I took my teenage son out to lunch on Friday. He was having one of those “there’s nothing to eat here” moments and I wanted a poke bowl. Win-win. As we were waiting in a long-ish line to get his meaty meal at another restaurant next door, I hit up a conversation with a woman holding a little girl. The little girl was laughing with this beautiful giggle and I couldn’t help smiling.
“She is just adorable!”
“Thanks! I am so happy to have her.”
“Of course! Children are amazing! You have so much fun ahead!”
“Right? Especially girls, they bring so much joy.”
<SCREECH….like the sound of someone stopping a record on the record player and the needle scrapes across the vinyl.>
I stopped for a second, tried to figure out to formulate my answer. I wanted to assume that she hadn’t meant that boys are less joyful. I mean, I’m standing there with a boy who is obviously my son.
“Girls do bring joy…just like boys! Children are all amazing.”
“I am so glad I didn’t have a boy, I had brothers and they were just always a problem.”
“Yeah, I’m sure some boys can be a problem. I’ve got boys and girls, they are pretty equal in making us laugh and cry! Gotta love them all!”
It was her turn to stop for a second. I smiled, tried to lighten the moment because I hadn’t meant to put her on the defensive. I just hate that boys get such a bad rap anymore and hey, I’m standing there with one of my boys. I didn’t want him thinking that boys were somehow less.
“Girls are just so…sweet. They’re smart…hmmmm….I don’t think we go through the same teenage angst boys do. I just feel like girls are easier and….well, just….”
And then she got called up to place her order. She smiled at me in a way that said “phew.” I’m kind of glad, because words were forming in my head, and not all of them nice. Words I wouldn’t say in front of a three-year-old.
Why would you tell a fellow mom, in front of their boy, that boys are a problem? By saying that girls are sweet implies boys are not. Saying girls are smart implies boys are not. Saying girls are easier implies boys are harder. And girls have less teenage angst? Spoken in a way only a person who has not parented a teenage girl could say.
And since when is parenting supposed to be easy? Parenting boys, parenting girls, it’s ALL got its moments.
I’m glad I stood up for boys, however short the conversation. It’s not my job to change her mind, nor would I be able to do that in a three-minute interaction at Chipotle, but why is it okay to diss an entire gender, IN FRONT OF ONE OF THEM?
It threw me off a little bit. I love love love parenting both girls and boys. Back when I was a parenting expert — before I had kids — I wanted a couple of boys and a couple of girls. We lost a few trying but in the end, I got exactly that: two boys and two girls. I even got them in the order I would have requested had I been able to say, “Listen, God, here’s what I want…”
All over the news and social media, we push for support. We expect moms to stand up for each and not shame them. We ask others to empower and lift up, so why is this okay? I know this lady doesn’t speak for everyone, but it’s not my first encounter with someone who thinks having female kids is perfect and boys are, well, things to be glad they avoided. I ran into it years ago on my daughter’s soccer team and with a couple of parents I’d met at various kid events. Now that my kids are older, it happens less, so maybe that’s why this surprised me so much.
A old co-worker of mine was laid off months ago. She has two teen daughters. When she was close to losing her apartment, she told me “Don’t they know I have kids?” I tried to be supportive because I felt for her….until she said “Seriously though, I have girls. Girls can’t live in a shelter or the car. I wish the apartment manager would listen to me.” Huh? Bad choice of words or a real feeling that girls somehow mean she deserved something more?
Girls are wonderful. Boys are wonderful. Neither sex is immune to issue and neither is better. We live in a society where the male sex is on the defensive, where they have to take steps to prove they aren’t a problem simply because they’re male. Do we really want to continue to impress on male kids that they are less smart, more of a problem, somehow less in this world simply because of their gender?
I’m not going to get political about gender, as that’s a whole different topic in itself. I’m just trying to understand why we marry men then complain about having male children. What does that say about how we feel about our husbands in relation to ourselves?
We need to empower all our children to feel good about themselves, be confident and to feel loved, supported and equal. That’s equality, right? If you don’t have a boy, or if you don’t have a girl, you won’t know the feeling in the pit of your stomach when someone dismisses one of your children based on gender…and I won’t let you do it around me.