Adapted from a recent online discussion.
I recently learned we are pregnant with our third baby, the same gender as the two others. Husband is very disappointed that we aren’t having his gender preference, and I am, too, a bit, but mostly trying to stay positive. Husband went from being super-excited about the pregnancy, and suggesting I “take it easy” and get pedicures, offering to cook, etc., to standard basic help around the house. He never asks how I am feeling or offers to step up his help.
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We have good communication and he’s shared that he feels like less of a man. I am glad he felt comfortable to share but it is very hurtful, and it makes me wish I weren’t pregnant at all. We’ve talked to a counselor who suggested we discuss the possibility of a FOURTH child, which I am unwilling to do. So now we both just feel stuck and miserable. Please help?
— Gender Disappointment
DEAR GENDER DISAPPOINTMENT: Has no one uttered the words “grow the [erf] up”?
Please know (and page through my archives to confirm) that I believe in validating feelings. They are what they are and pretending they aren’t never works.
But sometimes they’re so wrongheaded, selfish and destructive that they have to be called out as such. As in, “I feel for you — I was nursing a little gender preference, too.
“But look at how you’re acting on these feelings: You’re generally and plainly not treating this baby as a good thing anymore. And that’s BS. This is a person. OUR person. No less deserving of our love and excitement than a person of the other sex would have been.
“It’s time to get fully onboard with this child. I will not stand by as you treat her (right?) — and now me — as less-than.
“If you need help, I’ll support that. Being ‘more of a man,’ in my eyes, is finding joy in fatherhood without regard for the sex of the child.”
The counselor has me banging my head. What if the fourth child is the “wrong” sex again? Or the “right” sex — and the prior three get to witness the kind of love their father is capable of, just not for them? That’s trading a can of worms for a crate of them.
My sister-in-law was the second of four daughters born to a career military officer. When someone asked her father if he hoped to “finally get that boy” when her mom was pregnant with the fourth, he said, “Oh I’d be thrilled with another little girl; we love our girls.”
I am sure he wanted a son. But his daughter heard him say this, and now as she nears age 70 it still matters to her.
DEAR ANONYMOUS: Beautiful, thank you. Signed, fourth of four girls born to a Marine helicopter pilot father, who never made us pay for not being boys.
If you can get anywhere through the parenting of two children without realizing that you, as a parent, have zero control over gender, favorite color, interest in any particular toy/sport/craft/food, then you haven’t learned the first lesson of parenting. Love, support, teach, discipline, watch and wonder: This is what you get.
— Anonymous 2
DEAR ANONYMOUS 2: And you don’t get upset. Yes.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax. Find her columns daily at www.seattletimes.com/living