I Am So Glad I Waited
I have a little baby daughter who recently turned one. For years I thought that I wanted to have a boy. Whenever asked about kids, I would always say 'he' to describe my yet unborn child. And then one day my wife got pregnant. I started to wonder more realistically about what would happen, about how our life would be... And then I started to wish I would have a daughter. For years I also thought that I would not necessarily want to know the sex of my child before his birth (see I did it again), but my wife had some very practical arguments that convinced me it would be better. So we asked. By then I was really hoping she would be a little girl. And a girl she was. We laughed when the doctor told us 'she is a little girl, no doubt, and she is not shy about it'...
In recent years, my relationship with my own father has become more and more strained, as I gradually (somewhat late, I would concede) came into some hard realizations about the man behind the father figure. The adult I have become will for ever be indebted to my parents for what the opportunities they created for me, but some of that has come at a great personal price. Growing up I spent a great deal of time on the receiving end of some things that now have me watching my own behavior to ensure that I will not follow in the same footsteps. I think awareness is a double-edge sword: on the one end it enriches your perceptions as you go through experiences, on the other end it does tend to magnify everything, good and not so good. As my wife puts it, I am at a stage where I have more awareness than I can sometimes cope with.
Looking around in the American society, I am not very fond of the role models offered for either of the two genders. On the one side, the all powerful, all blind, muscle-head that has all the cheerleaders dropping their pom-poms for him, and on the other far end of the continuums, the ascetic fashion model with years of guaranteed problems fighting her self image issues. As we do have that choice, I want to take her somewhere in Europe in a city with a rich history, during her formative years. I hope that by being surrounded with architectural beauty, and having the opportunity to visit all the greatest museums she will learn to appreciate things for more than their monetary value or their practicality, and that beauty is an equality valid criteria. And ultimately it will be her choice where in the world she wants live. I hope she is able to develop a view of this planet as a single entity, and that she does not view cultural and geopolitical barriers as anything more than what they are: human constructs to protect ourselves in our fear of 'the others'.
I had this preconceived notion that the first couple years of life would be like holding my breath until she would become more interactive. Turns out I could not have been further from the truth. From as far back as a month old, she was interested in communicating. While she lied down on her changing table, I used to tell the alphabet slowly and she would stare for an entire minute at the motion of my lips. These days she loves to tell herself the alphabet while she runs around. For the observer that I am, looking at her absorb the things around her is an endless source of pleasure. At times I catch her looking around her for the things she can name with her limited vocabulary, and when she finds something, there is nothing like her beaming face as she points as it calling it by its name. I wonder when she will start to form memories she will actually remember, and if starting early with language will have any influence at all. I have this belief that the reason we don't remember is because we do not yet store these experiences in terms of words. The future will tell.
I met some people who say that each of the parents should limit themselves to one language, so that there is no confusion in her mind as to what word belongs to what language. For a long time I thought I would do that. But since she was born, I have found myself speaking to her in 2 languages mainly, and sometime a third one. Her mom also speaks to her in the same 2. I have no expectations that she will learn both equally. For the fact that she spends more time with her stay at home mom, she will learn english sooner. My hope is that by the time she is in school, she will be able to speak both. But I will not put pressure on her to do so. I am not worried if she mixes both languages in the same sentence for a while. We will just have to help her deal with the surprise on people's face if they cannot understand her.. This may actually be a good school for understanding young that even the simplest things ('we do understand each other when we speak') are not to be taken for granted.
I love my daughter and thank her for the joy she has already given me, and I hope to live long enough to see the adult she will become.