If you know me in real life or have been following this blog for a while, you probably know that I have always wanted daughters. I started saving my favorite toys and clothing for my future girls when I was about seven or eight years old. While my sister Sarah gravitated toward dolls with long hair and pretty dresses, I usually chose baby dolls, including a porcelain baby doll in a Christening gown that must have driven my father insane (we're Jewish). It was never a question that I would have a daughter. Even when I found out I was pregnant with Jack, I consoled myself with the fact that it was only my first, and Sarah wrote me the best baby shower card: "Remember: Shakespeare, Kipling, Tolkein, Twain - all boys." How could I not love a mini-John? The mini-me would come later.
When I heard the words "it's a boy" for the second time, I once again found myself reimagining my future. For the first few years of Jack's life, gender didn't seem that important. But starting around age three, when his interests became stereotypically "boy" (trains, pirates, superheroes), I had a much clearer vision of what a life filled with boys would look like. And frankly, I wasn't all that excited about it. I don't get many of the things Jack loves: building LEGO does nothing for me (and any satisfaction I get out of assembling a 500-piece set is completely obliterated the second Jack dismantles it); I've never cared where lava comes from; his obsession with tarantulas is basically my worst nightmare. A friend brought her daughter by the other night and I stared longingly at her ballerina Barbie while Jack pretended to ride his stuffed dragon. My own Barbies are stacked neatly in a plastic bin somewhere deep in a storage unit. One of these days I'll get around to donating them to Goodwill.
I feel wildly outnumbered sometimes, even though Will is only four months old. As a friend said the other day over coffee (she has THREE boys): there are just so many penises. The thought of sharing a house with John and two teenage boys is mildly horrifying. People tell me I should be grateful I'll never have to deal with a PMSing girl, but the thing is, I understand PMS. Greasy, sweaty, pimply teenage boys, on the other hand, terrify me as much now as they did when I was a teenager myself. I find myself buying T-shirts adorned with cartoon characters and detachable capes, a haze of pink tulle always just within my peripheral vision. But I've banned myself from the girls section of Target. I know it will only conjure images of the daughter-I'll-never-have. Or worse, I'll buy something and squirrel it away for the daughter-that-could-be.
But lately, when the boys are all upstairs getting ready for bed and I hear John's deep chuckle mingled with Jack's contagious cackle and Will's giggle-in-training, I feel indescribably blessed (and believe me, I'm not the kind of person who says "blessed"). I know I'll never get to braid my daughter's hair, but Jack is remarkably gentle when he tries to give me a ponytail. I feel a stab of envy when friends take their daughters to Disneyland to meet the princesses of my childhood, but I never imagined that I would get to be the princess ("Prettier than Elsa," according to Jack). And recently, when I went through the box of things I'd been saving for my daughter, I discovered that most of the items were stained or yellowed with age. The future I had so firmly in my mind, the one whose loss I spent weeks mourning last winter, was never really meant to be.
I'm still getting used to the idea that I won't take my daughter wedding dress shopping one day; I will NEVER be a soccer mom if John's and my hand-eye coordination is any indication. I dread the question I've already been asked many times: "Are you going to try again for a girl?" (I half-jokingly answer that I've "tried" twice and look where that's gotten me - it clearly wasn't meant to be.) But mostly, I'm trying to remind myself that the future never looks exactly how we think it will.
Sometimes, if we're lucky, it's even better.