Edited from the archives. Originally published March 26, 2013.
For my son
We learned you were a boy on a cold day in February. Your dad hoped for blue, but I longed for a girl in the way girls do when they’ve grown up without brothers, playing dolls instead of trucks and Barbies instead of legos.
When the ultrasound technician showed us your tiny profile, it took exactly ten seconds for my heart to reattach to someone else, a whole different person than who I’d imagined. Not an Elsie or Liesel or Evangeline but a Jack or Tucker or William. A boy.
You, my son, are so lucky. A man in a man’s world. You will be a white, educated, son of a doctor with American parents and your dad’s skinny genes. Congratulations! The tricky part is being a decent human in spite of those things. Do the best you can and remember to be kind.
Assuming you grow up to be a man who loves the ladies, let’s remember a few basic romance tips. For example, remember there is a difference between being assertive and being an asshole. Remember no means no. Remember when you are trying to woo a lady, do not tell her how she feels. Instead: ask, listen, repeat. Also remember to never be the kind of guy who throws punches or puffs out his chest to “defend his territory.” She is not your territory. You’re just a guest who’s been invited to stay until you screw things up.
Ways you can screw things up:
1) Assume she loves all the same things you do (she does not).
2) Assume she only enjoys salads (she does not).
3) Be jealous.
4) Be lazy.
5) Sabotage her self worth with commentary on women’s bodies.
Use your head. Use your best jokes. Men and women are different, yes, but we are also very much the same. We all want to be heard and understood. We all want meaningful relationship and a connection beyond texting and holding hands. We all want someone who sees us as an equal; in the workplace, in the home, in the voting line, and in the bedroom.
Finally, remember that every woman is a daughter. Every tall brunette and petite blonde with nice teeth and tight jeans is someone’s baby girl who has survived childhood and is trying to figure out life and all its beauty and misery, just like you are.
I never pictured myself a mother of boys, but here I am, starting with you. You made me both a mother and a mother of a boy the moment you took your first breath and for that I will always be grateful.
We’re in this together.