Gender Disappointment
February 12, 2014 2:36 PM   Subscribe

We're having our first child and I am terrified that it will be a girl.

My wife and I are having our first baby this July. As she's gotten closer to the point that we can tell gender (four weeks from now), I've become increasingly fearful that it will be a girl. Not because I feel girls are inferior in any shape or form, but for a myriad of admittedly irrational reasons.

My wife is very much into girly-girl things and I know that if we have a girl, it is very likely I'll be living in a pink world of barbies, tea parties, and princesses. I realize that daddy would be invited to these tea parties and the like, but I honestly feel like I'd have less enthusiasm than if I had a boy who wants to play legos or sports or something like that. My dad passed a lot down to me through our relationship and it pains me to think that I may not be able to continue that with a son of my own. I know that it is completely possible that we could have a girl that would like doing these same things or a boy who doesn't like them, but that hasn't made me any more okay with this. When you add dating, safety, and all the other concerns that come with a girl, I am absolutely terrified.

This should be an exciting time but I am having a hard time enjoying it. I feel like a terrible father for thinking this way and I'm not sure how to get around it. If I'm entirely honesty with myself, I do want a boy much more than a girl and I will be greatly disappointed if I we don't have a boy. Normally I'm very emotionally grounded and rational but this situation has provoked a response that I acknowledge is irrational and unfounded.

I don't feel it would be fair to burden my wife with this - if I told her I was feeling this way and it did end up being a girl, I wouldn't want her to feel like she somehow disappointed me. I'm incredibly thankful that both she and the baby are healthy and I'm happy that she's going to realize her dream of being a mother. How do I get past this and be excited for whatever may happen? Any suggestions on how to cope with this will be greatly appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (108 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
If you have a daughter, there will be a lot more to her than what colors she wears or which toy aisle she prefers. The jokes she tells, the way she learns, the food she likes... there will be so many sides to who she is and many of them will come from you and will be instantly relatable.

Your kid is going to be the coolest person you've ever seen. Maybe you'll have a daughter. Maybe she'll like girly stuff. Maybe she won't. Maybe you'll have a son. Maybe he'll like girly stuff. It's a big world. You're introducing a whole new person into it. This person will be your favorite thing ever someday. Try and relax.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:42 PM on February 12, 2014 [91 favorites]

I'm sorry you're going through this. I want you to know that you're not alone. Many parents just like you feel this way and go on to manage those feelings.

I think you might start with identifying what goes with your dream of having a boy. If you have a girl, it's the loss of that dream that you need to grieve. So let's look at the dream now and help you grieve it.

Then, take another look at what goes with having a boy. Challenge your assumptions. You can still play Lego, robotics, sports, fishing, and all those things with a girl.

As for dating and safety, you have at least 12 years before you really need to worry about that. And, as the mom of sons, I need to tell you that the risks to children are risks to all children. As for violence, you also have to worry that your son is not carrying out the violence, perpetuating the risk or getting someone pregnant (and tying you all to a lifetime of child support).

Start with your assumptions. If you can maybe get a mod to say what it is about a boy, perhaps we can help you work through it.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 2:42 PM on February 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

You're going to have a person. Try to think of him or her that way.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 2:43 PM on February 12, 2014 [128 favorites]

You know what I reckon? I don't think this is about gender at all. I think you have the (totally understandable) anxiety of being a new parent and you are transferring this general anxiety onto the specifics of gender.

Give yourself a break. You know there is nothing you can do to alter whatever gender your baby is. Accept the fact that it may be a boy or it may be a girl and you are going to love it to bits anyway!

And just to help you along - my manly man friend has a 16yr old daughter who is into fashion and art and social justice and they are the best of friends...
posted by Kerasia at 2:44 PM on February 12, 2014 [28 favorites]

Anxiety, like depression, lies. This is the sort of thing that therapy is really for, especially with regards to having a person you can trust to talk about things with, who isn't your wife and therefore all bound up with anxieties of her own in all this.
posted by Sequence at 2:45 PM on February 12, 2014 [11 favorites]

You're not afraid that you're going to have a girl. You're afraid that you're going to have a stereotype of a girl. Give her (assuming it is a her) a chance to be an individual and she may surprise you.
posted by adamrice at 2:46 PM on February 12, 2014 [78 favorites]

Is it possible that you are focusing the big, comprehensive anxiety of becoming a parent into this slightly narrower channel of worry that you might have a girl as opposed to a boy? That you'll become a parent and that it'll turn your world upside-down is inevitable. Being able to focus on your fear about the baby's gender at least offers you a 50% chance that things will go your way and you'll get what you want.

You describe yourself as "emotionally grounded and rational." My guess is that you like having a sense of control. (Who doesn't?) Having a baby represents a big loss of control. Gender is just a small part of that. I think you need to do your best to embrace the project of losing control, if that makes sense. Recognize that you can't control who your baby's going to be. Comfort yourself that, even if it doesn't totally make sense to you, you are going to love your baby anyway. Tell yourself that becoming a parent is going to give you an opportunity to practice relinquishing some of the sense of control you've come to rely on—that it's going to help you grow in that way.

R/e talking to your wife: I don't know you or her, but if you can state your fear in a somewhat playful way ("I know this is ridiculous, but I'm actually afraid that we might have a girl. I don't know what to do with girls!" ), it might help to take the fuse out of it. Who knows? Maybe it could even lead to an interesting conversation about what being a good father to a girl would mean. It might even end up making you more excited about the prospect.
posted by toomuchkatherine at 2:46 PM on February 12, 2014 [7 favorites]

when asked the preferred gender of a pregnancy, the standard line is "we just want a healthy baby." if it comes to that, be the daddy your baby girl deserves.
posted by bruce at 2:46 PM on February 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

For what it's worth, my father initially said he didn't want kids, and if he did, he especially didn't want girls. (I found this out as an older teenager or an adult, at least the second half of it; I might have known that he didn't want kids and changed his mind on that earlier.)

But he has only daughters, and he loves us, and I am sure he's never wished one of us were someone different, and I think when you have your child, you will love her if she is a daughter.

You wife might like princesses and pink and tea parties, but your daughter will have her own preferences. You like Lego and sports, but your son might not. Don't pre-doom your kids to living up to gender stereotypes, which will only make everyone unhappy.
posted by jeather at 2:50 PM on February 12, 2014 [22 favorites]

Also: bear in mind that the problem you are worried about ("what if my child and I don't share many interests?") is a problem for later. Your problems for now (supporting a pregnant partner, preparing your lives and home for a baby) and your impending problems (a crying, pooping, eating machine that does not ever seem to sleep and needs a steady supply of expensive supplies) are going to be more than enough to keep you busy. As for the bonding over shared interests stuff... that's the easy part comparatively, it'll happen automatically. And that's the fun part.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:51 PM on February 12, 2014 [12 favorites]

My brother-in-law is as macho a construction worker guy as you can meet. His daughter (and only child) is most definitely a girly girl, but from day 1 he carved out father daughter things for the two of them to do together as well, for example taking her fishing, which he loves and which she enjoyed also (and I mean he started doing this stuff when she was a toddler - and had a mini fishing pole just for her). She also played soccer on a team. She has turned into a nice well rounded adult woman due to the input of both parents in her life.

Also, I had dolls like barbie as a kid. I was not interested in all the dresses and such, but rather used them to play out adventure, science fiction and superhero type stories. I agree with The Noble Goofy Elk that you are going to be having a person, and if it is a girl she will be more wonderful and complex than the stereotypes you fear, if you give her a chance to know and interact with you without preconceptions about who she is going to turn out to be.
posted by gudrun at 2:52 PM on February 12, 2014 [7 favorites]

I don't think this is necessarily an irrational and unfounded fear, maybe just one that you haven't examined completely. One thing that I get from your post is that you are worried about being able to bond with your child. I can definitely see how there are some aspects of being the same gender as your child that would make this process easier, so I don't think you should beat yourself up for having these thoughts.

Instead of worrying if this makes you a bad person, maybe you could just see it as a sign that you care about your child.

Also, parent/child relationships change over time. If you have a girl, you might not be able to connect at the tea party level when she is five, but you might discover other wonderful things about having a girl as she gets older.
posted by thesnowyslaps at 2:52 PM on February 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

You'll be fine. You'll stop thinking this way. Peruse the Girls tag on Metafilter, the daughters tag, etc. Do some research. You're not the first person to ask this question or have these feelings and it's even been asked by some moms.

It appears in a variety of ways, most recently here.

Girls are fully fledged human beings. They can hold many things inside them at once, and it's your job as dad to see those things and help her develop them. Just because she wants to be a fairy princess for Halloween doesn't mean she can't be great at math. It's not going to hurt her brain.

My daughter loves worms and tiaras and tutus and bugs. One day I was a little horrified to find out her and her grandmother had been examining a dead dragonfly on our kitchen island (ew. okay?)

But don't think in terms of black and whites/male and female. Humans are terribly complicated. Boys can like dancing! Girls can build stuff!

Also if this is your first kid you might be sublimating generalized YIKES PARENTHOOD fear into more specific 'I don't know how to be a parent to a girl.'
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:52 PM on February 12, 2014 [10 favorites]

First, I will just say that your feelings are completely normal. Completely normal.

Second, please try to own the idea that there are only two people in any given relationship. So, while your wife might have a girly-girl relationship with a daughter, complete with all of the accompanying pink accessories, there is absolutely no reason that you couldn't have legos and sports in common with the same daughter.

Children are going to be interested in what we teach them to be interested in, at least in the beginning years. After that, they know who their parents are and will relate to each individual accordingly.

Will you lose a daughter to princess dresses and sparkly shoes a few years in? Possibly. But your wife could just as easily lose a daughter to mornings on the soccer field and afternoons in front of the basketball game on tv. That part is nature and there's no predicting it, whether the child is male or female.

But still, pregnancy is a time fraught with what-ifs. So so so normal. Don't feel bad about it. If it does turn out to be a girl, at some point you must discuss your concerns with your wife. Maybe not in terms of disappointment or fear, but just that you want your child to be able to explore different things and choose for herself who she will be, rather than be inundated with girly stuff so that she just figures that is who she is expected to be.

