Saturday, November 12, 2005

It's a Boy: The virtual book tour continues

As soon as Andi Buchanan posted on her blog that she was looking for bloggers to host her upcoming virtual book tour, I knew I wanted to participate. It wasn't just the excitement at the chance to attract more readers; nor was it the desire to make connections with more professional mother-writers. What I wanted most of all was to get inside the heads of other mothers who had sons.

I love having a son. I always was a tomboy; quite frequently, my brain seems to work more like a boy's than a girl's, with the consequence that most of my best friends have been men, and I've never really "gotten" the female-friend dynamic - except, of course, with other women whose brains are wired like mine. That's why I was surprised and elated to find out, at 20 weeks, that I was having a son. It wasn't that I'd thought he was a girl from the beginning, but that I'd been so sure all my life that I would have a daughter first. Like my mother, I was a firstborn girl. I think it was because my relationship with her, and her relationship with her mother, were not the best, that I felt so apprehensive about having a firstborn daughter.

I found it interesting, then, that the mothers who wrote for IT'S A BOY had the opposite conundrum: some wanted girls, and ended up with boys. Even more interesting, however, was finding out that I had more in common with them beyond that point.

Andi herself, in "It's a Boy!" wondered if her relationship with her son could possibly be that much different from that with her daughter. Loving boys, she considers, might be considered easier because we keep no secrets from them about what their lives will be like; women's lives, at least in our generation, are more divided, our choices more likely to lead to either... or than both... and.

Marrit Ingman and Kate Staples both write about finding a common ground between their sons' interests and their own. "A passing glance at a neighbor's lawnmower," writes Ingman in "Exile in Boyville," "would send [her son] into car seat paroxysms," while Staples' son, in "Reading to My Son," traded his interest in more "classic" infant literature for a passionate love affair with truck books. Ingman soon realized that the parent-child dynamic is as much about personality as any other relationship; she calls it "the dance of separation, the give-and-take of two loving people struggling to stand beside one another come what may." Staples gladly accepted that it was the book, not the subject matter, transporting her son into other worlds not unlike the ones she had inhabited as a reading child.

Jennifer Lauck and Karen E. Bender write about potential futures I worry about nearly every day. Lauck's "It Takes a Village" explores a frightening incident with her son, two older neighborhood boys, a knife, and the shifting boundary between what a parent can control and what she can trust others to take care of. Bender's "The Bully's Mother" describes teaching her son to use his words instead of his body to express his feelings - a particularly profound story for me, a mother whose son is not yet talking.

I am grateful that Andi chose to include stories of loss in this book. Jennifer Margulis and Susan Ito both write eloquently and poignantly about their very different losses; Jodi Picoult writes of her post-9/11 loss of ability to provide a certain innocence to her child. Picoult's essay "Scaredy-Cat," in fact, reminded me of an email exchange I had following my miscarriage. I had asked a friend how I could best comfort my son, who sensed something was very wrong. She responded: "His worst fear is that you will go away and not come back. You need to play games like hide-and-seek with him... reinforce that he and Mommy will always find each other." I told her I would hate to make a promise like that and then have it not come true. She didn't respond. Picoult did, though, with an uncomfortable truth about mothering: sometimes a lie is necessary for reassurance.

Andi Buchanan has edited a collection of essays that will resonate with mothers of boys. Many of us have asked ourselves the gender questions - Are girls "better" than boys to parent? Are boys "better" than girls? These essays go there, and further, because they explore mothers' deepest desires, fears, and joys in parenting.

Contributors: Stephany Aulenback, Karen Bender, Kathryn Black, Robin Bradford, Gayle Brandeis, Faulkner Fox, Katie Allison Granju, Ona Gritz, Gwendolen Gross, Melanie Lynn Hauser, Marrit Ingman, Susan Ito, Suzanne Kamata, Katie Kaput, Jennifer Lauck, Caroline Leavitt, Jody Mace, Jennifer Margulis, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Catherine Newman, Sue O'Doherty, Marjorie Osterhout, Jamie Pearson, Lisa Peet, Jodi Picoult, Maura Rhodes, Rochelle Shapiro, Kate Staples, and Marion Winik.


Read IT'S A BOY's introduction.
Read a Q&A about the book.
Read Andi's blog - and link to all the other bloggers who have helped her tour, including some of the contributing authors!


Blogger Meg said...

I would never say that having a boy is "better" than having a girl - or vice-versa. Each is simply a whole different kettle of fish, and you learn to roll with the differences. What boggles my mind is that, if you had six sons and six daughters, each and every one of them would be different from all the rest!

I do think what "throws" women nowadays is the notion that boys and girls should be exactly alike, so it should be possible for girls to be interested in trucks, and boys to be interested in dolls - or books about same. That will *never* happen. Even a tomboy, and I am also one who identified better with men for the better part of my life, will still have some indelible female wiring.

15/11/05 5:06 AM  
Blogger Silandara said...

Interesting stuff. I'm enjoying learning about being a mum to my baby boy -- he's 4 months old. I thought he was a girl the whole time (even when the ultrasound showed us otherwise). Not that I'm disappointed at all. I'm actually quite relieved. It seems that having a boy may be easier in some ways. At least when he's a teenager! I guess only time will tell with that one.


21/11/05 4:34 PM  
Blogger Mary Louisa said...

I need to read this book. Now that I have a boy AND a girl (who'da thunk it?), I'm constantly compraing both their "wiring" and my own different ways of relating to them. Thanks for offering this for us to consider, Christa and Andi.

2/12/05 11:13 PM  

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