As a guy, when you announce that you're going to be having a baby, the first thing that happens is that you are furiously pushed out of the way so people can find the mom-to-be. Then, once you navigate through all the initial shock questions like, "Oh my god, were you trying to get pregnant?" and, "Who else knows?! AM I THE FIRST?!" you tend to wind up here....
"Do you want a boy or a girl?"
Most people will answer that question the same way. Something about how it doesn't matter, you just pray for a happy, healthy baby. For me that wasn't enough, I needed a happy, healthy baby girl. Not to fulfill some idea of having "daddy's girl" and it wasn't because I think my wife is stunningly beautiful (scoring points right this second) and I know we'd have a gorgeous little girl together. Tobey McGuire tells us that any story worth telling is about a girl, which seems a bit sexist and is coming from a guy who sported a mullet when he was young. Regardless, this story is about a girl. The adorable little girl who holds the honor of being the one who warmed my icy heart to the idea of having kids.
Her name...get this...is Maya. Isn't that sweet? Doesn't that already make you want to vomit out a glazed sugar cube? A beautiful little girl with very curly hair and the type of attitude that pushes you away while forcing you to be drawn right back in. When she was young was being watched during the day by her aunt, an awesome friend of mine who was a stay-at-home mom for a number of years and did an amazing favor for her brother by watching Maya. Even though it couldn't have been a very big deal. She's so cute I assume she was just placed into a flower basket and carted around while she made little giggles and smiled all the time.
So, because I'm an astonishingly good friend, I would stop by on my way home from work to visit with my friend and give her some company that could actually talk back. Visit after visit, Maya started to warm up to me. Till one day, when I was sitting on the floor, Maya carefully walked over to me and place a number of blankets on my lap. I sat in awe while she created a little nest out of them, tucking and folding to make a comfortable spot in the middle. When she was satisfied, and without a word, she stood up and turned her back to me and...PLOP! She went completely boneless and all her weight snuggled right in to her new home on my lap where she resumed watching TV. I can't say everyone would have been so struck by this moment as I was, but I remember just staring at my friend for several seconds thinking, "a little kid likes me!" It was an amazing feeling! I wanted to race home and put a baby in my wife's belly so my own little girl would sit on my lap.
As my visits continued, my bond with this little girl also grew, and I was reminded of a pretty interesting moment with her during lunch yesterday. Maya loved getting read to, and I was more than happy to go through books with her. She really enjoyed the standard cardboard ones with simple pictures and a word. My favorite picture/word combo was "HAT" that was illustrated with one of those really bad hats that you might see at the Kentucky Derby. No offense if that's your style ladies, I just can't pull them off. Chalk it up to jealousy. When I would say "hat" to her, I would say the "a" sound for way too long, and end with a very sharp "t" at the end. She seemed to find it funny, and before too long she was repeating it back to me. I was on top of the world! I taught a child something!
The word "hat" became a greeting of sorts between us, and she identified me with the word because I always wore a hat to work. I was told at one point that "hat" might have been her first word, which was extra cool for my ego as I walked around thinking I had reshaped the planets by teaching a cute little girl one word. Then this happened...
"Ev! I have a funny story for you!" <----Maya's Aunt/Awesome Lady
"Maya was eating dinner and said 'hat' for her parents finally!"
*laughing* "That's awesome! Someday children across the world will know this word because of my actions!"
"Yeah, but that's not the best part..."
"Well, she was eating cereal and to show what a hat was, she took the full bowl, milk and all, and just flipped it upside down while yelling, 'HAAAAT!"
Maya's parents were not too upset, but they were less than thrilled with the mess involved. For the record, I did not teach her to do that.
Years later when William was finally born, I knew right away that if he was going to succeed in life, he was gonna need to know how to say "hat." I started his training right away and eventually he learned it quite well. Knowledge he shared at lunch today. As I sat with him at the table, while he ate/smeared peanut butter all over his plate, I waited for my queue to bring out the pretzels. Generally when he's done with his sandwich I get a very insistent, "Pretzels please!"
Today all I heard was, "Hat!" I looked over to see bits of sandwich and a plate covered in peanut butter, all placed nicely over William's head. He had an amazing smile on his face, so proud of his knowledge, and he waited very happily for me to praise his genius level brain. I thought back to Maya's story and did my best to explain to a toddler that even though he is both awesome and correct, I really didn't want him to ever do that again...ever. I cleaned him up and sent him off to play. I felt pretty content about it. I never got my girl (sorry grandparents...no more for us) but it's really okay! The boys give me all the love that made me want to have kids in the first place.
And clearly, boy or girl...there's gonna be food on their head.