(Congratulations on the pregnancy!)
posted by vignettist at 2:55 PM on February 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

You may find some CBT style self-assessment useful for dealing with these fears and irrational thoughts.
posted by xyzzy at 3:01 PM on February 12, 2014

Hell, I'm about four weeks from finding out the gender of my own fetus, and I'm also terrified that it might be a girl. But that's more because of the incredibly fraught relationship I have with my own mom, and basically the whole mother-daughter thing in general. I know my husband is the more easygoing and fun one of us already, so our potential daughter is GUARANTEED to hate me, right?

And I am the elder child, and I have a younger brother, and I perceive that my parents were much harder/more disciplined with me and let my brother go eat worms and praised his every tiny move that little twit...

But dads and daughters? I know there's the whole "I'll be waiting with a shotgun" stereotype, but in my experience the dads I've known and seen have amazing relationships with their daughters. I sure did. It's hard for me to explain this thought that I am currently pulling out of my ass, but I feel like dads are the ones who really have the freedom to show girls who they can be by choice, not because they are trying to be good role models or "do everything" or fall into annoying mom stereotypes at the same time they're trying to avoid others.

I think girls are more likely to listen to their dads and relate to them because their dads are free from the mom-burden of trying to relate their own experiences to those of a daughter. Girls want to be who they are, NOW, not necessarily hear about how their mothers did things all the time. (Or at least they want to be able to choose when to hear those things, you know?) I feel like dads are better positioned to accept daughters as their own people, and thus simply marvel at what ends up happening.

You are going to be so lucky, no matter what kind of baby you end up holding in your arms.
posted by Madamina at 3:03 PM on February 12, 2014 [10 favorites]

I am a girl. Here were my favorite things to do as a kid, ranked in order:

-Go swimming
-Ride in motorboats that were driving really fast and jump up as high as I could whenever the boat hit a wave.
-Jump from the roof of my parents' garage to the roof of the neighbor's garage with my sister and female friend and play up there.
-Do crazy dance moves while balancing on top of a fence, also with my sister and that same friend.
-Play tag with all the neighborhood kids.
-Play in an alleyway that was only big enough for kids to fit in comfortably, and was full of brambles, dead leaves, dirt and spiders, and fix it up by finding random wooden planks around and making a floor, etc.
-Memorize lots of facts
-Build things with my blocks
-Watch all the Saturday morning cartoons.
-Watch movies like Ghostbusters, Teenage Mutant Nina Turtles, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and other awesome 80's movies like that.

Quite a few of those things, I was not actually allowed to do.

There were times when I was forced to wear a dress, stockings, a hair bow, and even makeup, because there was an adult in the family who was really into the idea of me doing those things. And on quite a few occasions, at those times, I would feel uncomfortable and humiliated, scream, cry, and get hit. Living in a pink world of barbies, tea parties, and princesses, would have probably made me feel very frustrated and annoyed and would have probably led to me acting out.

There are some people who believe that most/all women are just born liking girlie-girl things and feeling as if our society's "female" gender role is the default/natural one for someone who is female sexed. I, obviously, am not someone who agrees with that.

You can tell your wife that it's very important to you to feel like you have interests in common with your child. And you can tell your wife it's very important to you that you can identify with your child and your child can identify with you.

You don't have to give over all control of your child's clothing and toys and room decor and activities to your wife if it is a girl.

You can tell your wife that it's very, very important to you to raise a balanced child, and you'd like to take the onslaught of Girls Like Pink And Princesses And Dressies and Being Girlie!!!! out of the equation for your child's early years.

You can have an active and equal role from the beginning in influencing your child and showing your child new things and giving your child new experiences. Can you get your wife's buy-in to that?
posted by cairdeas at 3:05 PM on February 12, 2014 [26 favorites]

You never know -- fathers and sons aren't always close. I'm female, and my Dad was my favorite person in the world and my greatest supporter. We had tons more in common than he ever had with my brother.

This is an opportunity for you to create a happy, healthy, loving, and strong relationship with a human who is part you. I lost my dad this year, but you have a chance to have the same relationship with your child.
posted by mochapickle at 3:06 PM on February 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Do you think you are capable of denying a daughter love, respect, and care if that's what you get? If that's the case, I strongly encourage you to start tackling this with a therapist because if you can't even bring yourself to love a child who MIGHT (emphasis mine) end up a mini me of your wife, you've got some world view stuff to sort out. Choose to be a good dad no matter what you get. Choose love, choose respect, choose to value your child for who they are regardless of gender norms or societal stereotypes. You love your wife for who she is, right? You can do the same with a baby girl.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 3:06 PM on February 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

Like you say, if you *do* have a boy, he might not be interested in those things, and that might be harder for you to accept that because of your expectations. (I was not feminine enough for my mom, my brother was not masculine enough for my dad. Everybody got to be disappointed! Don't do that to your kid, whatever the sex.) Probably your kid will have some stereotypical gender interests, and some stereotypical ones. Try to find an interest of theirs that you can connect on. I bet there'll be something.
posted by insufficient data at 3:06 PM on February 12, 2014 [5 favorites]

Maybe things are different where you are specifically, but things are a-changing, and life for girls now is pretty different than it was when you were at school. Way less discrimination and way more positive role models and way more opportunities of the kind that are not just "of course you can do anything when you grow up, honest" but actually "multiple women you know or see in the media are actually doing this shit as a matter of course".

A colleague of mine says his little kid wants to be a snowboarder when she grows up now because they were watching the women's slopestyle on the TV the other day.

Any daughter of yours has all the chance in the world to be a badass daughter who likes tea parties and also climbing trees and science and makeup and dinosaurs and who knows what all else.

Finally I hate to break it to you but teenage boys get their hearts broken by asshole girls too, and get bullied into situtations they shouldn't be in, and all that nonsense.
posted by emilyw at 3:07 PM on February 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Another thing to help you pinpoint your concerns: what will you do if you have a son who skews feminine? If you have a child of either gender who skews feminine, will you be disappointed?
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 3:07 PM on February 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was in your boat, but I didn't tell anyone. I just balled it all up inside and smiled broadly when we discussed names and helped find (mutedly) girly stuff for the nursery and freaked the fuck out in private when I thought about how totally ignorant I was of girl stuff and girl problems and is it front to back or back to front? I know it makes sense, but what if it's not supposed to make sense and I'm just forgetting that part...

And then I saw her, and I sang "Thunder Road" to her, and I haven't thought about that stuff again until this very minute.
posted by Etrigan at 3:14 PM on February 12, 2014 [26 favorites]

Anecdata - I knew someone who insisted she be told the sex of the baby she was carrying asap so that if it was a boy, she would have the rest of the pregnancy to get over the disappointment. I think she's had three sons so far. As far as I know, she is a good mom who loves her children. This is a common thing, it seems. Congrats on your forthcoming new person!
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 3:14 PM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's good that you are being honest and fine to have these feelings. I think it's worth examining why you would feel so disappointed having girl, specifically a girly girl whose interests are similar to your wife. Plus what happens if down the line you have a boy who likes legos, are you going to prefer spending time with him?

I know many people including women friends of mine who felt the same way, and I think many people of both genders have sexist ideas about what 'having a girl' means. I think it's worth examining your feelings on this and how it impacts your outlook on women in everyday life. From the post it sounds like you consider 'girly' interests below more masculine interests such as legos etc.
posted by seesom at 3:16 PM on February 12, 2014

I was a fairly girly girl as a small child, but my favorite things to do were to practice counting up to 100 with my dad, and have him read stories to me.

My own daughter was all about pink and purple and turquoise, and was into fashion from about 2 1/2 years old (!), but in elementary school, her stepdad taught her some basic carpentry and went fishing with her, and she loved it. I believe he's also the one who taught her to play poker at the age of 5.

So yeah, you learn a lot about yourself when you have a kid, and one of the things you learn is how many of the things you thought you knew about kids are actually incorrect.
posted by MexicanYenta at 3:19 PM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't feel it would be fair to burden my wife with this

This is EXACTLY the sort of thing that absolutely, positively, no bones about it, HAS TO BE DISCUSSED between you. Would it be worse to burden her with an awkward conversation now, or twenty years of barely-tamped-down smoldering resentment that she doesn't have a clue what the cause of is? You really should have discussed it before you made the decision to have kids, but it's not too late. However, you MUST bite the bullet and have the conversation ASAP.

Your wife is probably a lovely, reasonable woman who will make all kinds of compromises with you if you respect her enough to let her know what's going on in your head, but I doubt she's a mind reader. You're setting yourself up for a situation in which she goes on in blissful ignorance, covering the world in pink glitter, while you wear a silent martyr's mask on the outside and aren't able to help seething with resentment on the inside no matter how hard you try.

Daddy Monster wanted sons. Oh, how he wanted sons. He wanted Daddy Monster, Jr. so badly (Uncle Monster, the successful one, had Uncle Monster, Jr., plus THREE SPARE SONS. And no receding hairline.) that Mama Monster was forbidden to even discuss possible female names before the birth (this was in the days before routine ultrasound). Both Sister Monster and I had names chosen at the last minute. He saw it as a battle with sides. Dont be like him; he was awful. Give you and your wife the opportunity to work together.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:21 PM on February 12, 2014 [9 favorites]

First off: this is completely normal. A lot of parents-to-be have strong gender preferences. As far as I can tell, most of them fly out the window once they meet the actual tiny human.

Second: in a way, girls are easier. It's pretty socially acceptable for girls to be interested in stereotypically "boy" things, either instead of or in addition to girl things. I mean, check out all these princess Darth Vaders. I was so girly I only wore dresses for a year, but I still loved Legos and "borrowed" my brother's Transformers.

