she found out I had sons, the first words out of her mouth were,

“Don’t you wish you had girls instead of boys?”

I haven’t been able to get her words out of my head ever since. In fact, I let her words put a dark cloud over me. Without thinking, (because I never have to think about how I would answer a question like hers), I answered her,

“No, I don’t wish I had girls instead. I love my boys. I love their energy. THEY ARE THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO ME!”

“Really? I do [wish I had girls].”

I am sure she had her personal reasons for saying these things and I want to be understanding. However, not in this lifetime or a thousand lifetimes, would it ever occur to me to wish my children were someone different than who they are.

Sadly, as hard as I try not to be a completely paranoid freak, convincing myself that I am the brunt of things like local gossip, I sometimes feel like this woman is not alone in her disdain for little boys. For instance, I have noticed that, once I had Kyle and Eli, and people were exposed to their exuberance, my friendships changed (even with people who already had children). I am the first one to admit that my sons are full of life, intensity, forcefulness and energy. I am also the first one to instill discipline, boundaries, help my sons feel safe and to teach them to respect others and their surroundings. Me, I am far from perfect. Kyle and Eli, well, they are boys and they are learning.

Kyle and Eli are my sons and what I have also come to realize is that I can’t expect any person on this planet to love and value them the way Dave and I do. Selfishly, I wish that my friendships didn’t change with the arrival of my sons. At the same time, I appreciate people and their willingness to embrace my family, even when my family is more than they bargained for.

It is hard and painful being a parent. I often feel out of place and insecure. I feel sad when I see the moms with girls unite for dance lessons, gymnastics and play dates, which ultimately deepen the friendships between these women. I am terrified when I hear a little child whine when Kyle and Eli run into their space, knowing full well that her whines are another subconscious mark against my sons. I cringe inside when children run up to me so they can let me know what terrible things my boys did.

More significantly and way more importantly, I jump for joy when I see Eli enthusiastically greet one of his friends (girl or boy) and I completely melt when I watch Kyle tenderly wipe away the tears of one of his sad little buddies. Because I am a doubter, at least today, I am guessing that people often notice the bad more than the good with children that are not their own, perhaps as a way of validation that their child would never behave in such an unfortunate manner.

But thank God for mothers (yes, of course I mean, thank God for parents). Even when we see a poop covered wall, we can always see the beauty:

“Hey, at least he came up the stairs, holding his hands high in the air, making sure he didn’t touch anything. And at least he told me about his special poop art project, instead of me or Dave finding it days later.”

We can also see how charming a spaghetti-smeared face is on our little child, who is learning to eat solid foods while being blind to the mess they are making and the hair they are covering with tomato sauce.

And we can delightfully appreciate the Shaprie-drawn-on-hair the older brother adds to the younger brother’s forehead:

“Mom, isn’t it great? Doesn’t it look just like hair? Oh, and mom, how do you like my mustache?”

So you ask, “trade your sons?”

“NO WAY! You would have to drag me, kicking and screaming. You would have to kill me first, before you could take my sons away from me.”

And why a mother, who has sons, would say that she would rather have girls absolutely does not compute. Me, I am just grateful I have children.

33 thoughts on “If I only had a daughter . . .

  1. Thanks for the great post! I have felt that way many times and it is shameful what we are doing to boys in our country. Many boys are wonderful, energetic, and lively–which I consider very healthy–
    I think we as neighbors, as communities, as schools, and as society at large are not paying attention to what boys really need.

    “Boys receive up to 70% of the Ds and Fs given all students, they create 90% classroom discipline problems, 80% all high school dropouts are boys, millions of American boys are on Ritalin and other mind-bending control drugs, only 45% college students are boys, and three out of four learning disabled students are boys!” (The Gurian Institute)

    We need to pay attention to how we are failing our boys. Both boys AND girls are important. I think you are doing a fantastic job with your boys. They are our future fathers, husbands, brothers, and uncles. They are important. Hang in there and thanks for opening up and sharing.

    “America’s boys are in trouble. They are the most violent in the industrialized world. Many are unable to express their emotions. On average, boys are doing worse in the classroom than they were 10 years ago.

    Who is responsible for this situation? How do we learn to listen to and support our boys? How can we guide them on the path to becoming responsible, caring men?

