“Brothers” was the word — from one of my good friends upon learning our babies’ sexes — that finally got me to feel the emotional impact of the news.
Not two boys, but brothers.
Ironically, it also was the word the doctor used when he slipped. “Brothers.”
We didn’t feel it then, though. Jimmy was still attached to having it be the way he wanted it: a surprise. I was still attached to that too, not wanting him to be let down. In the end, his attachment to the surprise was probably a little stubborn — it’s the Aries in him — but yesterday as we organized all the little clothes people had given us, it was clear he had let it go.
As for me, I am over the loss of the “surprise,” but still swinging between excitement and fear.
On the one hand, I can’t wait to see their special relationship develop. It’s different when your sibling is the same sex. I know the sister side of that; I’m excited to both watch and nurture what it means to be brothers.
I also feel we’ve been given an important responsibility, raising two men — and I think we’re uniquely up for that challenge. Jimmy’s breed of masculinity, while assertive and strong, has a powerful undercurrent of empathy and humility. I’ve always seen him as a leader of men. As for me, I’m not quite sure what it will look like or what qualities of mine will come up the forefront–obviously instilling respect for women is important to me–but beyond that, I couldn’t say. Still, something about it feels right.
Even so, as I confessed to my buddies last night, I have a fair amount of fear about it. I know nothing of little boys. I didn’t have a brother and I otherwise just haven’t been around them much–I’m not at all sure what to expect, and after already feeling really inexperienced with babies in general, knowing my babies are boys only amplifies those insecurities.
At the root of it too is that I’m pretty sexist toward men. Think of a really sexist man — Trump, maybe? — then flip it around, and that’s me. And by that I mean that I have a hard time having empathy for the male experience and having faith in men in general (to do anything). For most of my life I didn’t think men had feelings–my father certainly never showed any (and still doesn’t). I also have never thought of men as particularly strong, maybe because my father’s reaction to anything emotionally challenging was to run away. It’s amazing I’ve had long, intimate relationships with men considering how powerful some of these beliefs are. I have never been able to see myself in a man–except for maybe during the Choice Line exercise in Basic. Otherwise, historically, I’ve thought of them as foreign (and morally inferior) creatures who are slaves to their egos (and sex drives).
What about Jimmy, you might ask. Well, he’s “different.” (That’s how I have it.) He would have had to have been, in order for me to “pick” him. The rest of you? You’re all the same. Including my father, but he doesn’t help his case by consistently (half) joking about how “society went downhill when women got the vote.”
As I mentioned to my buddies, this is probably why it’s perfect that I’ve been given two boys. I can’t not have empathy for them–they’re my babies. And now I will become intimately familiar with all of the challenges boys uniquely face over the course of their lives. I’m sure every single belief I have about boys and men will end up getting rattled.
The challenge will be that I will probably have my boys as “different,” too. Dangerous, because how will I react if and when they do something “all men” do? Like when Jimmy makes a “man” comment sometimes, or does a “man” thing, and I react with hurt, shock and anger (he’s supposed to be different). (This is a little off-topic, but my personal catch 22 with men is I have a fetish for traditionally masculine men–that means I am attracted to men who show up in the traditional gender role of “man” while also holding it against them.)
I know all of this is getting ahead of myself. I need to just get through the labor and delivery and learning how to care for two newborns and not trouble myself so much with thinking ahead to how we will raise them.
But in some ways, I can’t help it. Now that I know the sexes, that’s what’s been coming up–excitement, fear, curiosity.
And writers’ block. What do I say to two future men? Emily encouraged me to not get stuck on thinking the message has to be different, just because they’re boys–but then she had a good point that if I do end up making it different, maybe I will start to understand what it means to me a little more.
Either way, it seems the key is to push through the block–write anyway, see what comes up. So that’s my plan for the week.