Third: I'm at a similar point in my pregnancy, and even though I know next to nothing about my kid, it's dawned on me that this is a completely separate person, already doing things on its own. It implanted itself and started growing without my knowledge. It's a stranger: its gender, appearance, and practically all of its personality are outside of my control. All I can do is help it along the way. I'd be lying if I claimed not to have a gender preference (as well as an ideal list of interests, skills, and personality traits for the little one), but the baby's already assembled and I don't really have a choice in what I'm getting. Thinking this way puts me at ease a little; maybe it'll do the same for you? Expect to be surprised, and expect to find more than enough to love.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:22 PM on February 12, 2014 [8 favorites]

I'm a relatively girly mom of a boy, and have no interest in the stereotypical boy stuff. My son, who is 3 right now, is pretty much all about cars, trucks, trains, and airplanes, which are completely not interesting to me. But HE is interesting to me. He learns new things every day, and he says the darnedest things, and he is funny and silly and cuddly and I would not have it any other way (even though I do get completely bored playing trains sometimes, but I bet I would get just as bored with tea parties). Occasionally I think about what it would have been like to have a girl, and not have to listen to motor sounds constantly, but I am 100% in love with my little boy and can't imagine life without him.

It'll be OK! You'll love your kid no matter what!
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:23 PM on February 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

It seems like you've never even tried to have a tea party or do "girly" stuff. Guys who fear or dislike what they think is girly are usually really uninformed about what masculinity is.
posted by discopolo at 3:24 PM on February 12, 2014

Goldie Blox Commercial. It is so very cool when a girly girl whips out her power tools and fixes something. I have a niece, raised by her engineer father, who is graduating in engineering this year. She is gorgeous, wears miniskirts, drinks tea with her Mom and is going into the Navy to work on nuclear aircrafts. You just need perspective adjustment.
posted by BoscosMom at 3:25 PM on February 12, 2014 [12 favorites]

As a coach of a U12 Girls competitive soccer team, I can assure you that not all girls are girly. Girls sports can, and often are, every bit a tough and rumble as boys sports.
posted by Flood at 3:27 PM on February 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

A friend told me an old saying around the time of my first child when I was wondering what to do if it was a girl. "A man is not a man until he has a daughter." Well, I had a daughter first (followed by two testosterone emitting boys). Turns out that the person most likely to sit and watch a Yankee game with me is my daughter. Who texts me when the Giants score a touchdown (or Eli throws another interception)? My daughter. But who likes to put on a dress and go dancing on a Friday night? My daughter. My two boys who are great athletes also hang with me, but it is all three when I show them how to use a chain saw or how to cook a cornish hen. I was afraid to have a boy actually because I thought there would be too much pressure on me and him to be bonding fools. All three of my kids are very different from each other. They are all great kids and we all have a terrific relationship.

Roll with whatever comes out!
posted by JohnnyGunn at 3:27 PM on February 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

I think, too, that you're discounting all of the completely non-gendered moments that make a parent-child relationship special.

Times when I felt closest to my dad:
--taking me to the luncheonette on Saturdays, just the two of us, before we went to the home improvement store
--helping a very frustrated Little Madamina through the most difficult song in the first Suzuki cello book, even though he hadn't played a musical instrument in 30 years
--telling me stories, whether they came from his own crazy life or he made them up
--listening to his favorite records: Stevie Wonder, Stephen Bishop, Bobby McFerrin

Your kid will idolize you. Completely, totally, utterly.

(Man, this is a good reminder for me. I hope I can remember this :P)
posted by Madamina at 3:29 PM on February 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

And to add to the Princess Darthvaders.... She Wanted to be The Wolf. You are going to have so much fun!
posted by BoscosMom at 3:31 PM on February 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

Your anxiety is manifesting as gender anxiety. That's ok and it's normal. And, it's good that you recognize that the feelings are irrational and ungrounded. You can feel your feelings and have faith that you'll love your child immensely and that these concerns will fade away as you get to know your child as a person.

As another data point, although I'm a woman, I think I'm a good stand-in for the son my father never had. He never treated me like a delicate flower and he taught me to be a capable and independent person. My Dad's belief that everyone should know how to do as many things as possible helped foster that. He taught me how to mend socks, how to cook recipes from his side of the family, how to build a fence, and how to rebuild a carburetor. He may not have shared my fascination with twirly dresses but he didn't see that as the limit of my interests. He encouraged my comfort and capability in arenas that weren't typically girly-girl things and I am immensely thankful for that. Now, as an adult, I'm handy with tools, confident in a male-dominated professional field, have many stereotypically male interests, and I'm very grateful that me being a girl didn't stop my Dad from teaching me everything he would have taught a son.
posted by quince at 3:31 PM on February 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

While now is absolutely not the time to have this discussion, I do think at some point you should have a discussion with your wife about issues of gender and the kinds of expectations you want set and the messages you send to your daughter about what you value and how girls should be valued in society.

I think you do have some legitimate concerns about reinforcing gender stereotypes by the kinds of toys, clothing, and games you give your daughter. And being on the same page when it comes to parenting is important.

As many people have said, you can buy your daughter legos, trucks, sports equipment and fishing gear and leave the girly stuff to your wife. But you wouldn't want to end up in some weird "competition" for your daughter's identity. You should talk to your wife about the wide variety of things you'd like to expose your daughter to so she can discover who she is and what she wants.

And remember just because you give your daughter girly toys doesn't mean she'll play with them in a girly way. My dolls were subjected to all kinds of medical experimentation as they were constantly suffering from rare diseases that required me coming up with medicines made from the various cleaning products in the house. And my sisters' barbies lived in a nudist colony. Our stuffed animals were constantly in school or lost at sea on a raft.

Marketing gurus are no match for kids' imaginations.
posted by brookeb at 3:31 PM on February 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

My dad didn't want a girl. Like you, he didn't want to deal with the girly-girl-ness of the thing or the terror at having to keep the boys away.

My mother told him straight up that if she ever found out he didn't let me do something with him because I was a girl (other than pee on a fire), she would kick him.

So he taught me to build things, hunt things, fish, fix cars, and all those things that he enjoys and would have shared with his son. The only time he didn't let me do something was when I was too small, or it involved peeing on something. I was quite the tom-boy and as a child I was epically closer to my father than my mother. As an adult, I'm still into "boy" things, but not all the stuff I learned from Dad.

Recently, my dad pointed out that he was really, really happy he had girl. Mainly because he got to share so many hobbies and things with me without the added competetion aspect that comes with fathers and sons, but also because he was just stupid for being afraid of having a girl.

Every single friend of mine has been apprenhensive about what gender their child will be an how they will adapt. And in the end, all of them have found ways to create gender-neutral bonds with their kids and enjoy their company. That's the key.
posted by teleri025 at 3:33 PM on February 12, 2014 [6 favorites]

Agreeing with everyone who says that girls and boys, and children of both genders, and children of neither genders, enjoy all sorts of things.

But I am a woman who had a girly-girl girl child, and I can relate. I have always been a tomboy - never had long hair, or wore makeup, or played with jewelry. When my daughter wanted to play princess and have "Rapunzel" hair I kind of panicked. But there are two things we do:

Combine interests: We build lego castles for her barbie princesses to lounge in

Indulge her interests: Because there's nothing wrong with her liking pink, just like there's nothing wrong with me liking legos. So I watched some youtube videos on how to do hair. I also had to learn how to properly swaddle. Parenting is learning.

--- And, you know, it's a good thing I learned how to paint nails because it's the only reward that will persuade our son to sit still for a haircut.

It's my wife who picks out daughter's outfits, though, because she has a knack of accessorizing I just can't seem to learn. I'd talk to your wife too. I respect your desire not to burden her with this, and "I don't know if I can love our girl baby" is I agree definitely not the way to go about it - but "hah! Girls! How do you do girly things, I am dumb at this!" is definitely okay. She can teach you these things.

Are any of your other male friends parents? Maybe you can share this anxiety with them, talk about parenting girly-girls or tomboys or girly-boys or rough-housing boys with them. That way you can get an insider's look from someone you trust.
posted by blue_and_bronze at 3:34 PM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Speaking from personal experience, having a daughter is awesome. You will forget all this bullshit the second you see her.
posted by w0mbat at 3:37 PM on February 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

Don't worry about this. It'll be years from now that her gender identity even informs who she is. And by that time you will know her inside and out as a person and you will love her completely and you will have had a million bonding moments with her that have nothing to do with tea parties or whatever bullshit.

That said, I read this question more as anxiety about what kind of mother your wife is going to be, so I would suggest unpacking that with a therapist and maybe with your wife.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:40 PM on February 12, 2014 [20 favorites]

And if it helps, my husband, I don't want to say he WANTED a girl more than a boy, but his image of fatherhood was the image he had of how his dad related to him, so of course there was a little boy in his mind's eye the whole time. And it was an adjustment when we found out we were having a girl the first time. But it has never been an issue with either of my daughters -- he does everything with them that he'd have done with a boy, and he is a fabulous, happy, grateful father.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:43 PM on February 12, 2014

Speaking as someone with no kids, but who has been terrified of things:

Are you really terrified the child'll be a girl, or are you terrified and that's the thing it's alighting on?
posted by PMdixon at 3:53 PM on February 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

If your daughter turns out to be a tomboy, or not to like pink, she is going to need someone like you to keep her sane. Also, she'll probably be able to take care of herself safety-wise. If you had a son, you might have to worry a lot more about him doing something hare-brained and getting himself injured or into trouble.

All that depends on the kid's personality, which won't show up on the ultrasound. It won't show up for a long time.

Please don't assume that any girl will be like your wife. Please. I'm still not sure what to do with the doll collection that's sitting in boxes in a closet, that I never wanted or asked for (some of them are antiques that my mother kept, some of them are "collectibles" that I ended up receiving as gifts). If it hadn't been for the Legos, blocks, and building things out of mud and rocks in the back yard, I'm sure I'd have been far more unhappy.
posted by amtho at 3:53 PM on February 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Since this is your first kid, you don't know yet, but if you do have a girl, there's a very special thing that little girls and their daddies have. Not in a creepy way at all, but there comes a time in every little girl's life where she "loooooooooooooves her daddy, even more than she loves her mommy." It is intense and brief but there is nothing like it. Don't worry about any of the other stuff. No matter if you're worried about having a kid, having a girl or what kind of dad you'll be, it will all sort itself out.
posted by Lynsey at 3:59 PM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm sitting here with my two-week-old daughter on my lap. When I was pregnant with her, this commercial filled me with feels, because as a little girl I loved watching Godzilla movies with my dad, who died when I was a kid. And my husband loves Godzilla movies, too, and I realized that this was something that my daughter would get to share with both of us, and how awesome was that? I was worried because I suck at doing hair but excited because Godzilla.

