Wanting a Girl, Having a Boy
How one mom dealt with wanting a girl, but having a boy
What Little Girls Are Made Of
Girls have more mellow energy, I decided after a few days of observation. They're more willing to converse. Their play is contemplative. It doesn't involve tearing around at full tilt, limbs flailing. It doesn't include violence, a piece of driftwood transformed into a gun, a schooner on the horizon suddenly an enemy ship.
Girls read books, they collect shells, carefully picking through hanks of ragged seaweed, attentive to hidden, tiny worlds. I found that even their shrieks of delight had a kind of bubbling delicacy; it was a quality I wanted to touch with my fingertips, to hold onto.
I knew, of course, that I was stereotyping. I could recognize that the boys and girls on that beach probably weren't really all that different, that I was choosing to see different things in them. Gender stands out; it's an aspect of identity that registers before hair color or personality. Maybe, because I am one who prefers conversation to activity, who thinks hard and wonders often, who finds the pattern of waves infinitely more interesting than the experience of riding them, I assumed these girls -- simply because they were girls -- had those qualities, too; and I gravitated toward what I thought I saw.
Perhaps it was something beyond that, too: I think that in the brown-haired 4-year-old who grew tearful when her sand castle disappeared beneath a surprise wave, I may have seen myself as a small child, and the darkness of my own uncertain world.
In my youth, it seemed, things toppled and sometimes there wasn't much I could depend on to hold steady. My older brother drew me in with his affection and then, in an instant, turned cruel; my parents sat across from each other at the dining room table, and there was a coldness between them I couldn't explain; we drove by a smashed bird in the road, and I wanted more than anything to bring it back to life. In yearning to comfort this little girl on the beach, I may have also been wanting to comfort myself, to pick my way through the broken pieces of the past, return to all the ruined sand castles and rebuild what I had long since lost. Maybe mothering a daughter would become a way to be mothered, too.
Whatever the complexity of reasons, I knew this: Every time I saw a girl, something inside me twisted and surged, a longing so profound it felt like pain.