I never wanted a girl. I wanted two boys. Rambunctious, dirty, spitting, mop-haired, ant-burning, fart-joke-making, man-part-toting, princess-hating boys.
We found out my wife was pregnant with our first child on a winter evening in 2008. She emerged from the bathroom in our Madison Park home holding something she’d peed on that indicated she was roughly 4-6 weeks pregnant.
We hugged and talked for a couple minutes and she went to change out of her work clothes. I nervously chugged a Coors Light and did a Google search that informed me we would confirm the child’s maleness in another three months.
I retired to the kitchen to make dinner, excited and nervous to bring my first son into this world. The next day, for Valentine’s Day, I went to the now-shuttered Baby USA store on South Boulevard and bought my wife a pair of baby boy shoes adorned with sporting equipment.
Roughly 12 weeks later we left the ultrasound office on Randolph Road with an envelope containing fuzzy imagery of our first-born’s sex parts. It would have been easier to coronate his masculinity in the office, but the technician never appreciated my jokes about the fetus looking like the love child of Yoda and a gummy bear. So I convinced my wife that we should cut her out of the moment.
We returned to work, and reconvened later at home on the couch. I popped a split of champagne and poured myself a glass and my wife a thimble. (Why a thimble? She was pregnant with our firstborn. When we found out she was pregnant with Kid #2 she poured herself a full glass and polished it off with three slices of unmicrowaved deli meat). We opened the envelope and there were three words with arrows pointing to three protrusions in the picture. “Foot. Foot. Boy.” Mission accomplished.
Four years later, with Kid #1 in tow, we headed back to the ultrasound office to receive the inevitable news that he would be welcoming his little brother into the world. The tech was a different one than our first child and she laughed at my jokes, so we decided to get the good news in person. All was going as planned until five minutes into the ultrasound, when we heard these petrifying words in a thick, Southern drawl: “Ayeeee thaahnk…Ayeeee thaahnk it might could be a guuurl.”
I love the South but I also despise a few things, including the painfully noncommittal use of the phrase “might could.” Used alone, the words “might” or “could” suggest an either/or proposition. A 50/50 chance. Used together, is that like a 25 percent chance? Or does the repetitive nature compound it to a 75 percent chance?
Either way, for the first time I was facing a world where I wasn’t 100 percent sure we were having another set of balls in the family.
My stomach dropped. My wife excitedly smiled and my face did something where my mouth said happy but my eyes said prostate exam. Poor Kid #1 just looked horribly confused. I ran out of the room, packed my bags and took up temporary residency in a state of Denial. There was no way were having a daughter.
It took the tech another three or four painfully agonizing minutes and she finally confirmed my fears: “Congratulations, you’re having a little girl!”
My mind became panicked and laser focused. I have to repaint a room. We have to buy new toys. We saved all those boy clothes and now we have to buy dresses. I have to change girl diapers, gross. Bras. Tampons. Tampons? I have to find out in her teenage years that my wife has been buying her birth control pills. She’s going to date a guy with pencil beard. We have to pay for a wedding. I gotta stop watching Teen Mom 2. I should probably stop watching that anyway.
I took a deep breath and looked at my wife, who could not have been more thrilled to hear we were having a daughter, which reminded me how excited we both were to have a son. I’m being a compete ass. The baby is healthy and that’s obviously all that really matters. We’re beyond fortunate to have two healthy kids.
On that final thought I managed a better smile to my wife, and turned to Kid #1 and in this weird Pauly Shore-esque voice said, “You’re having a little SISTER buddy! Isn’t that exciting!” His response was straight-faced and factual. “No, I’m having a brudder.”
This back and forth continued until he and I got back into the car. “I DON’T WANT A SISTER!” he yelled for the tenth time. We made eye contact as I reversed the car and in a moment of unnecessary honesty, I spouted, “You know what? I didn’t want a girl either but this is what we’ve been dealt and we’re going to be happy. It’s a good life lesson. Some people don’t get to have sisters. She’s healthy and that’s all that matters!”
To which he replied, “Life lessons are stupid.” He was right so I just corrected his use of the word stupid. We drove back to the Park Road Kindercare in silence.
In the months that followed, I excitedly repainted a room, choosing yellow for her instead of pink because pink is a gateway to princesses and teen pregnancy and a stripper pole and porn. I scoured the Internet for a picture I’d seen years ago of a blonde girl reaching for a star, and hung it on her wall. I hung up the sports equipment mobile I’d made for Kid #1 on her crib. I stepped back and starred at the wooden baseball, basketball and soccer ball, and clipped off the football. “It’s ok,” I smiled. “She can play the others.”
