This is my baby

This is my baby

When my wife and I announced that we were having a third child, people would look at our two daughters and then ask me, “Are you hoping for your boy?”

The question annoyed me. It presumed so much: That I was dissatisfied with the girls. That a boy would somehow be more mine than my daughters are. That there’s a proprietary angle to our children. That dads need sons.

We chose to wait until we actually saw the baby to find out whether we were having a boy or girl, and I subsequently worried my way through the pregnancy.

Over the last several years, I’d developed a sense of myself as a good dad for daughters. I attended tea parties and gladly visited imaginary hair and beauty salons, all while championing my girls’ simultaneous desires to get muddy and rowdy, their dreams of being entomologists, and their rights to pursue whatever paths they chose, regardless of sex or gender. I proudly told people that they were the sorts of girls who liked putting on princess dresses before they climbed up on rocks and jumped off. I wrestle with them. I love camping with them. I enjoy the makeovers they give me.

I also not-so-secretly worried that I wouldn’t know what to do with a boy, protesting that I’m not an athlete, not a typical “guy”—to which my wife pointed out that I was being just a tad sexist. My firstborn, after all, shows all the signs of being competitive, physical, coordinated, and eager to take up sports, and I have no worries about my future interactions with her. I was also raised under a model of unconditional support; my rec-major dad and super-active mom—both of whom have participated in team and individual sports my whole life—never failed to attend one of my ballet recitals or musical theater performances. Of course I will make every effort to try to understand whatever activities any of my children choose to pick up.

And then he arrived. I was convinced we were having another girl. But here was this additional XY in the house, and I found myself quickly admitting that, yes, I’m glad I now have a son. Part of me feels guilty in such an admission—but my wife, correct as usual, points out that I can be happy with daughters and a son. For different reasons. And I am.

So I’m working on not being ashamed to say that I’m thrilled to have this little guy in my life, one who already likes to watch me shave. I’ll teach him how to do the same, someday—and he’ll need to do it often. I’ll teach him how to tie a tie, if that’s his style. I’ll teach him about healthy relationships, and respecting women, and masculinity that has a positive impact on society. I hope. I’ll try.

I call him Mr. Dude or Mr. Boy, and I have only recently admitted that I am glad that there’s another person in this family who will—I think, anyway—someday see the world from a similar perspective to mine.

I don’t know any of that for sure, but I do know that he is my boy—as much as my daughters are my girls. And that’s OK.

What do you think?


This is my second daughter

This is my second daughter

I caught this one. I literally caught her as she was being born.

My wife and I chose to have home births, and everything went (relatively) smoothly with the first and third kids. There were some complications with No. 2, however, so we went to the hospital so my wife could be induced.

Once there, one thing led to another, my wife ended up on all fours in the hospital bathroom, the OB couldn’t quite get to her in time (I’m really rushing through this story), and I was the nearest person to the action. When I, well, looked underneath to see how things were going, I saw the top of a baby. I stuck out my hand, and this little girl dropped headfirst into my palm.

I promptly scooped her up to my chest, accidentally snapping her umbilical cord and sending blood fountaining everywhere. The OB had made it into the room by then and calmly clamped what needed clamping, checked what needed checking, and calmed down what needed calming down.

She’s had a relatively less chaotic life since then (my daughter, I mean; I have no idea how the OB has fared). As the second kid, she looks up to her big sister, for good and for ill. She’s the cuddliest of the three, and (don’t tell her siblings I said this), she has the best comedic timing.

Her: I’m hungry.
Me: …
Her: Actually, I’m thirsty.
Me: …
Her: Actually, I have to go potty.

She’s as stubborn as her older sister, but in a different way, which feels unfair to me. Until I had two kids, I didn’t know there were different kinds of stubbornness.

The biggest lesson she’s taught me is that a second child isn’t a repeat of the first child, which—sure—sounds obvious, but I’m amazed at how long it took me to figure it out. I love her distinct personality, her subtle zaniness, and her hugs. She’s a peacemaker, which I admire, but that quality also makes me worry, because I want so desperately for her to stand up for herself and make her own voice heard in a world/society/school/family full of voices trying to talk louder than she can—or will.

I’m apparently worse at drawing dimples than I am at hands, but I can’t draw ripples on the sides of her face, thus those little dents in my illustration.

Finally, some questions (and I ask for no reason, no reason at all): Fellow second children, did your parents take fewer pictures and videos of you than they did of your older sibling? And how messed up are you because of that?

This is my firstborn

This is my firstborn

In Ben Folds’ “Still Fighting It,” he sings, to his young child, “You’re so much like me. I’m sorry.”

I love the song, and I love that line, though my enjoyment of the words was pretty much abstract until my first daughter came into my life and showed me what I would have been like if I had been born a blond girl.

Some of it is positive, I think. She genuinely laughs at what I laugh at. She’s into bugs and sharks and owl pellets. Her favorite part of “The Empire Strikes Back” is at the end, when Luke gets his new robotic hand, and she can perfectly imitate the twitches he makes as the droid jabs his fingers to make sure the synthetic nerves are working. She tells stories and gets lost in the telling.

She also gets frustrated like I got (and get) frustrated. She gets inordinately angry when she doesn’t immediately grasp and master a new skill. Being right is incredibly important to her in every discussion/debate/argument. Vitally important. As important and inevitable as gravity.

Throughout my childhood, my parents often told me that they hoped I’d someday have a kid just like me. It was a blessing, I think, and a curse. While my firstborn daughter—my firstborn child—looks like my wife, she acts like me and seems to think like me. I can’t tell if it’s nature or nurture. Sometimes (as when she suddenly exclaimed, on the way to kindergarten, “Dad, the future turns into the past!”) I am thrilled to hear my voice echoing somehow in hers. She’s fascinated by science. She falls asleep reading, with her book still propped upright in her hands—an ability I’ve only seen demonstrated elsewhere in myself (actually, I’ve been told of it, since I’m unconscious when it happens).

But she is so, so stubborn. When my wife and I are feeling charitable, we call her “willful” or “persistent” or “committed.” But most of the time we just say she’s stubborn—though we do take comfort in knowing that the challenging qualities of today will someday benefit her when she’s a supreme court justice.

An anecdote to end this on:

I once gave her a dollar I had in my pocket when I got home from work.

Her: Oh, thank you! You’re my best daddy!
Me: Oh yeah? Who’s your not-best daddy?
Her: You, sometimes.