My husband had a preference for a son before we found out. Now he's prone to saying things like "I went to the grocery store and didn't even care that you gave me a long grocery list because I have such an awesome daughter at home." I know it's not much of a comfort now, but this really, really won't matter once you see your kid.

Also, as our midwives said, "It takes a real man to make ovaries!" Okay, maybe they were just teasing my husband. But still, there's something about men with daughters--having a girl requires empathy and sensitivity outside yourself and your experiences as a man. Part of that is because it is in some ways harder for girls; there are bigger complications to navigate, like sexism and sexual violence. But that doesn't mean it's any less rewarding, in the end. Children are meant to challenge is. It's not supposed to be easy.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:59 PM on February 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

My pink loving girly-girl wife is due soon too, with our first child -- a daughter. Shortly after we found out the sex we had "the talk." I asked that we keep the colors mostly neutral until she is able to choose what she likes herself. Somewhat to my surprise, my wife agreed 100% and has backed it up with her purchases and letting family know our preferences. As others have said, have the discussion!
posted by SpookyFish at 4:01 PM on February 12, 2014 [15 favorites]

I can relate. And I'm sorry you're going through this. It's an awful feeling. The short answer? Don't find out the sex until the baby is born. Just keep it a surprise.

When all you know is the sex, everything you can imagine is just that--your imagination. Your hopes. Your fears. And everything you imagine is based *only* on the sex of the baby, because that's really all you know.

It's different after the baby arrives. He or she is an actual person then, with his or her own tiny preferences and personality quirks and sounds.

Also, don't forget that you and your wife can make decisions *together* about colors and clothing and activities. Your wife is not the only person in the family who has a say in your home's aesthetics. and values.
posted by orange (sherbet) rabbit at 4:06 PM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Even if the baby's female, you won't be having a girl. You'll be having that girl. Just like if it's a boy, it won't be A Boy, apply gender expectations here re: hobbies, interests and model of relationship with father - it'll be that boy, someone who has never before existed anywhere in the world, someone who will be as much his own person as you are yours. A scan can tell you which set of genitals it has, but it won't tell you anything about who it is.

My mother was really into girlie-girl things and looked forward to sharing all that with her daughter. Didn't happen; she got me, hater of pink and dolls and all things girly, and there were never any tea parties or princess dress-up sessions. My great-grandmother went through exactly the same thing with my tomboy grandmother in the 1920s. My first child is due in a few weeks, and judging by my family's pattern then if it's a girl it will be a super-girly, pink-and-dolls-and-frills-and-princesses-loving girl, and I won't have the first clue how to play tea parties with her or teach her about make-up or whatever.

But, so what? I will still have to get to know this new person as a new person, just like you'll have to. No amount of shared interests will give either of us a short-cut to doing that. You realise rationally that if you have a son, he won't necessarily be interested in the same things you are - but even if you do and he is, you won't have the same relationship that your dad had with you. I suspect that your brain is worrying about the gender thing because it's less scary in some ways than this: you're having a whole new person, and they will matter to you so so much, and yet you can't anticipate anything about how you'll bond with them because in so many ways they're a total stranger.

I have a theory that the ridiculously hyper-gendered world of pregnancy and baby stuff (Team Blue! Team Pink! Colour-coordinated nursery decor schemes! Frilly newborn-size dresses vs. manly newborn-size jeans!) is partly a reaction against this, like if we can picture it as 'girl' or 'boy' then we know who it is in some way, and we don't have to quite face the reality that it's a totally new person we don't really know at all.

That is a terrifying thing, but it is also a wonderful thing, and a thing you might change your perspective on as your wife's pregnancy advances. One of the most surprising things about pregnancy for me has been how strong a sense I have of the baby as its own person, especially in the second and third trimesters - it's reliant on me to survive, but it's still entirely its own individual with its own character, even now. Just like yours.

Remember, you aren't having a baby - you are having this baby. It's going to be fine.
posted by Catseye at 4:08 PM on February 12, 2014 [8 favorites]

Let me put your mind at rest.

I was you except swap the genders. I was terrified of having a boy.

So, first baby was a boy.

I totally fell in love with him because he was MY BABY. MY son.

Nothing else mattered once I laid eyes on him.

You'll be fine.

(And the truth is, it is entirely likely that if your child turns out to be a girl, she will be the type that hates tea parties, wants to climb trees, and is a total tomboy. Little people have their own distinct personalities, and what I have learned from having three of them is that those personalities are innate. I have two girls and they are as different as chalk and cheese.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:08 PM on February 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

QFT That said, I read this question more as anxiety about what kind of mother your wife is going to be, so I would suggest unpacking that with a therapist and maybe with your wife.

Your daughter (or son) is going to have her (his) own personality, likes and dislikes, no matter how many pink dresses, tea sets and sparkles (bats, trucks, Batmans) your wife gives her (him). She (he) will completely ignore toys that don't appeal to her (him). I promise and you will marvel at her (his) personality all the damn time. Talk to your wife. She's probably pretty scared too.

Congrats! You'll love her (him).
posted by Sophie1 at 4:14 PM on February 12, 2014

It actually sounds like you're more worried about your wife as a mother than you are about the gender of your child. That deserves some introspection and conversation.
posted by barnone at 4:16 PM on February 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

My ex M-in law wanted a girly girl and wound up with a tomboy who had no interest in frilly things. You'll have some influence. Hang in there.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 4:22 PM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

You can do pretty much everything with a daughter that you could do with a son except teach her to write her name in the snow. So just plan to do all the things you look forward to doing with your kid (play legos and sports, etc.) with your kid regardless of the kid's gender.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:23 PM on February 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

I've got both a son and daughter, a whole horde of nieces and nephews, and teach music classes at preschools, so I've been around a lot of young children. With few exceptions the following statements are true:

Kids love playing with legos, so don't worry about that, you will get a chance to play with your kid's toys.
Kids love running around, sometimes they love running around in organized sports, sometimes not.
Kids also love pretend cooking, and giving adults imaginary food, so even if you don't have to sit through a tea party, you will have to sit around and pretend to eat fake food.
Kids like playing with toys the can give personalities to, the difference between playing with the imaginext figures with my son and with my daughter was small enough to not be noticeable.
Your kid probably won't like fishing as much as you remember liking fishing. You probably didn't either. It's o.k. because even if they hate fishing, you WILL find something to bond with them over, and if you're paying attention you'll find a whole bunch of ways to pass on the important stuff that your dad passed on to you.
Your kid will want to do things with you that you find boring. It's o.k. because the thing might be boring, but your kid won't be.
posted by Gygesringtone at 4:32 PM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

This old Ask MetaFilter thread is another good one to read through.
posted by mbrubeck at 4:34 PM on February 12, 2014

How do you get past it?

You acknowledge that you're making assumptions of behavior based on gender stereotypes; and then you acknowledge that your child is going to be a person. Genitals don't matter. He or she may like pink. He or she may hate pink. He or she might like legos or playing princess dress-up. He or she might like race cars and Barbies or mud pies and jewelry. Present your child with all options, regardless of gender, and let their personality develop naturally.

I come from a family where the parents definitely preferred boys - and got girls. It was so obvious - glaringly obvious, and I believe my parents and my sisters failed to have a loving adult relationship as a result of it. Like you, my parents placed them into gender stereotypes, so my father was very 'hands off' and my sisters subsequently spent the majority of their youth chasing after the wrong kind of boys to get the "masculine" influence they didn't really get as children. My parents are now raising my niece and nephew and the gender preference is still very obvious - niece was pushed into super girly things (pink, dresses, Barbies, marriage, babies) and my nephew was pushed into 'masculine' things (cars, legos, cowboy stuff, video games, football). There was a brief period where my nephew wanted to play dress-up with his sisters clothes and play with dolls - my parents freaked out, forbid such things, and associated it with his being a sissy, gay, or 'not right'.

I share that to say this: see a therapist, dad-to-be, and get a grip on your feels. Your child, if he/she picks up on it, will resent you for your disappointment over their gender - something they had no influence on or control over. And you may find yourself not having a relationship with them at all once they've grown up, if that's the case.
posted by stubbehtail at 4:38 PM on February 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

1: How could your wife think she disappointed you regarding the sex of your child? That's ALL YOU. So you need to talk to your wife.

2: My dad came from a long line of male only families, to the point where every other generation had its name for the first born son. He was a Marine-former cop-now engineer who was going to have a boy, and I wasn't, and he was so pissed and in denial that he told the nurse that my name would be horrible boy's hand down name anyway. My mom was a girly-girl, because of course he would marry someone who was strongly feminine to "complement" his masculinity. So she was happy to have a girl who would gossip over coffee with her and practice hairstyles and play adorable dolls etc. etc.

To my father's great delight I did not want those things. When I was 4 and my mother succeeded in putting me in a princessy dress I screamed NO DRESS and peed in it. I had dolls, but I used them for a game I called Henry V-8 where I scattered them over the rancher's field nearby before he hayed and screamed with laughter when they were shredded. I went through a brief ballerina phase, but I had to wear a hard hat my dad somehow fit for my head, along with a pair of hip boots.

I had a brother a year later. He's a snappy dresser who loves gossiping with my mom over coffee about his latest girlfriends. A standard family joke is that at Xmas, my mom will give me a brush because I must not own one. Whose the one my dad calls to go fishing? Whose the one who inherited and loves his old erector sets? His daughter. My brother is a sweet young man who would never hurt a fly. My dad's daughter, on the other hand, once got suspended for throwing cow shit at a teacher's aide.

Your child will be their own person. You have a hand in it that whoever they are, they grow up with self-confidence and self-respect. Compassion. Morals and values. How you treat his or her mom will determine how your daughter expects men to treat her and how your son will treat women. But you cannot pre-determine their personality, and trying to guide them into any kind of gender bucket will only make them unhappy.

