Is any mother ready for parenting a boy? It wasn’t without a little trepidation that I received the news from the 20 week scan that I was indeed, carrying a baby boy. When Kate was given baby George to hold in her arms she was joining that happy but often fearful band of mothers of boys.
Here’s what I thought I knew about boys: they’re loud, smelly, competitive and aggressive, they love sports, trains and cars. They aren’t always affectionate or emotional, and I found them generally quite baffling. What human adult does not realize that a loo seat belongs in the down position and that socks live in drawers when clean, and laundry baskets when dirty?
Fast forward 20 more weeks after the scan, a long labour and significant post birth trauma, and I am at the moment I had been waiting for. The boy and I – soon to be named George Louis – were alone at last. Dad had left us to fetch me some tea and toast, and we were in the operating theatre’s recovery room. George had already made a good start in life, with a natural delivery despite me being prepared in theatre for a Caesarian. A whopping 10 pounds and 5 ounces, he didn’t look hungry – but I wanted to take advantage of our time alone to try feeding him for the first time.
As I brought him close to me, my new baby boy’s mouth puckered, the nose crinkled and the little fingers unfolded. As he latched on to breastfeed, I witnessed one of motherhood’s enduring miracles. His lashes opened, the eyes widened and I saw those deep blue baby eyes for the first time – and they locked onto mine. When your baby looks into your eyes it is the most mind-spinning, heart exploding, hormone flooding experience. The bonding experience in less than a second: Mother Nature is truly efficient and, in retrospect, quite terrifying.
This bonding allowed me, in one brief moment, to set aside all of the fears and concerns that I had about parenting a boy. Somehow, the gender gap is crossed and you are in communion with a male baby, soon to be a young boy and throwing all kinds of challenges at you. Can you spot a Ferrari at fifty paces? Can you muster enthusiasm for Manchester City? Real ale?
The early dependency days over, this boy will be into anything with wheels, a motor or that can make him covered in mud quicker than you can watch a laundry powder advert. This is boyhood – something that you haven’t lived through unless you were a particularly enthusiastic tomboy – a life stage that most girls regard as a slapstick spectator sport.
Look at those boys with their messy handwriting, they’ll never get a gold star! And just check out their untied shoelaces, surely some mistake?! Urgh and get those smelly armpits! And who can fail to find baffling and amusing their monomaniacal obsession with spheres that you can kick, bat, throw, run with …?
True to my expectations, one of my son’s first words was “tractor”, quickly followed by “outside”, as after all “outside” was the only place he ever wanted to be. Running, kicking a ball, making a mud pie, riding his trike. If someone had told me before he arrived that when I joined in with these activities it wouldn’t be just out of a sense of maternal duty but actually fun – I’d never have believed them.
But every time my George has taken up a new, boyish, interest, he wants me there: he includes me and shares with me and we love our time together doing these boyish things. Ready with the shovel to make a mud pie. Ready with the toolkit to check the toy Ferrari. And ready to cuddle up on the sofa while discussing the Premier League.
With mother nature’s clever tactics, having a boy is not as hard as I thought it would be. And one look from those now brown eyes let me relive that baby moment again and again – and help me overlook the quirks of boyhood and smelly socks.
Good luck Kate, it’s a messy and sometimes smelly journey – but it is a wonderful one.