Photp Credit: Bruno Nascimento/Unsplash
I’m not going to lie — when I found out I was pregnant, I instantly thought I was having a girl. And it wasn’t just a little wishful thinking on my part: I was used to girls, having helped raise my sister’s twin girls when they were babies. My family was full of little girls, most of whom I had babysat at one time or another. It was familiar territory, one that I felt confident in navigating, even as a would-be first-time parent.
When I had my 18-week ultrasound, as the tech was moving the wand around my already-large belly, he said, “We’ve got a strong heartbeat here. And oh! There we have the scrotum.”
And that’s how I found out I was having a boy.
To say this was a shock is an understatement. Anxiety-provoking thoughts like “I don’t know anything about boys! How am I going to raise one?” to more superficial ones like “I won’t get to brush long hair and do pigtails” crossed my mind. While I wasn’t disappointed by the news — all I really wanted more than anything was a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby — it did take a couple of weeks to settle into this idea of being a mother to a boy.
When my son was born on a snowy winter night in Brooklyn, all the trepidations fell away and instinct kicked in. That first year was a haze of sleep deprivation, exhaustion, and pure joy. The sweetness of a baby, regardless of gender, is a miraculous delight. Parenting became more challenging during the terrible twos (which turned out to be a cakewalk compared to the truly terrifying threes … and fours … and fives). Overnight, it seemed, that sweet baby who slept contentedly in my arms had been replaced by a rambunctious, energetic toddler who had a mind of his own and the will to exert it.
But as with everything in parenting, I would learn, nothing ever stays the same. As they get older, the physical exhaustion of raising a baby turns into the mental exhaustion of trying to keep a toddler from running into traffic, then it eventually turns into the emotional tug of watching a teenager learn to be independent and become their own person.
Whoever came up with the adage that in parenting, the days are long and the years are short is incredibly insightful. My son is 16 now, a strapping lad who, at 6 feet tall, towers over me. And I got lucky: This boy I have is all sweetness and nice, even during these teenage years. Remarkably, he still loves his mama’s hugs and kisses. There are days when it’s hard to remember that he ever fit in the crook of my arm as a newborn, and even harder to remember that I ever thought I wouldn’t know how to raise a boy.
And another seemingly impossible thought looms: In a couple of years, I will have raised a man.