When I was pregnant with my first child I was convinced I was having a girl. A girl like me, only a bit better. She would play sports and go to Trinity and become a world-famous surgeon. It was inconceivable to me to have a boy. What would I do with a boy?
I was the first person in the delivery room to shout, “It’s a boy!”
I was in complete shock at this turnaround and my hopes and aspirations for my little girl crumbled and disappeared immediately like a trodden wafer.
And when my baby boy was placed on my chest, calm with clean-glass window eyes and the smell of undiluted pure love, I wanted nothing for him but to live his own life, with me along for support and company.
I had no intentions for a boy, no strict ideas about what he should strive for or what he should make of himself. It was a clean slate and time to start getting to know another person.
Quite soon afterwards I had another boy.
By this time I was very happily resigned to having another boy, though I always thought it would be nice to have a girl too.
It is clear to all, and I’m sure pretty dull to most, that I love my children with every particle of my being. Having boys freed me to just simply do so in a way I fear I might not have been able to with a girl, on whom I had already placed so much personal and political expectation before she had even been born.
I expect so little of my boys, other than polite manners and general decency. I immediately morphed from blaming many exes mothers for ruining and molly-coddling them to become the future mother in law from hell.
No woman would be good enough for my boys. I was the woman I blamed.
Maybe this is what is fundamentally wrong with society and our battle for equality.
As they have started to grow and attended pre school and now school I have noticed a massive softening in my approach and understanding towards men.
I don’t think I’m an apologist for sexist men or any nonsense like that. I haven’t lost my core belief in the lack of and need to push for equality between men and women. I try to teach my boys that cleaning and cooking and tidying up and caring for others are just as much boys jobs as girls jobs. But I definitely have more sympathy for men, now. I am slower to condemn them.
I feel like I understand some of their motives better now, especially the physical ones. Before, when I saw a young boy on the street using his plastic muscle-bound army toy to bash a brick wall or wielding a stick around his head like a mini samurai I would curl my lip in disgust and think “Eugh! Boys! Destructive little gits.”
Now when, my boys and others their age behave this way I just shrug and make sure no one is loosing an eye. I set a few rules (no hitting each others heads and if the other one cries or yells Ouch! you have to stop and ask if they are ok).
Largely I let them get on with it because i have learned that it’s mostly good-natured play and they really need to do that sort of thing to let out the excess ARG they appear to almost all be born with. They also revert just as quickly to warm loving beings who leap on your back or lap and hug you for ages.
My boys are always, ALWAYS, on my side. They watch things gong on around me and spring bravely to my defense if they think anything or anyone might be about to attack me. If anyone even upsets me they quietly gather round me and offer to make the villain walk the plank. They are yet to reach the ages of 4 and 5.
There is no doubt that having boys has given me a new sympathy for and empathy with the male gender that I didn’t feel before I had them. I also want them to have the best and brightest future they can. I feel quite competitive about the fact that education is now so much a girls field of success.
Like every other parent I want them to get the best from life.
Does this make me less of a feminist? I don’t think so, when one defines feminism as aiming for equality between the sexes. Has it made me understand men better? Yes, I think I am a little less judgmental of them, a little more tolerant, even when they behave in an ignorant manner.
It’s because these little men are a part of me, really the most important part.