3: Your might need to question your assumptions about gender on all levels. You love your wife, who you claim is a "girly-girl". (You don't really say what you think that means except in terms of your child.) That isn't a "despite of," right? (And have you ever considered your wife might be under similar gender pressures?) You see a girl as surrounded by objects, whereas you see a boy as surrounded by activities. You're happy to see your wife's dream of being a mother come true - you say that a) like it's her only dream and b) you either don't have a dream of being a father or it's only of a boy. Is that anxiety, or there something else more deeply-rooted? (And yes, you definitely need to talk to your wife about BOTH of your expectations and desires. Have you thought your wife might be disappointed herself by a boy? Or that she's scared she might have a tomboy?)

My dad was a terrible patriarchal SOB until he had me. But 2 things happened: 1) He realized that parenting in a marriage is a PARTNERSHIP. 2) He also understood that he would treat a child the same no matter what their gender, so I got the same life lessons passed down to me that he had gotten from his dad.

You may be dreaming about throwing ball with your son and passing down lessons about dating like your dad did with you, but you'll find out you could have been doing anything - for your dad, the point was spending time with you. As you will need to do so for your daughter. Or son. (Also for the first time my dad understood what gender inequality AND stereotyping is about because my brother and I so steadfastly refused them. He likes to say his proudest moment as a parent came when I was 7, an uncle told me that he was concerned about my behavior because little girls where supposed to be "sweet and nice and soft." I threw licorice at him and yelled, "Then girls are stupid! I'm a WOMAN and I can be anything I want!")

If it wasn't for Dad's loving support, I wouldn't be who and where I am today, and I would be very unhappy. Same thing with my brother, who just wasn't the type to take on my dad's Marine-cop-engineer he-man mantle. There's also no doubt that I'm my dad's favorite child, despite being the girl I absolutely wasn't going to be, because in the end - or rather, in the beginning - my dad loved me anyway.
posted by barchan at 4:39 PM on February 12, 2014 [24 favorites]

Firstly, my little girl is very girly BUT she's had more options than just pink so she's pretty settled on rainbows as a favourite colour, loves her dark-toned clothing, plays games and watches daddy play games, hates dirt, loves cooking, and so on. They're little people and unless you're enforcing gender roles, they tend to pick from a swathe of interests (and sometimes enforce their own flexibility in those roles, like my daughter's cousin who is a violent little boy who adores Peppa Pig, pink and purple).

Also, just from the other side of gender anxiety, you talk about dating and safety and so on - but being the parent of the possible perpetrator is more comfortable than the possible victim?
posted by geek anachronism at 4:48 PM on February 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

When I was a girl I LOVED ruffles, stories about princesses, and things that were pink and purple. I also adored my dad and loved to go fishing with him and listen to him read and if we had had Legos and he had wanted to build something of Legos with me I would have been overjoyed.

Whether you have a girl or a boy, in this enlightened age it seems perfectly natural that he or she should have the opportunity to both have tea parties and build Lego empires.
posted by bunderful at 4:52 PM on February 12, 2014

You have no idea what you're getting.

My father and I were thick as thieves over: books, puns, dogs, playing in the snow, intellectual discussions, ambitions, food, t-ball, looking for frogs in the creek, chemistry sets and microscopes and woodshop projects--from the very beginning, we were so much alike in personality, humor, temperment and intellect that it would have hardly made us closer if I was one of his my brother, who still clings to mom's skirts. I was the one who wanted to work on the vintage car, I was the one who watched the NBA playoffs. My mom had beautiful sons and an ambitious daughter.

You have no idea what you're getting. Don't let expectations diminish joy.
posted by blue suede stockings at 4:56 PM on February 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

You Belong To Me.

Don't Let Me Down.

Boy or girl, it's moments like this you have to look forward to.

And I gotta say, my boy loves his teddy bear as much as he loves the Circuit Board Jr we bought and my girl? Loves to put her dolls to sleep as much as she loves building towers out of blocks.

Activities are not gender restricted.
posted by zizzle at 4:57 PM on February 12, 2014

Your child will be a brand-new person, never before seen on Earth. He or she will have his or her own personality and preferences; it is not your job to supply them, or suppress them.

You get to share with your male or female child anything that you think is wonderful about the world. They love it when you do that.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 5:00 PM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your wife may well be terrified that she's going to have a boy, or even worse *gasp* a TOMBOY!

Maybe you guys just need to have a conversation about what stuff you're going to do with the kid regardless of it's gender, and let the gender-specific stuff take its course.
posted by girlgenius at 5:02 PM on February 12, 2014

I'm a guy, and I thought I wanted a boy too, but after we had a girl, I was super happy we had a girl when I saw how rambunctious a lot of boys are (I can't tell you how many times I have seen parents struggling with an unruly boy and thinking in my head "you should have had a girl!"). And frankly, I don't feel there are things I don't do with my daughter that I would do if she were a boy. You will love your child like crazy no matter what, so don't worry about the gender. Especially since there's absolutely nothing you can do to change the situation anyway.
posted by Dansaman at 5:07 PM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Around that point in my pregnancy, my husband said "Oh God, what if we have a boy who likes boy things?", and I instantly knew that's what these two nerdy not-highly-gendered people would end up with. And we did. My son is a sturdy lover of footballs and cars. But! He also loves books and Lego and space and running and Shaun the Sheep and necklaces and hugs, all things we like, and all things that add up to make him HIM. And we love him beyond all reason because our little genetic experiment created something entirely new.

Relinquishing a need to control who your kid is going to be is a very early lesson of parenthood. I'd go through some visualization exercises, imagining this child looking all sorts of ways, all sorts of gender expressions, all sorts of likes and dislikes. She may love wearing a tutu while getting filthy with trucks in the sandbox. He might be a baseball stats nerd with lovely long hair. You may have a little pang of wistfulness at what could have been, but what IS will totally outweigh it.
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:14 PM on February 12, 2014 [7 favorites]

My daughter played Legos & sports, loved to camp & go caving with me, built badass robots in high school, and was an all-around excellent travelling companion her whole youth. She's still just about my best friend in the world, and now she's in engineering school, hoping for a career in blasting things into outer space, or at least the stratosphere.

Also, a world of tea parties & frilly dresses ended up being vastly superior to the world I'd previously inhabited, though that stage was actually quite short-lived.

Roll with it -- it'll be better than you could have imagined, whatever way it goes.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:14 PM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was born back in the days before fathers were allowed in the delivery room. Following my birth, the doctor came out to the waiting room. According to my dad, the doctor gave him the news this way: “Mr. Cody, I’m so sorry.”

Pause here to consider what those words mean in a hospital setting.

My father, quite naturally, went into full panic mode at the thought that either his wife or his child was dead. So the doctor calmed him down thusly: “Oh no, they’re both fine. I’m just sorry to have to tell you that it's a girl. I'm sure that's not what you wanted to hear. You’ll have to try again.”

Now, imagine that you’re holding your baby for the first time. Imagine you don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl – you just know that it’s your child.

Now imagine a doctor apologizing to you for the disappointment of its existence, because it’s the “wrong” gender.

I don’t say this at all to make you feel guilty. I just say it to see if you can find a place to get in touch with the much more essential nature of being a father to this new little human being who’s coming into the world. Think about that baby in your arms, taking its first breath: so unique and innocent, so vulnerable -- perfect just as it is, but embodying infinite and unknown potential.

Whether it’s a boy or a girl, first and foremost this will be your child, and you will be the only father he or she will ever have. Your child will be so much more than any of the stereotypes he or she might express or reject, in any infinite number of ways. It’s okay if you have a girl and you don’t know how to relate to “girly” things. You don’t have to relate to girly things. You’ll just have to relate to her.

I know you must be nervous, and I know you’re on the precipice of the unknown, and I know it must be so unsettling. But I also know that if you let love be your guide, you’ll be fine.

Sending you hugs, and congratulations.
posted by scody at 6:04 PM on February 12, 2014 [19 favorites]

Just because you have a daughter wouldn't mean you and she couldn't enjoy sports and LEGO and whatever other fun father-child experiences you envision doing with your son. I don't have kids of my own, but I've got a few in my life (some girls, some boys) and I pretty much get them all the same kinds of gifts, and do all the same kinds of activities with them. They all love it. Kids enjoy LEGO, model rockets, poking around under logs, and making baking-soda-and-vinegar volcanoes pretty much equally regardless of gender, in my experience. Seriously, little girls love that shit. (Little boys too, obviously.)

One of the nice things about girls, I think, is that it's easier for them to do both traditional "girl stuff" and "boy stuff" than it is for boys. Girls catch a lot less flack for liking football than boys do for liking ballet, for instance. This fades a bit as they grow up, but the older they get the more they're going to define themselves rather than let their parents define them anyway, regardless of gender; and if you raise them from an early age to think that "boy stuff" is fun, chances are good they're going to keep liking that stuff later.

You sound like you need to have a conversation with your wife. Not necessarily about being afraid of having a girl; you may need to talk about that, or maybe it would be better to get over it on your own – I can't really speak to that. What you need to say is that if she wants to do "girl stuff" with the kid (whatever gender it turns out to be) that's totally fine, as long as she's OK with you doing "boy stuff" with him/her. (I wouldn't put it in such confrontational terms, but you get the idea.) I bet she'll be totally OK with that.

Get excited again! You're still going to get to do all the stuff you've always dreamed of doing with your son – the only difference is, that son might turn out to be a daughter.
posted by Scientist at 6:10 PM on February 12, 2014

Here's something else I remember from growing up as a girl, that might be relevant.

The biggest difference between us and our male peers, that I remember, was not actually a difference in interests but a difference in behavior. And it was HUGE. My female friends were all really smart, had long attention spans, were patient, and had good self control. This did not meant that they were prissy; on the contrary, it meant that we could make plans and execute them really well so we ended up being able to do a ton of awesome things, many of which we were not supposed to be doing!

On the other hand, our male peers seemed to have way more difficulty on a lot of fronts. I remember lots of emotional explosions, tantrums, inability to focus, inability to control themselves. Many fun or interesting things would get interrupted because someone was having a meltdown. There was quite a long stretch of time in my childhood during which the main way my brother wanted to "play" with me was that he just wanted to destroy something I had built, with blocks or whatever. No interest in building, just interest in knocking stuff down. It was very frustrating and annoying. Or like my sister and I building a snowman and the neighborhood boy we were friends with just coming around to knock it down.