    The documentary, Raising Cain: Boys in Focus, provides answers, insights, ideas, and hope. Hosted by child psychologist Michael Thompson, Ph.D., co-author of the best-selling book Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Lives of Boys, this documentary explores the emotional development of boys in America today. Thompson consults with some of our nation’s most respected psychologists, social activists, researchers and educators to probe the issues facing boys and find solutions to their dilemmas.

    This two-hour documentary provides surprising new research about boys’ inner lives, dispelling a number of commonly held misconceptions, and highlights innovative programs that are bringing out the best in boys. The PBS Parents Guide to Understanding and Raising Boys offers insights and advice from Thompson and other experts on raising boys in America today.

    Raising Cain is a production of Powderhouse and Michael Thompson, Ph.D., in association with Oregon Public Broadcasting”.

  2. Lord Beth, all I can say is that 1) GIRLS CAN BE JUST AS BAD and following that is subheading 1.1) obviously all the little girls where you live are freaks if you’ve never noticed this before.

    Your. Sons. Are. Fine.


    Keep up the good work.

    There was no 2) I think.

  3. As always, thank you for your inspiring words Julie.

    And BANI,

    Dave asked me why I wasn’t saying anything about little girls. And I was like, “Are you kidding? I will get my ass kicked.”

    I told him that instead, I was hopeful that people would speak up in the comments section.

    So thank you.

  4. You know what? I bet my girls and your boys would get on famously. My girls are full of energy and they’re loud and rough as hell sometimes and are sweet and gentle other times. I love reading about you and your boys because they [we] seem to be very similar people. High energy. Fun loving. Curious. Sensitive. Pensive, at times.

    The operative word is: PEOPLE.

    Not boys. Not girls. Men. Women. Male. Female. Though I do concede that your boys might show more than a little disdain when my girls try to adorn them with tiaras and/or kisses as our other boy friends sometimes do – ha ha. That said, my girls adore dinosaurs, plains, trains, cars…they LOVE playing with “boy toys” at their friends’ houses. I really should buy some for our house. We have a few but not enough, I don’t think.

    Anyway, your kids are great. They are a beautiful product of you and Dave. Anyone who thinks otherwise is just plain nuts and not worth a bit of your energy.

  5. Mother Nature knew what she was doing when she gave me a son. Obviously, I don’t know Kyle and Eli, but I am guessing that they are like my son, in that “what you see is what you get” kind of way. From what I have observed in my volunteer work at my son’s school, girls become sneaky, catty, and manipulative at an early age.
    Boy-bashing has become very fashionable of late. Sad, isn’t it?

  6. Sorry you had to stand witness to another person’s gender/parenting/personal issues in such an unfortunate and public way. And while I feel for you and thought your response to her totally inappropriate question was spot on, I feel TERRIBLE for that woman’s sons. Don’t you think those kids know exactly what she “confided” in you–that she wishes they were girls? Even if she doesn’t say it outloud to them, I bet she tells them in hundreds of other ways every day. It’s the worst kind of “grass is greener” toxic parenting miasma I can imagine. Poor kids.

  7. I totally get what you’re saying. I now have one of each, but for almost 5 years I had just a son. And, the world is really not a supportive place for little boys. I blogged about this a long time ago. There are princess and girl power messages all over the place. There are songs about girls and messages of empowerment. As a female, I appreciate this and got plenty of those messages growing up…enough to approach the world with the notion that I would break any glass ceiling that I came upon. But, what is there for boys? Power Rangers? There is no message of “it’s cool to be a boy.” Parents of girls look at your child like he’s an alien sometimes because he likes to get dirty and to jump on the couch like a frog. It’s sad. It makes me mad everytime I think about it.

    Sorry for the lengthy comment, as you can tell this is a sore spot for me as well!

  8. Seriously, I was a little girl. And I grew into an awful, horrible, miserable teenager who tortured my mother to no end, nearly ripped my own hair out and sneaked out nightly to do drugs and have sex with other teenage boys.

    I was NOT a nice girl. My five brothers? WERE ANGELS. Yes, yes, they were boys and they were bad and they were giant pains in the asses, but I was horrid, horrible and putrid.

    My older sister thanks sweet Jesus every day of the year that she has boys, after remembering how she and I were to our mother.