On a warm March day in 2012, Kid #2 was born a healthy, happy little girl at Carolinas Medical Center. “We’ll love her and embrace her femininity,” I proudly told Kid #1, who looked confused as he helped me change one of her first diapers. “Femininity means she’s a girl,” I clarified.
And then I realized it wasn’t my words that were confusing him. “Where is her pee-pee?” he asked. I mumbled something, hurriedly finished wiping and never let him watch me change another diaper again.
The first night in the maternity ward I noticed all of the rooms have quotes on the outside of the doors. Ours was from Florence Nightingale, who I later learned was a trailblazer for gender equality and not just a sexist punch line in Meet the Fockers. “I think one’s feelings waste themselves in words; they ought all to be distilled into actions which bring results,” it read. I resolved to immediately like this woman and started brushing up on Title IX.
In the three years that followed I waged a holy war on all things that society would stereotype as girly. She got sports equipment, not dolls. When we were alone I put her in the Boppy seat and turned on monster trucks. I taped a picture of our family over the princess on the inside of a toy flip phone. Pink clothes? Not a chance. Neutral colors all the way. Anyone who brought a Barbie doll within ten feet of her was issued a 30-day restraining order.
Right around potty training age she asked me if she could pee outside like me and Kid #1. I told her we’d give it shot, but it turned out she couldn’t. She stood there, bare legs covered in pee. “Dadda why can’t I pee standing up?” she asked.
“I don’t know? I guess because you’re a girl?” I replied, and shrugged my shoulders.
It’s been exactly four years since she came into this world and, when I look back, despite all my efforts, most of my fears have come true.
God, she loves pink. She loves princesses. She loves to wear dresses and twirl in the middle of the NFL Play 60 park at Freedom Park. We have baby dolls and mermaids and princess dresses and castles and glitter and fingernail polish and dollies and ponies. She takes dance classes. I know the theme song to Sophia the First and the reboot of Strawberry Shortcake. Yes, they rebooted Strawberry Shortcake and, yes, Strawberry and her fruit salad of friends are just as terrible as they were in the ‘80s. She loves Taylor Swift.
But a funny thing happened as she fell in love with all the things I begged her to hate. I really, really liked seeing how excited she became over the things she loved. Like addicted to how excited she became.
I love to see her smile when she watches Frozen, or stand in another room and listen when she belts out “Let it Go.” I love to watch her twirl and get dizzy and fall to the ground laughing. We play with her tea set and dolls and she always makes sure I have plenty to eat and drink.
I painted her nails for the first time; a favor she repaid by painting mine in a purple glitter that wouldn’t come off for days. I know there are five first positions in ballet and she is constantly correcting my pizza slice. Nothing can make me like Sophia the First but I love cuddling with her while she watches it. The cuteness of her asking me to play “Taylor Swoof” and “Blad Blood” nearly makes it bearable to listen to Taylor Swift.
Of course, I also learned along the way that I was being a complete and utter moron (a realization I should really just broadly apply to my thoughts on most things in life). Liking pink and princesses doesn’t mean you can’t also kick literal and figurative ass.
She punches harder than most kids and is in the midst of committing genocide on our yard’s ant population. She runs faster in garage sale hot pink cowboy boots than most four year olds can manage in $50 Under Armours. She farts and burps with an impressive bass and frequency.
She knows I’ll die laughing if she walks by and whispers “poop” in my ear. Over Christmas, my father-in-law said grace during dinner, and she later took me aside and whispered, “Grandpa said Jesus Christ and we’re not supposed to say that. Or buttface.”
Dressed in Elsa gowns, she base jumps off park equipment at heights that make other parents audibly gasp. If your kid takes her stuff without asking she will either bite your kid or herself out of anger – hope to hell it’s herself because she breaks skin. Last summer, while twirling at Freedom Park, she snapped out of her Cinderella trance just long enough to pancake block some random kid who dared enter her airspace. And it turns out she can pee outside as long as she has something to lean against.
A family friend nicknamed her the Blonde Bomber because of her sun bleached hair and less-than-dainty manner. I love the power of that nickname. No one is going to screw with a girl named Bomber. Bomber will dominate anything you put in front of her. Bomber will never be mistreated by anyone. Bomber will find a glass ceiling and explode through it. Bomber even has a great grandfather who actually loaded bombs onto planes during World War II. God, I love that nickname. But I rarely call her by it. I call her my Honey Bunny.
In the end, I guess I didn’t get anything that I was expecting and more than I ever could have hoped. This week she turns 4, and I couldn’t be more in love with my doll-toting, princess-loving, bug-killing, pink-loving, man-farting, glittery, foul-mouthed, sitting-down-to-pee little girl.
Happy Birthday, Princess Kid #2.