Obviously, different children are different and we can't say all girls are like this or all boys are like that. But on the whole, I think you might find that not only can you do all the same stuff with a girl, she's perhaps maturing more quickly so you can get to the fun stuff with her earlier.
posted by cairdeas at 6:23 PM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Having a daughter is different than having a son. If you never have a son it's ok to grieve that possible-future-that-never-was.

Having a child brings so much joy, and I guarantee you will be absolutely smitten with your daughter(s) and will find so much joy and pleasure in her. Don't be afraid to do anything with her that you would have done with a son - my father taught me about science and carpentry and cars and photography and SCUBA diving and honor and integrity and dedication and hard work. And how to flirt; the man is such a flirt.
posted by amaire at 6:33 PM on February 12, 2014

I was really hoping my twins would be girls, because I get along with girls better and I didn't have a happy childhood so I was afraid I'd project my fears on a boy. I got a boy and a girl.

And you know what? They're equally awesome, sometimes in the same ways and sometimes different ways. You're going to have a blast, you will be close to her and she will be close to you, and she'll like some stereotypically boy things along with some stereotypically girl things, and sometimes your wife will try to dress her in something she doesn't like and she'll make eye contact with you then roll her eyes with a smirk as she indulges her mom.

In short: don't worry about it.
posted by davejay at 7:04 PM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

You aren't the first, and won't be the last. For an early example, listen to Gordon MacRae belt out "My Boy Bill" from "Carousel." Made in 1956, when gender was only used to talk about grammar, but it sounds like what you're saying. " can have fun with a son, but you've gotta be a father to a girl..."

I have never successfully managed to insert a link here, but go to YouTube and type in "Billy's Soliloquy + Gordon MacRae" and listen. And be sure to turn the sound up.

(Of course in Billy's case the upshot of him realizing that he'd be okay with a girl was his decision to rob a bank so she could have nice things, but you're obviously thinking things through a little more clearly already.)
posted by kestralwing at 7:18 PM on February 12, 2014

I am going to counter this based on some families I know where one parent is very gender-strict, and the other parent is relaxed about gender. The parent who pushes the gender roles (and I know both dads and mums who do this) is the parent who controls the narrative. The boys play sports and are told to play rough and not cry, the girls wear pink and are told to be well mannered and do chores. It absolutely does happen if one parent has stricter gender roles, and it is really sad when the kids themselves do not fall within the gender guidelines for play and feel like they are disappointing a parent.

The parent who is more flexible has to push back and it can get kinda toxic and weird - I've witnessed quiet arguments over whether a toy is 'too girly' for a little boy, and watched a little girl sit on the sidelines, wistfully watching boys run around and play because she was wearing a frilly dress and little heels and wasn't allowed to get messy. Not everywhere and not everyone is as flexible and open.

This is a good time to talk to your wife about both of your expectations for girls and boys. Will she be okay if you have a girl who doesn't want to wear dresses? A boy who wants to wear pink? What about toys - will you have a mix, or does she want a daughter to play only 'safe' games and sports? How will you handle a boy who cries or is highly sensitive?

It's increasingly likely that your wife will be totally on board with equal opportunities and letting your kid be a kid, but your unease could come from observing your wife with her family of origin (was she raised a total girly-girl with strict gender rules for children?) and with other children. Talk with her about this now.
posted by viggorlijah at 7:32 PM on February 12, 2014 [13 favorites]

You’ll see yourself in her; you’ll find your connection.

My dad’s from a different country than mine, and he’s a lot older than my peers’ dads. He’s had no idea about anything to do with my cultural moment. I can try to imagine the place and time of his youth, but I’ll never get it right.

However: I have his love of rhythm and water, and some of his quirky humour. His feet and hands. Like another flirter above, if I can charm anyone, it’s because I stole his moves. I can’t say it’s always been easy with him (for reasons completely unrelated to dadness or daughterness), but I’m in my thirties, and we still sometimes go for drives chasing the sunset, like we did when I was little, because it’s an awesome sight, and it’s still awesome to see it with him.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:03 PM on February 12, 2014

My dad passed a lot down to me through our relationship and it pains me to think that I may not be able to continue that with a son of my own. I know that it is completely possible that we could have a girl that would like doing these same things or a boy who doesn't like them, but that hasn't made me any more okay with this.

This hurts me to read. I am a girl who was the first child. My dad learned a lot from his dad and had a lot to pass down. I am a capable and curious person who wanted to learn a lot about how to be handy, how to make things, science, physics and all that. My brother, younger, turned out to be more arty and not that interested. In the end, neither of us got the degree of passing-down we'd have liked. He told me when I was older he "assumed I wouldn't be itnerested because I was a girl." How sad - so many missed opportunities.

I liked some girly stuff too, but both my dad and I wish that stereotypes had not determined so many of our interactions. I could have learned a lot more from him. After I became an adult, I did learn a lot, but I would have really prized and treasured hours of closeness and problem-solving in childhood with my dad; and also just the knowledge that he was interested in me and wanted to share what he knew with me.

Give yourself and her a sincere chance. Don't miss her whole life. You have the potential to be the most important male she will ever know.
posted by Miko at 8:14 PM on February 12, 2014 [29 favorites]

If it's a girl, and you let her be herself, she may surprise and delight you. My father wanted sons, and he got daughters. I was the younger one, so he was really counting on me to be a boy. He let me know he was disappointed, and he more or less treated me like a boy. If it's a girl, and you're disappointed, please let her be herself anyway. She could be really cool.
posted by melesana at 8:52 PM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Well, I was pretty girly, but I still played with Legos (love 'em, and I don't mean the girl Legos either) and went with my dad to various vehicle shows and told dirty jokes while hanging out with him in our spa. You will find things to bond with her about even if she's girly, I promise.

Plus, well, the kid could be tomboy or girly or trans or who knows what. You'll have a lot of time to figure it out.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:55 PM on February 12, 2014

My father wanted sons, and he got daughters. I was the younger one, so he was really counting on me to be a boy. He let me know he was disappointed, and he more or less treated me like a boy.

That was my situation, too. The pressure was really on me as the “second chance” baby, so I was a double disappointment. My sister was naturally more tomboyish and mechanically inclined than I, which made it worse. Neither of us was allowed to wear our hair long, have pierced ears, or wear skirts except to church or parochial school until I was old enough to really start pushing back. Part of it was my natural inclination asserting itself, and part of it was resentment at feeling like I was being disguised as a second-rate imitation son substitute. When he had to call us someplace, he’d say, “Come on, boys,” and he always called us by masculine nicknames.

I honestly can’t remember him having anything positive to say about me once I was big enough to start refusing to get my hair cut short or wear only boyish clothes. From then on, he stopped hitting me, but the verbal abuse got worse. He kept hitting my sister, but they had bonding moments in between. It was like he couldn’t bring himself to hit a “girl,” but he also couldn’t bring himself to engage with one as a person, either. It screwed up both us kids in different ways.

Of course, he was raised on a farm, where he and his brothers spent all their time working outside with their father while his sisters worked in the house with their mother, so I guess he came by it honestly.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:17 PM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

My father wanted sons, and he got daughters. I was the younger one, so he was really counting on me to be a boy. He let me know he was disappointed, and he more or less treated me like a boy. - I am so sorry, The Underpants Monster and Miko. I was 'the last mistake', fourth girl before the much wanted boy. I actually was named after my father's previous girlfriend rather than my mother's chosen name as an angry response! It was pretty clear that the girls were the wrong gender, but to my parents' disappointment, my brother did not turn out to be the sporty math-inclined scholar they had wanted either. Gender expectations are like just about any kind of parental expectation - they damage childhoods because children have to either lie about their true selves or disappoint their parents.
posted by viggorlijah at 9:47 PM on February 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

As a personal anecdote, my dad had the chance to pass on all his manly dudely ways to my sister. He declined, and ruined his relationship with my brother instead. All three of us have varied states of 'daddy issues' because of his gender issues, about what women are and should be and what men are and should be, and our own disinclination to perform appropriately. I copped the worst of the 'unable to girl' stuff (from being too boyish - while longing for fatherly approval by doing the things he so highly valued - to being called a slut and a whore as I rocketed through puberty and tried being girly), so my sister got less of that, but instead she got a pedestal which is it's own trauma, and was absolutely unable to do what she wanted which was the highly risky dudely thing. My poor bloody sensitive lovely brother? Still gets shit, still cops absolutely huge amounts of crap from my dad about what he should be like, who he should be, because he doesn't fulfil what my dad thinks a man is.

Which is why the three of us kids don't have much of a relationship to speak of, with each other or with dad.
posted by geek anachronism at 10:07 PM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Someone above pointed out that you have many years ahead of you before you need to worry about the dating/safety aspects of a daughter (assuming you even have a girl, of course). And you have time before you need to worry about whether your kid likes "girl stuff" or "boy stuff". You're getting waaaaaay ahead of yourself. For a long time, you'll just be caring for an infant who is eating/crying/pooping. Focus on that part for now and let the rest take care of itself later.

Also, talk to your wife - I bet you will feel a little better after you get this off your chest.

I don't feel it would be fair to burden my wife with this - if I told her I was feeling this way and it did end up being a girl, I wouldn't want her to feel like she somehow disappointed me.
Sex of the baby comes from the dad ;-)
posted by sunflower16 at 10:24 PM on February 12, 2014 [7 favorites]

Is there something cultural here underneath it all? Like, a cultural thing where females are the worst thing you could be cursed with, and only boys count? I haven't seen anyone ask that, but I know that sometimes that can play a big part in the conditioning of what we want and expect from our children.

And if that's the case, that would be something worth identifying and discussing with your wife, because otherwise you could really be setting yourself up for a lot of tamped-down rage that could seriously mess up your marriage and your kid. I watched something like this happen in my extended family and it was painful for all involved, especially since it was a mixed culture family and each side didn't understand, or want to understand, the other's POV.

