As many of you know, I did not know if chick was a boy or girl when I was pregnant. Infertility had left me with few surprises. I saw the moment the embryo was inserted into my uterus. I have the picture of him when he was just four cells old.
I wanted some Mystery.
So when Chick was born and I learned that he was in fact that he, I had this moment where I thought “Well, of course you are.” Not because I knew he was a boy, more like because I knew he was himself.
It wasn’t until several weeks later that it dawned on me dawned on me that I am now the mother to a son. It was a lovely sunny summer morning, I looked down at this angelic little face and I thought “Oh my god, I have given birth to the patriarchy.”
I have given birth to a white middle class man.
As funny as this sounds, I hadn’t really given thought to raising a boy. I thought a lot about raising a child. And yes, technically boys are children, so why would raising a boy or a girl be different?
Though I wish it were otherwise, we live in a highly gendered society and there are certain considerations for raising boys versus girls. For example, Chick is on the smaller side. This is what happens when the bun comes out of the oven early– he gets a little underdone and needs to keep cooking on the outside. I’m okay with this. He is healthy, eating well, gaining weight. And yet people always feel compelled to tell me “Not to worry. He’ll get bigger.”
Um… I’m not worried. He is fine. Besides, it isn’t like he would likely be some godzilla baby anyway. Mr. O and I aren’t terrible large humans. But I’m apparently supposed to be worried that my 4.5 month old isn’t the size of a linebacker already to the point I need a lot of reassurance. I was talking about this to a friend who has a daughter 4 months older than Chick and is admittedly petite. Her daughter was smaller than Chick at his age, and all anyone could say was how cute and tiny she was.
No cautionary cause for alarm. No reassuring comments about how her baby would soon be the size of a Thanksgiving turkey.
Lesson learned: Boys should be big and girls should be small. Lame. And yet predictably so.
There are also considerations for raising children in different racial or ethnic groups. I’d like to get all “we are the world” about this, but let’s just be grown ups for a minute. These differences are real and it’s a bigger disservice to run around pretending they don’t exist.
My baby is waaaay white. Sometimes I look at his beautiful blue eyes and think “Where did this Aryan child come from?” No one would guess for a millisecond that his is ¼ Puerto Rican. (Hell, most people can’t believe I’m 50%.) He won’t walk into a store and have people instantly wonder if he is going to steal anything. That is, unless he is wearing a ski mask. Then they might get a little concerned.
The thing is I know a whole lot of perfectly nice white middle class men. I’m even married to one. And yet, I will admit I’m always a little on the defense when I encounter one in the wild. Though I don’t clutch my purse and cross the street, I do wonder if he votes republican or will attempt to mansplain why there is a wage gap. This isn’t nice, but it is. Okay? It just is.
I want Chick to know that by virtue of being born to a certain race, class, and gender, he has some preset advantages other people don’t have. I don’t think he should have to apologize for them, but I also don’t want him to run around thinking the way he is treated in the world is how everyone gets treated. Unfairness is inherent in our society, and he happens to have drawn the longest straw.
In summary, how do I raise a little boy to not suck?