Some people go into parenthood with clear ideas on whether they’d prefer to raise a boy or a girl. In all the years we were together before having kids, I can honestly say that we never had a preference. Instead, we had really clear opinions on the number of children – a maximum of two. And we are lucky enough to have two healthy, happy girls.
I remember telling our dry cleaner when I was about thirty weeks pregnant that we had a second girl on the way. He smiled, and tutted as he handed over our things. ‘Maybe next time you will get a boy’. Taken aback, I managed a nervous laugh, and walked out of the shop feeling both angry and sad. There was no malice behind what he said – in fact he’d meant it kindly and affectionately. But it made me bristle - why was a second baby girl less special than a baby boy? Why was there the assumption that I’d want to have another child, just to see if I could bear a son? Have times really not moved on at all? Much to my surprise, it wasn’t the last time I’d hear something similar.
For those of you with two boys, perhaps you’ve had the same responses from people. Perhaps there’s this innate desire for balance that makes people assume everyone wants at least one of each gender. But that one comment was a sharp reminder that my daughters would likely have more gender-related obstacles to overcome in life than I’d hoped. And that part of my job, raising girls, would be to help them see, navigate and challenge those obstacles. No easy task!
One year in and I can safely say that I adore being a mother to sisters. I love the friendship they already share. The way my eldest will insist on them wearing the same pyjamas for bed, or that they both wear dresses instead of trousers. The way they will sit together colouring, singing and talking in their own language. Or the way my youngest has started trying to brush her older sister’s hair (to varying levels of success). I know these same bonds exist between siblings of different genders, but for me it’s really special to see their interests evolving together while they also manage to remain steadfast individuals. And I do love the challenge of teaching them to be strong and kind, not pretty. To love cars as much as dolls, and football as much as ballet. To make mud pies outside, and bake cupcakes inside. It’s pushed me outside my own comfort zone, and made me explore some of the stereotypes I have about boys and girls.
Sometimes when I see a new baby, I get nostalgic for the early days. The sleepy snuggles. The tiny fingers curling around mine. The first smiles and sounds. Watching those initial moments of love mingled with curiosity when siblings first meet. But then I remember how many firsts we have to come – the first day of school. The first love and first heartbreak. The first time they question themselves, and the first time they find pride in who they are and what they do. And with that realisation, I know that I am content with what I have, and that two little lives are enough for us.