Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Possibilities

Now Playing: America - A Horse With No Name 

My coworker left on maternity leave a few Wednesdays ago. Meaning her baby was born on a Wednesday of August, as per the doctor's scheduling.

She worked until the very last minute and won't be gone for long. I realized recently I've been working at the company for roughly the same amount of time she's been pregnant. It feels lengthy to me. I wonder how the time felt to her.

The Thursday after she gave birth, she sent me a picture of the newborn baby after I texted her congratulations. He looked very squishy and confused. Very adorable.

My aunt Priscilla is pregnant as well, but I think she's not due until mid to late October. She has one son who I met once when I was all of sixteen and he was two.

(Picture my aunt sent my mom a year later;3 or 4 years old.)
The summer I went back to Ecuador, he was this tiny blonde creature who, within seconds of meeting me, was somewhat shy but immensely curious. He was utterly transfixed with the camera option on my phone. (He took a lot of selfies). I let him use my computer to write--by which I mean he slammed the keyboard senselessly and stared in awe at the words appearing on screen. And I played Call of Duty with him--which means he grabbed the PlayStation controller and made his character spin around in place while shooting at the sky.

In many ways, he was exactly like a toddler. Energetic, messy,  and entertained by the same nonsensical jokes and repetitive game, with a short attention span and a limited perception of reality. But until I interacted with him, I think I forgot toddlers--no matter how many universal traits they display due to their still developing minds--can be individuals.

I remember almost every second of our limited time together. Whenever we had a bag of chips on hand, he used to insist on feeding me. He'd pop a chip in his mouth and then hold another one to my lips. We watched a dozen parasailing videos but he got instantly bored at all the Disney movies and shorts I tried to start for him. We reacted the same way to the musicians that showed up at a restaurant and walked around playing music for tips: we were amazed and enthralled. We also had the same reaction to a lemon-based cake our grandmother bought: we scrunched up our faces and flailed in the chair. (The adults, however, loved it).

I particularly remember when we went to the bank, my aunt had to leave for five minutes while we (Mom and I) still needed to talk to a banker. My aunt left her son with us, and while we waited in line, I held him in my arms. He searched the crowd, worried, sad, repeating, "Mama Pris? Mama Pris?" I told him she'd be back soon, trying to talk to him in a soothing voice, but it was like he couldn't hear me. The near future didn't matter because it was a concept that his mind couldn't yet grasp. All he knew was the information presented to him in the moment: his mom was gone.

I was the first grandchild in that side of the family. My aunt and my grandmother adored the little girl who played with dolls and loved dresses and liked Barbie and Hello Kitty and the color pink. I'm sure she was sufficiently adorable for them. Sadly, she grew up, and though a slight obsession with dresses and playing pretend remains, she doesn't quite fit into her pink princess outfits anymore.

She didn't have little sisters, just a little brother. She was the last young girl in that side of the family, Uncles are too young for children as of this writing and my mom and dad decided two kids two years apart was all they really wanted/needed/could handle.

All hope lied on my aunt to bring another pretty princess to the world. I knew from the second I heard about her first pregnancy that most of us were hopeful for a girl--my aunt and grandmother especially. Then my baby cousin came along and as far as we know, he has been and always will be a "he" till the end of his days.

When I heard there was another baby coming, I remember telling my mom, "They want a girl, don't they?" She agreed, and I said, "It's going to be a boy. Because that's how the universe works."

Blind guessing and nonsensical predictions, but yeah, I like to think that's how the universe works most of the time: it fucks you over in the most inconsequential ways.

And I was right. She's having another boy. When the news reached me, I couldn't stop laughing. Evil Disney sorceress level laughter, all I needed was the thunderclap.

About a year ago, I discovered there are plenty of good, loving, thoughtful parents that react negatively to news of the biological sex of their children. We all say, "I don't care so long as they're healthy," but most of us secretly have a preference. I once found discussion forums of parents who were severely disappointed to find out they were having a boy when they wanted a girl and vice versa. And there's nothing to do in those situations except go, "well. Shit."

Now this topic gets kinda complicated. Because I know there are people who will try to terminate pregnancies if they hear disappointing news, and a lot of it also has to do with where they live, what their views are, etc. I know there's also a debate to be had about imposing weird gender norm expectations on newborn babies. "I want a boy so I can teach him to play football. I want a girl so I can go get our nails done together all the time." (What if your girl wants to learn to play football and the smell of nail polish make her nauseous? What if your boy thinks neon blue nails look amazing and hates sports that require being beneath the scorching summer sun?) Plus, you know, issues involving people who lie outside the gender binary.

But that's the thing. When I heard that my aunt was having another boy, I wasn't just cackling like an evil witch who cast a No Girls Ever curse on the entire maternal side of my family. I was really, really happy. And relieved.

If they'd been told there was a baby girl coming their way, all these expectations would have instantly manifested. And all these girly scenarios and futures would have been ingrained in the parents and grandparents (of both sides). And whoever that child became, she wouldn't have been able to live up to their wishes. She wouldn't have played the part they wanted her to play, even if she managed to stick to their script on occasion.

No child can ever live up to all the hopes and expectations of their parents. But I'm glad that my second baby cousin, whoever he might be or however he might change, is already set for a million possibilities no one can predict.

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"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.