For what it's worth, my parents adopted my twin sister and I at birth, and they'd been led to believe they were probably going to get one boy, not two girls. Dad was probably disappointed, but he never showed that to us, and he did most of the things he'd have done with a boy with us. And I'll always remember him, scientist that he was, teaching me to throw a baseball correctly and scientifically developing my hitting stance, because women have different centers of gravity than men, and he thought it was imperative for me to take those factors into account when I played ball (and I played actual baseball like a boss, which he was really proud of, but this was before Title 9 and they wouldn't let me into real league ball). So who knows, maybe you'll end up doing the same kind of thing.
posted by emcat8 at 11:57 PM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm a girl, and I hate most sports with every fibre of my being. And yet whenever I'm on the phone to my Dad we spend half the time talking about football (well, soccer, cos we're British), because I love him so much he's managed to make me genuinely interested in something I would otherwise hate. I'm very close to my Dad, and I can think of so many things that one of us now likes just because the other one did originally. Your relationship may influence what you have in common, rather than the other way around!
posted by raspberry-ripple at 12:13 AM on February 13, 2014

I think fatherhood alone will make you proud whether your child is a boy or a girl.

I'm the father of two girls. God how I love them.
posted by rmmcclay at 2:01 AM on February 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

This is like something a father would have worried about in 1950, filtered through the sensibilities of a modern guy. (In other words, an old school dad would have thought this stuff, but he probably wouldn't have felt bad about it.)

Parenthood can bring some pretty primal (and occasionally fucked-up) instincts bubbling up to the surface. Some parents turn into conservatives buttholes. They get taken over by bad ideas about protecting their kids from the dangerous Other, a woman's place, what makes a man a man, and all that crap. Don't let it happen to you.

I'm not mocking you for feeling this way. Having a kid is scary as hell, it could drive anybody crazy. But listen to that calm, quiet voice in your head that tells you this particular fear is mostly just silly caveman shit. That is the voice of the future. Having a girl could mean you will not get the parenting experience you were expecting. But what makes you think having a boy couldn't mean exactly the same thing? Maybe you'll have a boy who is super into tea parties and princess dresses, or a daughter who is more butch than you are. Whatever the hell your kid is, just love it.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:06 AM on February 13, 2014

You have a challenging, exciting assignment ahead of you. Whatever arrangement of genitals and chromosomes your baby ends up with, it will be your task to nurture this new person in an atmosphere that is less tainted with the putrescent stink of fetid misogyny than the world that trained you to react with terror to the thought that your child might be a girl. You know in your sensible mind that girls are not a less worthy form of human, and that your child's interests, preferences and talents need not be determined by their gender. Yet, your own background has trained you to cringe with revulsion and shame at the prospect of having a girl child. How did that happen? How can you avoid passing those damaging assumptions along to the next generation?

Having these emotions doesn't make you a bad person, but I hope that you, and everyone here who is reassuring you that it's fine and natural and normal to feel as you do, don't lose sight of the vast extent of damage, misery, struggle, injustice, suffering and death that have been made manifest in the world because of feelings just like this. Girls, boys, children of mixed or ambiguous gender, sick children, healthy children, are all just human, and of equal value, and equally deserving of unqualified love from their parents.
posted by Corvid at 2:43 AM on February 13, 2014 [10 favorites]

Just to throw this out there. ..The possibility exists, too, that your child could grow into a gender identity different from the biological sex at birth. Even if you have a girl, she could grow into a son and vice versa.

It does happen.
posted by zizzle at 4:11 AM on February 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh, also - I'm expecting a baby in the next few weeks, and although I didn't feel anything like as strongly as you, I did originally sort of want a boy (only because my parents already have a granddaughter, though). I spent the week before the 20-week scan looking up the odds of bilateral renal agenesis and similar horrors, and wound myself up into a state of blind panic about the whole thing. When the sonographer told us she thought we were having a girl, I was too overcome with the euphoria of our baby having all the necessary organs to care at all.

I'm saying this not to sound clichéd or preachy or to remind you what your priorities should be, but to point out that when you do find out the baby's gender, you will also - all being well! - find out so, so much more. I have been very matter-of-fact about the whole pregnancy thing, but I will never, ever forget what it was like to see those four tiny chambers of the heart all beating away perfectly. I really hope that moment gives you as much joy and wonder as it gave me, regardless of which set of chromosomes your baby ends up with.
posted by raspberry-ripple at 5:06 AM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

As soon as I found out I was pregnant I had very strong feelings that I wanted a girl. I couldn't help those feelings, they just seemed to be there, so denying them or rationalizing them in that moment would not have been helpful. I had MY reasons and that is all that matters. But since we cannot control nature in that way, you just wait and see. How we would react to the outcome that didn't happen is an unknown. Your life will never be the same again whether you have a boy or girl--anxiety is par for the course as you think of all the dangers to boys and girls out there. Your fears that you won't relate to a girl are founded and legitimate but surely this can change and you will adapt. All parents have to adapt to many, many things, and this is only one of those things. Not to sound harsh, but get used to it because no kids are easy all of the time.
posted by waving at 5:46 AM on February 13, 2014

The father-daughter relationship is special, vitally important, and will transcend any list of activities and hobbies you can come up with. Cherish your daughter. Expose her to the things you like and she will probably come to you wanting to share them.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:57 AM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

One point I wanted to mention regarding your fears about teaching girls about safety, which to me is code for warning her about sexual assault - there is often great emphasis about teaching girls to be safe, but please, if you have a boy - teach him about boundries, etc so that he does not sexually assault (or plain old assault) anyone. It's scary to have any person you're responsible for, but you're not less off the hook for teaching kids right from wrong and safe from dangerous if you have a boy. Not to increase your anxiety, I hope, but its false to be more worried about a girl in that respect.
posted by agregoli at 6:26 AM on February 13, 2014 [8 favorites]

I think you are worried that your wife may dominate the childrearing with a girl, and that you will be on the outside, looking in, unable to shape and form your own bond with your daughter.
It sounds like she already has very pink plans as to how things are going to be, or that you suspect her of having them.

I dunno, how likely is it that your wife will take control? And even so, that doesn't mean you can't introduce your own childrearing ideas. It means you should make even more of an effort, it's healthier for your child. I know I am that kind of mother. I wish sometimes my husband would take over the steering wheel more often! So maybe start off by planning how you will get involved with the baby, how you will hold her at night, what songs you will sing to her and what things you can't wait to introduce to her.

Btw, your wife would have Strong Ideas even if you have a son, so it still applies!
posted by Omnomnom at 6:37 AM on February 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

- I agree with the idea that you might be projecting all your nervous, freak-out, "OMG I am going to be a DAD eek this will change my life!" feelings onto the gender of your potential baby. Also that you might be having doubts or issues with your wife as potential mother. This is stuff you will want to unpack, possibly with the help of a therapist, and definitely by talking with your wife. It also sounds like you need some outside support and a listening ear. Consider a "dad's group" or dad's chat online or in person. Talking to other dads, many of whom have been in your position, will be a comfort to you.

- Being disappointed in your child is the kiss of death for a parent/child relationship. It's fine to be disappointed with actions ("I am disappointed that you didn't thank grandma for the birthday gift") but being disappointed with your child him/herself will scar your child for life. Please, please, do everything humanly possible to not be disappointed with your child no matter what. I think being disappointed with your child, and wishing your child was someone else, is one of the worst things a parent can do. It's a self-esteem killer. You don't want to be that parent. Again, something you may want to unpack with a therapist if you feel like disappointment might loom large in your relationship with your child. You don't need to borrow trouble now, but once your child is born, and you don't have the "whee new person unconditional love who cares!" reaction after a few months - therapy might be a good idea.

- If you do get the boy you want so much, what will you do if he doesn't turn out to be the son of your dreams? Will you be even more bitterly disappointed? What if your son realizes she's really a girl once she reaches her teens, and decides to transition, and you now have a daughter? The bottom line is, kids are their own people. They aren't born to fulfill parental dreams and expectations. If you want to have a good relationship with your future child once s/he is old enough to act autonomously, you have to accept your child for who she or he is.

- As other posters have noted, it's important for parents of sons to teach their sons to respect women and respect boundaries and not be rapists. The stereotype is that parents need to guard and worry about their daughters, but they need to teach their sons how not to assault women. And I can't imagine knowing that your son is a rapist is any less hellish than knowing your daughter has been assaulted. As for pregnancy - this isn't the 70's when a child born to unmarried or teen parents was solely the mother's and her family's problem/responsibility. If your son gets a girl pregnant you are looking at his being responsible for that child (or paying for half of the abortion). You can't in all conscience go "lalalala I can't hear you not my problem."

This may be just pre-baby jitters, especially if it's your first, and especially if you are a worrier by nature. But if you really truly feel it's more than that, if 1) you have Issues with your wife as a parent, and/or 2) you will be Very Disappointed and not stop wishing you had a different child if you get a girl or non-traditional boy, some therapy might be in order.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:40 AM on February 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

Just wanted to add: I don't know if my dad wanted a boy - he could never relate to girl stuff. But at some point he seems to have shrugged and begun treating me like he would a son. Not by making me wear short hair or anything, but he took me mountain climbing, rafting, let me help him build furniture etc. It was great and I felt like I could be both to him, you know?
You'll be fine.
posted by Omnomnom at 6:44 AM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

You can't pick 'em, but you can teach 'em.

I have two daughters. They both had their pink years even without much encouragement from the parents. They also have been raised to be adventurous. We go camping and fishing together. We fight Creepers together on Minecraft, too. You may find yourself having to take that American Girl doll with you when you and the tyke go down to the lake to fish. You may have a kid who wants to kiss the worm before she stabs it with the fish hook. You may have a kid that will simply refuse to touch the worm or touch the fish but still really wants to go fishing with dad!

I wish I could find it, but I remember seeing somewhere a study that suggested that a BIG part of being a dad to any kid is the rough play, the play fighting and the strong physical nature of boy play....even with daughters.

Basically, do all the boyish and manly things that dads and sons do, but with your daughter! She will be better for it....even if done in a pink dress. You will be better for it, too. And hey...those Disney Princesses at Disneyland are really cute and nice. They make a nice morning visit before you guys fight Darth Vader after lunch!

