Sometimes it’s good to be wrong: A call for submissions from Aly Windsor, the new editor of our ‘Raising Boys’ section.
When my partner and I started talking children, I knew I wanted girls. Why? Because I thought I understood them and could relate to them more easily than boys. I’m estranged from my father and have never dated men (though a few of the women I loved later transitioned to be men). Sure I had male friends, some of whom would have made ideal examples of sons if I ever let myself imagine having them. But I didn’t. I only pictured my future self wading in streams and dancing to Dolly Parton with my little daughters, passing on to them my love of Virginia Woolf, and eventually helping them push out their own children into this crazy old world.
The thing about getting pregnant with frozen sperm is that it’s more likely that the baby will be male due to the effects of freezing on the lifespan of X-sperm. I ignored this fact and stubbornly continued imagining having daughters. Then, when I found out my first was going to be a boy, my heart sunk. I knew I’d love him but I didn’t know if I would understand him.
Gender is a social construct, my partner reminded me. Having a daughter doesn’t automatically guarantee closeness or grandchildren, nor does it even guarantee she’d stay a daughter. As the partner of a sociologist and friend and former lover to people with complex gender histories, I knew all of this. But the irrational part of my brain took over.
I didn’t know much about little boys, other than that they seemed frenetic, so the scenarios I fretted over started with my son at puberty. I pictured him sullen, secretive, and shut off from me. I could see him later at high school parties giving in to idiot groupthink, binge-drinking, and worse. Then I envisioned him marrying someone who I also couldn’t relate to at which point I’d lose him for good and languish my life away.
The rational side of my brain screamed WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? Are you really so powerless against these bullshit cultural scripts? The other side just shuddered with angst and hopelessness.
I’m sure you can guess where this story goes. I had my boy. He became the love of my life. He’s four now and yes, frenetic, but also emotionally complex. I’m not sure if he’ll ever read Woolf’s classic “Moments of Being” but he enjoys a little Dolly Parton now and then, and wading in streams is our life. He’s also, I’m told, about as “all boy” as he can be. I don’t always feel like I understand him but the same goes for everyone else, myself included. And, yes, I’m still worried about puberty but find me a parent of young kids who isn’t.
I had another boy after him but this time my heart soared when the ultrasound tech made the sex declaration. If I could have one more, I’d want yet another boy. I just get them. And now—the rational side of my brain laughs heartily over this—I sometimes find myself at a loss for how to relate to my sons’ little girl friends.
All of that said, my boys are only 2 and 4, so I still have a lot to learn about raising them. I’ve read books on raising boys from various experts, but what I find more helpful (and relatable) is listening to people share their own experiences.
As the new editor of the Raising Boys section, I welcome submissions from parents reflecting on the title subject, as well as from men and women with instructive tales about their own childhoods. I hope this section will be a place for constructive conversation where we can makes sense of our own stories as well as current research and other news items to help each other raise the next generation of good men.
So, talk to me. If you’re the parent of a boy, what were your first thoughts when you found out your child’s sex? How did your imagined parenting journey differ from the real-life adventure? Comment below or submit essays to [email protected].
—Photo by M.Gioeli Photography