Dad’s mis­guided hope de­serves full ben­e­fit of the doubt

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST/TELEVISION - CAROLYN HAX Chat on­line with Carolyn at 11 a.m. each Fri­day at wash­ing­ton­post.com. Write to Tell Me About It in care of The Wash­ing­ton Post, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. N.W., Wash­ing­ton, D.C. 20071; or email tellme@wash­post.com

DEAR CAROLYN: My daugh­ter is ex­pect­ing her sec­ond baby, an­other girl. We are thrilled. How­ever, our daugh­ter told us her hus­band said he wanted a boy, which frus­trated her.

We will be baby-sit­ting for them soon (so they can have a “baby­moon”). Know­ing our son-in-law, he will make that state­ment to us. What can we say that will con­vey dis­may at this at­ti­tude?

We think girls are just as valu­able as boys, and the baby’s health, not sex, should be the main con­cern. — Anony­mous

DEAR READER: Ooh, said the fish. A big fat worm on a hook.

Of course it’s ter­ri­ble if your son-in-law’s rea­son for pre­fer­ring a boy is a be­lief that girls are less valu­able hu­mans than boys are and if he goes on to act on that pref­er­ence in the way he treats his girls.

But this fish knows bait when she sees it, and I urge you to do the same: Rec­og­nize the “ifs” as a sign of mul­ti­ple pos­si­bil­i­ties in­stead of act­ing on the most in­flam­ma­tory, son-in-law-sham­ing one.

Your son-in-law could just as eas­ily be mourn­ing the death of his Mini-Me vi­sions, which I think ev­ery par­ent-to-be har­bors to some de­gree. You know — where you con­jure your fa­vorite par­ent-child mem­o­ries as a kid, and you gen­der those ac­tiv­i­ties more out of re­flex than any real no­tion that girls can’t go fish­ing or boys can’t plant flow­ers with Mom, and you pic­ture your­self bring­ing them to life in a new gen­er­a­tion.

Poof, you learn the baby’s of the op­po­site sex. Dis­ap­point­ment, sad­ness.

Those emo­tions are of­ten faster to our tongues than logic is. So, a man en­joy­ing warm mem­o­ries of Dad, freshly stirred up by his im­pend­ing fa­ther­hood, might stam­mer out ” … but I wanted a boy!” be­fore the full im­pli­ca­tions thereof had time to form in his brain.

This isn’t gen­dered, ei­ther. The ver­sion of your dilemma I’ve got­ten most over the years is from moms-to-be bummed to have sons.

Plus, some just want one of each.

So please, find any doubt you can about your son-in­law’s mo­tives and then give him the full ben­e­fit of it. Con­sider how he treats your daugh­ter, and their baby girl, how good a spouse and par­ent he is in gen­eral, how good a per­son he is over­all.

If he’s a doink, then you won’t fix that with your dis­may, no mat­ter how aptly con­veyed.

And please rec­og­nize that telling him how he “should” feel is not the way to lift any­one, doink or not, up to the high ground you think you’re oc­cu­py­ing.

Do I think ba­bies’ health “should” mat­ter most? Sure. But this also “should” be for him to fig­ure out for him­self, and for you to ex­press only for your­self and only where ap­pro­pri­ate.

Oth­er­wise he will have grounds to con­vey his dis­may that you jumped to sex­ism when maybe he was just hav­ing a primal nos­tal­gia mo­ment for Lit­tle League and mud and trucks. Which, yes, girls like too. Which he’ll learn from his girls, if he needs to and if he’s not a doink.

Which you can en­cour­age by say­ing, “Yeah, it’s nor­mal to pre­fer a boy or girl. But, then, kids end up be­ing them­selves re­gard­less of what we might want, don’t they?” And we fall for them hard­est that way.

Wash­ing­ton Post Writ­ers Group/NICK GAL­I­FI­ANAKIS

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