Even before our ultrasound, we were confident that we were having a boy. We had collected all sorts of non-scientific data and hearsay to determine that IUI (intrauterine insemination) yielded more boys. We had no girls’ names at the ready. We assumed, wrongly or rightly, that we would have a boy. We also assumed that we’d be able to raise boys just as easily as girls. Note: This is not going to be an academic discussion about gender stereotypes. This is just a bit of fun, so if you want to read further about the things that go through my mind on any given occasion, I suggest you take off your Judgy Hat. It’s giving you hat-head.
My partner and I skew femme. Gabriella is definitely handier than I am, but she’s also the nurturing Italian mother with a warm smile and a soft bosom on which to cradle one’s head. And while she’ll tell you that she owned a bowling ball when she was a member of a ladies’ bowling league, the ball was in fact pink, and she was as gifted in the bowling alley as she was on her softball team. Not very. Her words. Not good with balls. My words. She may not choose to wear skirts, but recent trends indicate that skirts are quite manly, anyway.
As far as where I sit on the butch-femme spectrum, I’d have to say that I’m more Jewish than femme meaning that my lack of interest in all things related to sports and tools is completely, genetically Semitic. Also, my tendency to make sweeping generalizations about Jews is cultural and, therefore, completely acceptable…
In spite of our girly natures, we never doubted our ability to raise boys. We would not be ruled by societal norms and expectations about maleness. Furthermore, we would not be so foolish as to think we could be all things to any child regardless of gender. But, the day that I taught our son how to pee standing up was the day I considered for the first time that some things may not be as easy as others. Shaving and putting on condoms might require some assistance down the road, be it from male members of our proverbial village or instructional videos on YouTube.
The more I thought about my shortcomings, the more I thought about the kind of lessons I was teaching. My mother had raised my sister and me to be ladies, and I, in turn, spent a good portion of my day raising gentlemen – mensches. My tutelage revolved around good grammar, immaculate manners and squeaky-clean language.
Over time, I doubted myself as the older son became obsessively polite and outraged by crudeness of all kinds. “I’m wondering if I’ve overdone the gentleman thing. Should I teach him how to make fart noises under my armpits, Gabriella?” She did not think it necessary. “He’s fine, Deborah. You’re not responsible for his nature. He is who he is. Just look at his brother.”
Fair point. These two prim, girly moms (well, one prim and one well-mannered) have one Felix Unger and one Oscar Madison. For you youngsters, that’s a reference to The Odd Couple, a television show back in the days when there were only 4 networks and when you had to make physical contact with the television to change the channel. Felix and Oscar were two bachelors. One was fastidious and the other was a slob, and they decided to share an apartment. Hilarity ensued.
Our Oscar can never resist puddles or piles of dirt. He plays with his food and is free in his gaseous expulsions from various orifices though he does always say, “Excuse me.” Our Felix is proper and tidy. Our Oscar is gregarious, and our Felix is reserved. Our Oscar is free with his body, and our Felix is very private. The other day, Asher (our Felix) yelled for me to come upstairs to stop Levi (our Oscar) from exposing himself to Asher. I had to muffle my laughter when I discovered Levi’s natural talent for penis puppetry.
Recognizing the innate differences in our two boys, I don’t worry that we two lady parents might not be man enough for our boys. They are who they are, and they seem to be handling themselves just fine.