Drew has many loves in this world. He loves stories, swimming pools and golf. He loves trains and balls and fireplaces. (Fireplaces are the only objects he asks me to draw when we’re playing with sidewalk chalk. He likes them in all different colors.). Drew loves the letter L even though he cannot yet make the “L” sound, but only growls when he sees it because, as I’m sure you’re aware, Lion begins with L. He also asks specifically for the foam bath toy letter L every evening in the tub.
But Drew REALLY gets excited when we tell him we’re going to a party.
“Cake?” he asks.
“Yes,” we tell him. There will be cake.
He probably feels this way because my mother-in-law always tells him mommy and daddy are going to a “party” whenever she babysits, no matter if we’re just heading up Berry street for some Taco Bell or returning items to Target. In Drew’s mind, no matter where we go, if we go without him, we must be partying. So when he gets to go to a party with mom and dad, it must feel like peering behind a velvet curtain.
This weekend we took Drew to a one-year-old birthday party. I asked Gordon to buy the present while I was getting my hair processed and pulverized (or “done” if you prefer understatement or something that suggests a more natural approach to beauty), and he did a great job picking out a cute, age-appropriate gift at Toys R Us. But when I looked over at the back seat to inspect his wrapping job, I discovered to my horror that Gordon had picked out a very teeny-bop gift bag with a giant picture of Selena Gomez on the side. Which wouldn’t be a problem if the baby was turning, I don’t know, eleven, but hardly age- appropriate for a one-year-old. I wrung my hands: would giving such a bag suggest we thought our friend’s precious daughter was no better than a run-of-the mill, run-of-the-mall prostitot?
And worse, our friends are of Hispanic heritage and would this suggest pandering?
The difficulties mounted. I took a swig of tepid Diet Coke.
“YOU are going to take credit for this bag,” I declared, as if meting out a sentence. Then, on second thought I asked, “Did you get a card?”
“No,” said Gordon, bewildered.
“Well maybe they won’t find out it’s from us,” I said. “Maybe we can stick it in the back.”
“Ok,” he said.
“But then it would look like we didn’t bring a gift.”
Which would be worse?
Taking credit for the gift bag, of course.
But when we arrived, there was no stealthy way to stash the present before our friends met us at the door. We bore our shame; they were gracious and probably didn’t think a thing of it.
“I thought it looked girly,” Gordon said later when I brought it up again on the way home. Well of course it did, what with all the sparkles and pink starbursts and peacock plumes all exploding around Selena’s face like Barbie vomit. But there’s girly and then there’s girly and sometimes men can’t tell the difference.
Which reminds me, I’ll be the mother of a girl in a month. And Gordon will be the father of a girl. And Drew will be the brother of a girl. And this girl will present bigger issues than if a gift bag is tacky or not. This girl will mean frilly things, pink things, softer things, sweeter things — along with urinary tract infections, hair issues, body image, boys, periods, sororities…wedding.
So far I’ve been the only “she” around these parts, and this time on the Pregnancy Express, it feels extra-weird because the only way I can, at this very moment, relate to this little girl inside me is to picture her…as myself. Now, I know that saying I feel pregnant with myself sounds a little heeby-jeeby, but there’s really no way around it. The feeling that comes closest is feeling like I’m pregnant with my sister or one of my best girlfriends. I didn’t feel this way with Drew. I just anticipated him. But with Maddie, I’m expending loads of mental energy trying to conjure her up. Perhaps it’s that I want to relate to her so badly — because she’s a girl, like me — that I visualize her as someone I already know and have a good relationship with. (Namely, myself. Would Freud call this “projecting?”)
The plain, rather juvenile truth is I hope my daughter likes me. And maybe I care about this more than I did with Drew.
What about you? Did you care about which of your children liked you more and did it seem to relate directly to their gender? How has that affected your parenting? I’m curious.
In the meantime, I have a little boy to attend to. After all, there are many days of fireplaces, trains, foam bath toys and L-is-for-Lions in our future — 30, to be exact.
I think I need some cake…