I am writing this ten minutes after tucking my toddler into his cot with Iggle Piggle and Teddy and Thomas, after his very first utterance of: ‘Love you, Mamma’.
I’ve been wanting to articulate how I feel about mothering a son for a while, but have never found the right moment until now.
I’m one of two girls. I’m a ‘girl mum’ and ‘girl auntie’ from way back – fourteen years back, to be precise, when I had my first daughter, followed by my second, followed by my sister’s two girls… all of whom I adore in ways that I’ve tried to capture and have written about as if my life depended on it.
We know what to do with girls in our family. (That is until they hit their teenage years – we’re feeling our way in the dark a bit there, but generally it’s been simple, familiar.)
Enter the first boy in the family for generations. When I was pregnant for the last time mothers of boys would say things like ‘boys are special’ and ‘boys are different’ and ‘the bond between mother and son is hard to describe.’
I thought, naively, ‘What are you on with your boys are special/different rhetoric? How special and different could they really be?’
I must admit right now that I never really had a desire for a son. I’d been overjoyed that I’d had a daughter, and given her a sister.
I’m eating my words now. No, not ‘eating’ them, gorging on them, like someone who hasn’t had a meal in days. No desire for a son? Was I mad?
Meanwhile, I ran this article by my teenage daughter and said ‘Is this okay? Do you get how much I love you all, in different ways?’ and she said, ‘Mum, you are so weird. Seriously, It’s fine!’
Having a boy is different. Not better. But it’s the stuff that mother-in-law nightmares are made from. He is MINE and he always will be, in a way that I don’t obsess about with my girls. This is not because I love them any less – instead because I want more for them.
I’ve got it all organised you see. My girls will be blissfully happy in their lives seperate from mine but we’ll all still be getting together to cuddle side-by-side and chick-flicks when I’m eighty.
While I’ll be happy to see my daughters move on into blissful lives with their future partners, the same is not true of my son.
In fact, in my more hideous maternal moments, I have thought: ‘Who IS this girl who will take my boy away from me, decades from now?’ Yes, I have.
Or guy. Maybe a guy will steal his heart? This actually seems less threatening, somehow. For you see, I am the woman in my son’s life.
From the moment my daughters drew their first breaths, I saw a little bit of myself in them. I identified with their strength and femininity. I wanted the very best for them, and wanted to champion them to become independent, strong young women who would stand on their own two feet, hold their own in a boardroom, be sassy, be whatever they wanted.
I identify with my daughters in ways that can’t be replicated in my son. I see much less of me in him. Perched on the upper deck of a Parisian tourist bus last year, I bawled my eyes out about being there, sharing the city with my growing-up girls – just the three of us. It was the highlight of my parenting life and I could fast-forward to their next trip there as young women, independent from me. They make me ache with pride.
But my boy – oh, no – that’s different. He is different. I love how much he adores and depends on me. I love that he clings. He has me on a pedestal and I wouldn’t want him jaunting off to Paris on his own! He needs his mummy! (Or is it the other way around…)
Every rational part of me rebels against how differently I feel about the two genders of my children whom I love equally. As much as I want to raise strong women, I do not want to raise a ‘mummy’s boy’. I despise Mummy’s boys! It’s just that now, I finally appreciate how Mummy’s boys are unintentionally created…
In some cultures, the 12-year-old son is removed from his mother and undertakes ‘initiation into manhood’ rituals. The bond between mother and son is severed, to an extent, for the good of the young man. I hate that! I cry at the thought of it! But I get it.
It’s to protect young men from mothers like me, who have fallen for their baby son in ways that they can barely articulate because it’s different’. It’s ‘special’. It’s ‘hard to describe’.
I have several friends who only have sons and who long for a daughter. I completely understand that desire. They adore their sons, but sometimes I wonder whether they realise how privileged they are.
At our 20-week ultrasound, boy bits were identified and a part of me was crushed. I knew girls. I loved having girls. I had to say goodbye to the concept of my lovely Amelie Isabelle.
My husband, who already had one of both genders from his previous marriage, said ‘This will be good for you – you need a boy.’ At first I didn’t know what he meant by that.
Until the moment Sebastian was born and snuggled right into my heart like his sisters had before him – a tiny version of the man he would become and I thought, ‘Hello! What is this? This is special. This is different. This is hard to describe…’
What do you think? Is having a boy different? If you have a son can you relate to being the woman in his life?