    Tell these mothers who are telling you this to call you when their daughters are teenagers. Or if you can’t wait, have them call my mother. And then, please, laugh veryvery hard in their faces.

  9. Beth, your last comment said it all for me. We’ve been trying to get pregnant for over 4 years now and are finally doing something about it. We just found out it may be male factor when all along we assumed it was an issue with me. Anyway, a child, any child would be OK by me right about now. Thanks for the post!

  10. I have two girls, and that’s all I’m ever going to have.

    My youngest is too young to be any trouble to anyone yet, but that will change. She’s sweet and cute and wonderful, and everyone falls in love with her on sight.

    The older one is just like the younger one, sweet, beautiful, and intelligent, especially around other parents. At home, she’s a stubborn, moody, messy little crank. I love the little crank completely, of course, and I can only thank her for preparing me for the future when she’s a teenager.

    And let me just say this: TWO WEDDINGS.

    The you were asked basically amounts to, “Don’t you wish things were different?”

    Though for a moment you might wistfully lean toward “yes,” then reconsider and steadfastly say “no,” you know in your heart the real answer is “they’re not.”

  11. When I found out I was pregnant, I knew I wanted a boy. I didn’t want to have to deal with the girly teenage hormonal crap.

    I don’t know what it is about boys, but Beth, get used to it now because it doesn’t go away. If anything happens here in my apartment complex, people assume it was my 13 year old son. They pound on my door before they ask any questions. Last autumn I had a father pound on my door and accuse my son of choking his (younger) son. He yelled about calling the police. All this because the neighborhood girl told him my son did this. I told the man to ask HIS son about it and wouldn’t you know…my son had nothing to do with any of it. It was a different (even younger) boy. I told him never to knock on my door accusing my child of anything again unless he knew for a fact my son was involved.

  12. God love ya, Beth (and the Boys). All children are gifts and if we don’t understand that as parents (ie-the woman that wished she had girls) then maybe we shouldn’t have them. I relish watching other people’s children so I know that it isn’t just my kids that act the way they do. Don’t you think life would be boring if our children were perfect little conforming (identical) robots? I do. They are what puts the excitement and joy into our lives with their energy. YOUR BOYS ARE PERFECT JUST THE WAY THEY ARE! 🙂

  13. I seem to also get this question, about once every few months, usually in the check-out line of the grocery store, where I am waiting, oh, so patiently (not!), with my two little blond boys (4 and 6 years old) who are full of silly energy. The cashier will ask, don’t I want a girl, I should really try for a girl. I never know what to say either. Implied is indeed something not too kind about the differences between boys and girls. Implied is that at that moment you have to somehow defend your love for them, at a moment when they may or may not be at their angelic best. I wish I knew a good answer.
    When boys are little they are usually rambunctious, and when they get a bit older it feels as if they are a little invisible to the world. Little girls at preschool usually get greeted by the teachers with a comment about how cute they look that morning. I saw it happen at my older son’s preschool, and less so at my younger son’s school. My boys are outgoing, loud, physical, and full of energy and love, and if all else fails, full of shouts and tackling and wrestling and pantomime kisses.

  14. I can so relate to those “out-of-place and insecure” feelings, Beth. I mostly experience them when I’m with other moms who are in kid-comparison mode. Like at Moms Club meetings, playgroups, etc.

    I didn’t know, until I gave birth, what the gender of my child was. When the surgeon said, “It’s a boy!” my first thought was, “What am I going to do with a boy?” I have sisters and all of my friends were girls. . .Anyway, having my son was THE best thing that has ever happened to me. His boyness has been such a blessing. He’s SO different from me–rambunctious, fearless and masculine. He is just who I needed. He’s teaching me to lighten up and learn to enjoy the messes.

    When I was getting counseling for PPD, the therapist said, “Girl, we’re going to get you to lighten up yet. You need to have another son!”

    I would be thrilled to have that happen.

  15. Hm. DadGoneMad, you lost me with the boys are easier to wipe part. I have diapered many a boy and a girl butt, and my experience has been that girls *do* have the advantage in the wiping department.

    I can never properly make it around all the moving parts. I’m terrified I’m going to have missed a crevice and I will be responsible for some sort of horrendous infection.

