Thursday, April 27, 2006

Gender Preference Revisited - Now with more nuance!

I received a comment on my post below, and as I started to respond to it, I realized it deserved its own post. Hope that's okay with the author:

Lola: I can understand the preference of having a girl over a boy- if you are a single female. I really do feel that young boys benefit by having a strong male role-model in their life- and girls- a woman... I believe single parents can raise children of the opposite sex. But myself as a single female am worried about raising a young boy-- let's face it- I don't know much about men (they are completely different then women in a lot of ways), and I think it would be more beneficial to the child to be with a same sex parent. I agree about entitlement- no one is entitled anything- although when you work and live and try hard in life, it is sometimes frustrating to miss out on things you would like to share in..

Oh, Lola,

I'm completely sympathetic to all of that. I realize that my post didn't sound like it - franky, neither did my response to the conversation detailed here, and for that I'm really sorry. For starters, I have to repeat that we did actually ask for a girl. (After our domestic craziness, (and my revisiting the issue of whether I really could ever meet with another mother and not take her hands and tell her - parent. But that's another post) we had a little form in front of us, and it asked us what we wanted. At first, we thought, that's crazy! We just want another child! But dh, ds and I all realized that there was an I. shaped hole in our family. So we said "girl."

I do get why a single woman would be more confident raising a girl, though I must say that some of the best grown guys I know were raised by single women, and that I'm actually quite terrified about what kinds of experiences of being a girl I will accidentally pass on to my daughter (again, that's for another post). In a way raising a child of the opposite sex alone might be a little like transracial parenting - I can do everything in my power for I., but I cannot be black. Fortunately, we are surrounded by loving aa friends, colleagues and teachers who have offered to pitch in and provide great role models (and braid hair, thank God).

I just think that not every program can, should or must allow for gender selection, or that everyone can or should demand a baby as young as possible. There are ways of selecting a daughter: China is really backlogged (my heart breaks for those waiting mommas every day - I've been reading countless stories of having to redo fingerprints because they've expired as they've waited). The backlog is particularly so for singles, as China has a quota for single parents. But you can still choose gender through some agencies in Ethiopia and Haiti, and a couple programs match single women with girls for the very reasons you state. You can also, through our agency, choose a waiting child from Ethiopia - they tend to be a little bit older (20 mos, for example), but still healthy, and believe me - very beautiful and beautiful-spirited girls.

What burns me up isn't at all the "feeling more confident to parent a girl." It is the expression of frustration that after everything else someone has lost, she deserve to parent a baby (as young as possible) girl and is being denied that right. At a very basic level, I'm defensive of my kids. No kid is a consolation prize, and even if they were, my kids aren't second or third best. I'm also very protective of first mothers, whose losses are effaced in the assertion of "rights" or "deserving" to parent someone else's child, as well as children like my daughter, whose losses of their first families could get lost in parents' grief or needs-fulfillment.

I'm not asking single women to do anything I haven't done - I don't want to see anyone give up on the dream of parenthood - but I do think it's sensible to realize that the dream might not be what you thought it was and that once you take stock of all those losses (and grieve them, which is so important) really wonderful things can happen - so long as you don't get hung up on entitlement:

First I thought I would have another pregnancy (what was I thinking? As I approach the fifth anniversary of the 54 hr labor I am amazed that I considered this a viable option). Then I thought my child was in China. Then I thought he would be a newborn boy, here in the US, through domestic transracial adoption. It turns out my child is a fifteen month old Ethiopian toddler girl. And nothing feels more right.

That does not mean that the process of getting to her has been painless. It has been the most painful thing I've ever done (and then I remember why the 54 hr labor isn't so bad afterall). I get what you say about working, and living the best you can, and still seeing dreams moving farther and farther out of reach. But then, you keep reaching, and something else happens.
I guess that's what I mean by not getting "what we deserve," but by getting better than we deserve.

I wish for you not just what you deserve, but even better things - things you never would have imagined had things been easy. And I wish that sometimes, some things, could be easy . . .


1 comment:

Erin O' said...


I'm reading your archives, and I am glued! I especially like this post, and thought I'd let you know.

Thanks for providing your email, btw. I'll be getting in touch soon,