Late Spring 2012 -- My Satisfying Yet Untraditional Upbringing
My parents really, really wanted a son. So when my older sister was born and turned out not to be that son, the onus was on me, the second child, to be him. Obviously, I was not. My grandmother, too, really wanted me to be a boy (I think this all had a lot to with 'carrying on the family name') so when my parents placed their newborn into her arms (she'd been ailing and didn't have long to live), they told her I was her grandson, a belief she took to her grave.
My mom told me this story on her deathbed and you can imagine my shock. Looking back, though, I can pinpoint times in my life when it really did feel as if I was treated like the boy I was supposed to be. Yes, there were some confusing identity issues, but now I can laugh about it. On the one hand, I attended an all-girls' school for 11 years where we were taught social graces, wore white gloves on Monday morning, and learned French. On the other hand, it was my job, not my sister's, to mow the lawn, start the BBQ, and wash the car. Some would say it was a somewhat bizarre childhood at times, and more than one therapist would raise an eyebrow, I'm sure. Yet, here I am and I wouldn't trade my upbringing for anything.
I tell you this as Mother's Day approaches and I wish my own mother was alive for me to pamper. Mom made my sister's and my frilly dresses, insisted on good manners, showed us what a strong feminine presence looked like, was both a 'lady' and loved good fun, modeled independence for her daughters, worked a full-time job, and cooked a nutritious dinner every night even though cooking was about her least-favorite thing to do. Mom was my jokester Dad's foil; she knew when to put her foot down when the rest of us got too rowdy, and, corralled by
my father into being a sports fan, went into labor at a Major League Baseball game. Her labor with me was long. I was breech. Dad, of course, was sequestered in the waiting room. They made her walk the halls of Labor and Delivery, clutching the railings with each contraction . . . alone. And after all that, after 9 months of their longing for a son, I turned out to be a girl. The rest is history: the rather, let’s just say, 'untraditional' childhood I had. Yes, my parents may have yearned for a boy, but Mom did everything in her power to appreciate and raise the girl I
turned out to be, and I doubt that any little girl has been loved more than she loved me. And even though she's not here this Mother's Day for me to fete, I smile when remembering her and can only hope I've even marginally filled her shoes as a mother, myself. To all of the adults reading this, my hope is that you can find some wonderful qualities and experiences your mother shares or shared with you, even though growing up might not have been a Leave It to Beaver experience. And to all of you mothers reading this, may you have a wonderful Mother's Day filled with love and laughter.