  16. I wouldn’t worry too much. If I ever have kids I want boys. I don’t know if I would have any clue what to do with a girl. But then again, I grew up with my mother reminding me that she actually wanted a boy and that the baby she miscarried before carrying me, was a boy.

    Also, I’m a girl. I was (am?) a depressed and introverted teenager. Admittedly I never caused trouble, but I was never the rambunctious cheering force that I think my family could have done with. My male cousins – all cheery as hell. Sickening.

  17. The stuff that comes, unencumbered by thought, out of people’s mouths never ceases to astonish me. My wife and I are Childless by ChoiceTM – what do you think would happen if I met someone and said, “Don’t you wish you never had children?” How astronomically insulting.

    I don’t spend a lot of time wishing that things were different, because they AREN’T. I can’t change NOW, but maybe I can change tomorrow – if I want to act on it, and not by “wishing.” Bad things happen to good people, and all that pop philosophy stuff. The best we can hope for is the strength to deal with the bad while trying to be and do good.

  18. What a great post Beth! At a local park I recently experienced a mother of 4 girls putting down a mother of a young boy (and the boy himself)who was approximately 18 months old who was being a totally “normal” 18 month old boy. I couldn’t believe it. She then of course proceeded to make a negative comment regarding my son.

    I have had friendships change (and end) as a resulf of my son, but the friendships that continue are those that are worth continuing.

    Your boys are so lucky to have such a wonderful and nuturing mom (and dad) who can appreciate their personalities and provide such a loving environment for them to learn and grow up in.

    I can really relate to all of your feelings in this post. I often feel this way, and walk around dreading the parents who truly believe their child is perfect, and make you feel so insecure about yours.

  19. Indeed I could have almost written this exact post. I feel for you, I understand this, and I too cherish my boys more than anything.

  20. I also could have written this post. After Thomas was born, a few people asked if we would keep trying for “our girl.” We wanted two kids, no more, so the answer was no. With all the strained mother-daugher relationships in my family, I don’t know what I would have done with a daughter. Obviously someone upstairs knew that. I couldn’t be happier and I don’t feel any longings for a daughter. Great post Beth! You and Dave are amazing parents, to amazing children!

  21. Recently I took my son to a hands-on science museum with a friend who has three girls. Her two oldest were allowed to explore on their own, while her youngest played quietly in the kiddie section…and my son ran around, doing boy things while I corrected any egregious behaviors and letting other things slide. I was exhausted by the end of the two-hour outing, and I could see by the expression on my friend’s face that she thought my son was “too much.” Thank goodness her husband was there to remind her that he was just being a boy, but I did feel that I was being judged for a while for having such a high-energy child. (?)

    Before I got pregnant, I’d always assumed I’d have a girl, and when I found out the child I was carrying was a boy, I didn’t know what I would do with him. But now I can’t imagine life without this little bundle of energy and silliness, and I wonder what I would have done with a girl. ;^)

  22. Society needs to do a better job viewing each child as an individual and not a boy or girl. Lauren’s neighborhood buddy is an energetic seven year old boy and one day I told his mother I was thankful for him and his exuberance. She looked as though i’d just given her a gift.

  23. I have two high energy kids, a girl and a boy. And people are worn out by their energy. I’m worn out by their energy. I’ve resorted to explaining my daughter is a bit boyish as some people can’t computer her activity level with a girl. And that seems weird. How can she be a tomboy at 4? Isn’t she just a kid? She likes dresses and dress-up and nail polish, but lots of boys do too, if given the chance. She just likes worms and swings and dirt and throwing balls too. I am not sure how to break away from the pressure of judgement and comparison that casual and even close friends can make. You’re conscious of it–and your boys will benefit. A thought-provoking post.

  24. First, Happy, Happy Birthday!!
    I only disagree with one thing you wrote, “Because I am a doubter, at least today, I am guessing that people often notice the bad more than the good with children that are not their own, perhaps as a way of validation that their child would never behave in such an unfortunate manner.” – I don’t think that’s most people. Honestly. I think many people (especially child care providers and teachers – the good ones anyway) notice the good in children most or at least their good intentions.
    I remember one instance in particular when I was teaching 2-yr. olds at a child care facility, and a mother approached me about her son and his “roughness”. She often saw him pushing the other kids. “Colin isn’t rough”, I told her. “He just wants to help. He has such a big heart.” He was that child who would push the other children down the slide. But he wasn’t doing it to be mean, he thought the child couldn’t go down on his/her own. (Unfortunately, at 2, he couldn’t express himself and would just say Ahh… Ahh and then the other child would run off screaming.) He was the biggest love I’ve ever met.
    Your boys are obviously empathetic, loving children and all the better that they are full of energy, creativity and thier mother’s zeal for life!!

