Hi, Carolyn: My husband's sister, "Kate," is expecting her second child. They have a 3-year-old girl. My husband and I have two girls, 8 and 6. At our house this week, Kate talked extensively about her hopes that this next baby is a boy. Some of her reasons are cultural — her husband comes from an ethnic background known for valuing maleness highly — but otherwise all she says is, "Of course, everybody wants one of each."
We didn't feel that way — we just wanted healthy kids and were excited to welcome whoever came our way.
Our 8-year-old overheard the conversation and has passed what she heard along to her sister in daily chitchat. I am wondering how to talk to her about what she overheard and help her to make sense of it in a way that doesn't vilify her aunt and uncle. Any ideas? She doesn't seem to be insulted or even have any personal reaction, she's just generally interested in the topic.
Explaining: The biggest risk is probably of making too much of an inane remark.
That’s why your best recourse is to rebut such generalizations lightly in the moment. E.g. “Hey, don’t speak for ‘everybody’ — I would have been happy with any combination of girls and boys.”
Same goes for when you overheard your kids talking about what Kate said. It would have been fine just to jump in. “I heard her say that, too! What did you think?” Then, in the course of the conversation, you’d get your chance to say you didn’t have any preference. And you could even talk a little bit, in an age-appropriate way, about how hard it is to say things about “everybody” when everyone has different opinions. Ahem. No names need to be named.
This is the kind of stuff you get to talk about over your kids’ entire childhood, so it doesn’t need to be a big deal that Kate may have sold your kids one little idea that you yourself don’t buy. Just use this as a reminder that things you care enough about to register concern are the ones you’ll want to talk — and listen — about with your kids.
Just a thought: Maybe Kate was trying to rationalize her husband’s bias as the province of “everybody.” As in: She could be struggling, too.
Re: One of each: When my parents were dating, my father was very clear he didn't want kids, and if he had kids, he definitely didn't want girls. He has three daughters and I have never felt, for a second, that he wished one of us were a boy, even when he told me this story. I wouldn't really be concerned about [what Kate said] — if you clearly love your kids for who they are, they're not going to fixate on one throwaway remark they heard.
Anonymous: Right, as long as parents walk the walk of loving and respecting the kids they have.
If such a parent then openly and frequently remarked that boys would have been so much easier because girls are all drama — and who has not heard someone say this? — then the remark becomes less of a throwaway and more of an expression of gendered worldview. Which neither boys nor girls need at this point.