That said, with daughters, I got to experience a little of what it is like to be a girl by raising girls. Be the dad that will take her out for tea...especially if you go by bike and play soccer in the park on your way. Be the dad that knows the words to every Sound of Music song. Be the parent that she tells about her first period...and be wise and cool about it! Embrace her passions whether that be a football or a Barbie.
posted by BearClaw6 at 6:51 AM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Re: your comment about not wanting your wife to feel that she disappointed you by having a girl ... I'd like to point out that, biologically, the sex chromosome in your sperm determines the baby's gender (egg will always contain X chromosome, sperm can be either X or Y), so technically it's *your* fault if you guys have a girl.
posted by phoenix_rising at 7:04 AM on February 13, 2014 [23 favorites]

I think one of the best things a father can do to make sure his daughter will have good relationships with men is to model what a good man is like, so that when she get outs there in the world she'll know what to look for.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:09 AM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

When my wife was pregnant, she was concerned about having a boy. Not because he'd be Dad's Little Buddy, but because she had no idea what to expect, and how to deal with boys. She is one of four sisters, and that was what she knew (mind you, she loves Legos, and still asks for -and gets them- to this day.)

We now have a 2.5 year old little boy, who loves construction vehicles and monster trucks. Where did he pick up those things? WE HAVE NO IDEA. Seriously, we didn't push those toys on him as "masculine" toys, but his favorite things right now are his dump trucks and front-end loaders. He'll move alphabet puzzle pieces around in them for hours. He also loves trains, his Duplos, and he also picked out an Abby Cadabra training potty. It's all pink and cute, but that's the one he wanted, probably because he also liked Abby's Flying Fairy School at that time.

Sesame Street is old hat now, and he likes other things, but this is all to say, you will never guess what your kid latches on to. Sure, you'll share the things you like to do, but my brother and I didn't ever pick up our dad's love of sports (which he, in turn, definitely did not get from his father). My wife and I would be happy not to watch another dump truck video in a long time, but that's what our little guy likes now, and some day that might change. In the meantime, we love playing with him and watching him grow into his own little person, picking up traits from us, and finding his own favorite things.

We're talking about having another kid, and now my wife is hoping it's a boy, because girls can be such drama (my wife teaches at high school, so she sees a lot of that first hand). Of course, all kids are different, and our son might be a drama king of his own, or we might have a daughter who wants none of that. We'll see, and we'll have fun, or at least we'll deal with it all as it comes.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:11 AM on February 13, 2014

I've never had kids, but as a personal annecdote, my mother is the girliest girl out there. She bought all this girly stuff for me when I was a toddler, by the time I was old enough to enforce my own taste my bedroom at the age of five, was painted red white and black I adored legos, and the barbies she insisted on buying me were regularly kidnapped by the action figures my dad bought me and had to be rescued by my bionic man doll riding in a tonka truck. Despite her best efforts I was not and will never be a girly girl.

You will make up half of your daughters DNA, you will get to spend time with her and show her the things you love to do and maybe she will love them too. Hell maybe she'll reject the things both of you love and find her own things that interest her. You need to sit and really think about that. You can share with her all the things your Dad taught you (OK maybe not peeing standing up or shaving, but most everything else) her just being female doesn't mean she can't learn masculine things. I do all the DIY and car repairs in our house even though my husbands father keeps buying him tools for Christmas and me Kitchen Appliances, don't be my Father in Law.

I am also wondering what ideas you have in your head about what being female and feminine mean, I am guessing you like girly girls or you wouldn't have married your wife and that's great, but maybe look around and really see just how wide a range of personalities and interests women can have. Maybe do some reading, talk to some not so pink and frilly type women, redefine a little inside your head about what being female can be and don't try and fit your child into that box before she is even born. I'd also suggest talking to some Dads of girls, I am sure most of them if you asked them would admit deep down inside they would have preferred a boy, right up until the moment they held their daughter in their arms for the first time.

As a side note what would you do if you had a boy and he liked pink and traditionally girly things? What if your son is not gender conforming? These might be some things to think about too.
posted by wwax at 9:14 AM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I let my 4yo girl help me swap out the brakes on the family car last summer when she was just 3. I explained what I was doing, how I was keeping myself safe, the tools I was using, and what the parts she was holding were for.

By the end of the afternoon, she knew a phillips from a bladed screwdriver, and the difference between pliers and wrenches when we were done, and that each wheel has five lugnuts. That was more satisfying than finishing the job itself.

She likes mermaids, bunnies, Hello Kitty, fancy dresses, the colors yellow and pink (in that order), playing with her toy kitchen, tea parties, all girl superheroes...

... and Batman and Spiderman, and helping Daddy do chores with tools and going on hikes and looking at birds with binoculars and long bike path rides with Daddy in her bike trailer.

She's not the least bit tomboyish - but she loves spending time with me and learning the stuff I learned from my dad, including lessons on how to treat other people, and how you should expect to be treated. My dad's on board with this, too - he had her help him shoveling snow the last time she was over. She loved it.

You are hereby cordially invited to your daughter's life. Tea Parties and Auto Repair and discussions on life well lived will be provided.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:34 AM on February 13, 2014 [13 favorites]

So many answers, so few addressing the question.

When faced with dread over a non-existent situation (since you do not yet know what the gender will be, much less whether the reality will be what (you think) concerns you) I think the sensible thing is two-fold.

One, allow yourself your feelings without self-recrimination. You're allowed to have a preference. Before my boy I believed I would have rather had a girl. We even could have opted to pursue only a girl, as we were adopting, but decided to take our chances and not limit our options. I cannot imagine how I could have been happier than I am, though admittedly at 14 months it's hard to think of any ways gender would change anything. But I do something look at the various girl clothes and think how many more entertaining options there are there. I worry sometimes that, as a fairly non-typical guy, I will be crap at some things if he's a more "typical" boy.

But so what? I don't love him any less and you're not going to love your kid any less. We want things for our kids and I would be shocked if I get even 1 in 10 of my wishes for my boy. You're not a shit parent till you allow them to pollute your reactions. So stop fighting yourself on this and making it worse.

Two, avoid wallowing by not obsessing about things currently beyond knowing. You don't know the gender yet so when you start to worry, remind yourself that this is a non-issue. If you subsequently find out you're having a girl then every time you start to dread, say, her wanting to have tea parties that you will enjoy less than sports, remind yourself that (a) that may not come to pass and (2) maybe you're wrong about your enthusiasm level.

That's not to say it's easy. Worrying is a way of life for some people. If you were a Buddhist trying to avoid attachments and subsequent suffering then this would be a life-long pursuit. We all struggle with our expectations and dread. This is no different than worrying about your job or if your favorite show will be cancelled. So deal with it the same way and write yourself a pass over the guilt.
posted by phearlez at 1:58 PM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

So I wrote the thread mentioned above by mbrubeck. My daughter is now 5 1/2. I also had a son 17 months later.

Here is the thing......I have such a closer bond with my daughter. She truly is the apple of my eye. I am teaching her how to tie knots, throw a punch, play baseball, and shake people's hands. My son.......he is basically a chimpanzee that has been to the ER twice before the age of 4. He didn't let me sleep for an entire year. He drives my wife to drink and she is basically a teetotaler. I love him to death, but if I decided to have a third, I would be wishing for a girl.
posted by jasondigitized at 6:07 PM on February 13, 2014 [6 favorites]

Also, if she does end up being a girly girl, it doesn't mean her interests aren't things you can learn more about. She's not some rando you're entertaining. Love makes you want to understand this darling little person's interest. And if she wants to play dress up and have you at the tea party table, just do it because you love her. Don't force her into learning everything you want to do. It's not about you anymore.
posted by discopolo at 10:45 PM on February 13, 2014

Daughters and dads have a special bond. I still think my dad is the coolest person I have ever met. I was girly and I was tomboy in turns, like most girls since the beginning of time. I've seen a friend's super-girly daughter kick the shit out of her sibling with a hockey stick while wearing a tutu. Anything is possible.
posted by Foam Pants at 11:40 PM on February 13, 2014

How about stopping your train-wreck of thoughts with one single one- be curious about the person who is going to be part of your life very soon. A match and gift you are getting soon- irrespective of what gender, what color, what sexual orientation, eventual political beliefs etc.

Brand new person.

posted by xm at 9:41 AM on February 14, 2014

A note: I've been taking my boy and girl go-karting (the indoor electric with a helmet type) for a few weeks now.

He hated it the first time, but wanted to go a second, and got faster each time (several seconds faster for each run's best lap time.) He got himself down to a 30.9-second lap by run three, but plateaued and couldn't surpass it by the end of run five.

Meanwhile my daughter started out at 46 seconds and didn't get better. She kept waving as she drove instead of trying to go fast. She was interested but not really into it. By run five, she'd gotten down to 41 seconds and change, more than ten seconds a lap slower than her brother.

Before run six, I passed down these words of wisdom to both of them: keep both hands on the wheel this time (and stop waving at me, daughter!) and try to go fast enough to scare yourself a little.

In the sixth run, my daughter passed my son and as hard as he tried to catch her, he couldn't do it. He finally slowed down so she could pull up behind him, gave it his all, tried to block her going into a turn -- and she spun him around* instead of slowing down. When the lap times came out, he still hadn't bested his 30.9 lap time... but she'd dropped from a 41 to a mid-29.

Afterwards, he said he tried but just couldn't catch her and was too scared to go faster. When I asked her if she'd gone fast enough to scare herself, she said "no, just fast enough to make it fun."

Point being: you probably have a huge amount of father-son advice that you don't think will work as father-daughter advice, but you'll be surprised. Also, my daughter gets a little intense after a high speed run, just like her dad, and you bet I'm proud.

*in addition to her poker nickname "the girl who never folds", we have now christened her "the girl who never lifts", much to her delight.
posted by davejay at 9:09 PM on February 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oh, and my daughter is also a "girlie girl." She loves her dresses, just had her nails done today (blue) at her request, and also at her request we are going karting again first thing tomorrow morning.
posted by davejay at 9:12 PM on February 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

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