  25. I have three older brothers, and I’m the only girl. My mom has always said that the boys were so much easier. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t wish she’d had four boys instead though. What a creepy comment that woman made.

    Eli & Kyle are two of my very favorite blog children. Hey, they convinced me to buy KaBOOM! I won’t take product recommendations from just any stranger’s kids.

  26. Beth, don’t let this woman put doubt and fear into what you are and what your family is. There are no rules in life that say boys are easier than girls or girls are easier than boys, or that if you have a boy, you should try and shoot for a girl next time or vice versa! That’s lunacy! We all know that the world doesn’t work like that! A child is a child and each child is unique and special and capable. Kyle and Eli will grow up to be incredibly close brothers and that’s a great thing.

  27. Hello from British Columbia.
    I love your diary. I laugh at how I relate so well to all the similarities between your boys and our daughter Athena. I have saved a special video of Athena for when she is older which involves a playpen and poop. Have you ever tried to clean poop off of a mesh playpen? As a response to the ladies rude comment to you about having a girl, I say save your breath. Don’t waste your time on people who feel it’s appropriate to delve into the most private parts of our lives. Our daughter Athena is an only child for us so we get ALL the sarcasm like- ‘Oh she needs a sister or brother to play with’-or-‘An only child is usually spoiled’-or my favourite-are you ready, this came from a complete stranger in line at our local Wal Mart-“You mean your not having any more kids. That’s selfish to only think of yourselves and not the benefits of a sibling for your daughter!” So after turning my back and biting a whole through my tongue so as not to embarass myself by responding, I now say when asked by strangers who like to know about my sex life-(why is it that people think they can ask such personal questions when there is a child around, but not ask a childless person “When do you plan on reproducing and how many times?”)- I now say “We can’t have any more children”, and that usually lets their imaginations run wild and leaves me with a little giggle because I have had the last word. So this was a little vent on my part, but I feel better now. And you are so fortunate to have two sons who are healthy, imaginative, creative, brilliant angels that are mirror images of you and your husband! Reading your blog about being a parent really opened my eyes that yes, I have strayed from some parents who can’t believe their kids are perfect and can do no wrong. Why take your kids to a park if they can’t be the little explorers they are. I don’t appologize for my daughters behaviour, which is assertive and bossy at times,I explain and teach, and she is the kindest sweetie who hugs everyone within eyesight. I think the worst thing parents can do-is COMPARE- their kids to other kids. And we have all done it, whether verbally or mentally. I think as mom’s and dad’s we have to really enjoy this precious moment in time so we can look back in twenty years and know that the communication with our little one(s) is paramount. And when there is a toxic person in the mix, get rid of it, and the brew will be just right.
    Keep up the great blogging.
    From Christina, James & Athena

  28. Thanks for being a mom with two crazy little boys. I have two CLBs also. Space invaders, aggressive huggers and posing a threat to the somber and sterile everywhere. It’s good to know I’m not alone. I get tired of trying to protect the world from my sons and sheilding the little dears from the criticism and dismemberment of their personalities by many of the adults we come into contact with. Keep up the good work and if you see us out and about, give me a thumbs up. Lillian

  29. Beth,

    I have 3 girls and the comments are JUST AS OBNOXIOUS, if not more so!!!

    Strangers will say..”you’re not going to try for a boy???!!” or “POOR Daddy!” etc.

    Then friends say “He NEEDS a boy. Aren’t you going to GIVE him a boy???””

    MOst of all, the worst 2 comments have been “I’m glad I got all girls b/c my husband travels a lot and if we had a son, that would KILL him.” and then there was a dear friend who, after listening to how much my husband has to work/travel said, “Don’t you think that would be different if he had a boy?”

    It is just sad and pathetic. Sure, experiencing one of each would have been fun but is this CHINA??????? Pisses me off!!!

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