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Family Chatter

By Mary Becelia

For the longest time, I was sure I would be the mother of two girls. I am the eldest of two girls and I was always a "girly girl." I played with dolls and Barbies until I was nearly 12, and never had any interest in sports or other traditionally male-oriented activities.  Yes, I would be a mom of two girls.  Bring on the tea parties, hair ribbons, and dress up clothes!

My plan started to unfold nicely:  my daughter Katherine Laura was born in 2002.  When it came time to consider baby #2, I was confident that another girl was in the cards.  Well, you've probably already guessed where this story is headed:  my second child was a boy.  I learned at about 12 weeks into the pregnancy, when my husband, Clay, and I went to the doctor's for an early ultrasound. I was excited to get a look at Madeleine, presumed daughter #2.

Lying prone, craning to see the misty and murky images on the screen placed awkwardly by my left shoulder, I tried to make sense of what I was viewing. Madeleine clearly had a head and a torso, but other than that, she looked pretty diffuse. "Do you want to know what you are having?" the ultrasound tech asked.  I all but shouted, "Yes!" "There's no doubt," she said with a grin, pointing to a blob attached to the torso area, which, apparently was not a leg, "It's a boy!"

While Clay practically burst with pride at the notion of a son and heir, I was not nearly as pleased.  What about Madeleine?  The two little girls in matching dresses in front of the Christmas tree each year?  The tea parties?  The ribbons?

A boy?  A loud, messy, dinosaur- and truck-obsessed little boy?  "You've got to be kidding." I thought. However, there was not much that could be done about the situation, and gradually as the months passed, I said goodbye to Madeleine and started to welcome Robert Joseph.  I wasn't sure what it would be like to have a boy, but I figured I would get used to it.

For the first few months after Robert was born, in June 2005, not much was different than it had been the first time around. There was the circumcision trauma, of course, and the whole business of diaper changing was considerably more fraught than it had been with infant Katherine, but a newborn is a newborn, regardless of gender.  I stumbled around in a sleep-deprivation induced stupor, just as I had with Katherine; I struggled to find a pacifier that Robert would take, just as I had with Katherine.   Frankly, I didn't see too much difference except that the boy outfits weren't as cute as the girl ones.

As Robert edged toward two years old, I continued to see very little difference between him and his sister. He followed her around, played with her "Pocket Pockets" and "Bobbies" (Polly Pockets and Barbies) as much as she would let him, and was generally a gentle and loving toddler.

What happened around the time the child turned three? All of a sudden, he was a boy. All boy. Transformers! Swords! Trucks!  Dinosaurs! Bad guys!  Super heroes!  All the standard little-boy topics of play and conversation were suddenly of great interest to Robert. Suddenly, too, he was much rougher.  Running, jumping, wrestling his sister...the days of gentle little Robert playing with "Bobbies" seemed a faint memory.

But here's what was even stranger: I found myself enjoying him as much as I ever had.  Suddenly, swords were sort of cool.  Transformers somewhat interesting.  His clothes still weren't as cute as Katherine's, but in every other aspect, I found myself enjoying my boy as much as I ever had his sister at the same age.

Now Robert is almost five—full of pure, boyish energy and a love for dirt. I still wonder what it would've been like to have had two girls, and I wish that Katherine could have a sister--for sisters can have a very special bond, one that I've been fortunate enough to experience, and I would have liked that for her, too.

For me, though, boys are where it's at right now. As I watch him race madly around the playground, chasing the girls and then seconds later tumbling with the other boys, I roll my eyes in mock exasperation and share glances with the other mothers-of-boys. "Boys!" we are all thinking. "Boys will be boys!"

In all their grubby, dirt-loving loving glory, boys will, indeed, be boys.  It's a silly phrase, but yet it embodies so much...so much that I never understood before I had my own little guy. Thank you, Robert, for opening my heart in a new way. I never would have known how much I'd be missing without you.

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