I was struck by a family member’s baby shower last year. The cake was styled as a football field. The decorations all said MVP and the Dad’s favorite college football team’s logo was all over everything. I wasn’t there, but from the many Facebook photos there were very few ducks or puppies and no Winnie the Poo, no green or yellows. It was all blue, and the college’s colors. They were not celebrating an impending birth and giving presents to help a woman take on the responsibility of being a mother. They were celebrating a BOY!!!!!!
I would imagine that if the child had been a girl, there would be a lot of Princess, Diva motifs, everything would be pink and tulle.
In the olden days people didn’t know whether their baby was a boy or a girl. Parents had nine full months to fall in love with their baby, with dreaming of becoming a parent, with anticipating the baby’s face, and fantasizing about whether the baby would cure cancer or be a famous movie star or the next Einstein or just a good person. A mom had much more time to dream of how much she will love this genderless baby growing inside her, and hope to God the baby is healthy, regardless of gender. In other words, before there was the ability and expectation of knowing the child’s gender, there was a longer period of falling in love with the idea of a baby — not a boy, not a girl, and all that that implies.
But now, since people learn the gender in utero, and make the announcement to everyone as soon as they find out, it’s all about baseball diamonds, football fields and MVPs for the boys, and tiaras, princesses, divas and images of shoes for the girls — from before birth. Even though the babies won’t throw a football or wear a tiara for years, that is what they will see, and this is what their parents will see, and purchase. Since people find out the gender in the fourth or fifth month, which is usually when the mother starts to feel real movement in her womb and the child becomes a reality rather than just a pregnancy, the gender is known. In other words, there is no time where the mother feels the life inside her without knowing the gender (and accepting the fantasy gender roles). The early programming begins just as the mother feels her boy or girl kick — and it’s much more than the pink or blue. And sadly, it usually does not include anything academic, musical, or nature oriented. I think somewhere along the line many people stopped dreaming that their “baby-bump” would be a brain surgeon. Instead, the unborn girl will be a heart-breaker with great shoes and the unborn boy will be an athlete. The prenatal dreaming has shifted from who the child will look like and what he or she might be when he or she grows up to how we can dress and decorate for a girl or how to dress or decorate for a boy. And the companies who make so much money from the gender specific newborn items are loving it. I’m not saying that parents really expect and will only love their kid if he becomes MVP and she becomes a raving beauty. It just seems that the parents of unborn children have bought into the imagery, and bought the stuff.
It’s quite normal for parents to want to pass on their interests and dream a little through their children. But when the emphasis is on gender, so early, it actually thwarts some of those dreams. Little baby girls aren’t getting their dad’s favorite team’s jersey on the wall, because everyone knows it’s going to be a girl, and so you’ve got to the princess thing. And people are less likely to give a newborn son of an artist a onesie that has musical notes or a paintbrush on it and instead opt for the Team MVP logo. In fact, it’s difficult to find any gender neutral newborn wear. No one needs it anymore, because everyone knows what the child will be.
And it doesn’t seem to occur to anyone that you don’t have to have every item that touches or is within view of your child scream the kid’s gender.
And I’m sorry, although your daughter may be royalty to you, unless you are a Queen, your daughter is not a Princess, and though your son looks strong, he cannot be MVP if he cannot yet play anything. And maybe, just maybe, he wants to play the (gasp) violin and maybe your daughter fantasizes about going to the moon rather than the mall. Or maybe, they baby just wants to be held and fed and talked to.
I was a very weird mom-to-be. I refused to find out the gender. My doctors knew, but I swore them to secrecy. Frankly, I thought I was having a girl and I was afraid that if people knew I having a girl there would be a pink explosion, with Disney princesses and tutus and Diva signs and simply an emphasis on the attainment of traditional feminine beauty. I didn’t want my baby to be treated like a doll to be dressed up. Having had a miscarriage in the past, all I wanted was a healthy, full-term baby. By the way, I had a boy. The room had already been decorated with a gender neutral motif. We did get some of the sports teams outfits for him, but my baby shower gifts were all gender neutral. I had girls later and they wore some of their brother’s clothes. For me, it did not make it harder not to know the gender ahead of time, though I suppose these days it would be much harder since it is very difficult to find a motif that is not gender specific. I think the only issue is the name, but for me, it was kind of fun to consider both boys and girls names.
I also wonder, especially in the case where the parents are unmarried or otherwise not completely committed, whether finding out the gender early can hurt the bonding process. There are those parents who only want a certain gender. When a half-committed hyper-masculine dad finds out that his girlfriend is having a girl, his mind and his foot might be out the door. This boy would not be his Junior. Would it be different if he found out the gender at the moment when he saw his child being born? Maybe. Maybe, I would hope, he’d be caught up in the miracle of it all and the gender would be less important. I don’t know, but I wonder. And I wonder whether an immature mother-to-be who finds out she’s having a girl and is bombarded with images of the fun she will have dressing up her baby would be better served by not knowing the gender and instead go through a pregnancy with thoughts of how to care for her child, instead of the fun of dressing her.
I’ve had children of both genders. From my experience, the care of a newborn is the same (except for the occasional stream of urine that boys can produce). It’s the “caring” that babies need, not the decor and not the clothes.
It makes me sad sometimes that babies can’t just be babies anymore.
But I’m weird that way.