Parents always say they don’t have a favorite child.
Everyone eventually learns that’s bullshit. I knew it earlier than most. I have four baby siblings, born anywhere from 9-12 years after me. And hell, yeah, I had a favorite.
Pretty Space Cadet Sister spat up on everything as a baby. She was not my favorite.
Obviously, Baby Screaming Sister was also not my favorite.
Boyfriend-Stealing Baby Sister began her life of crime early, starting with my stuffed animals. Definitely not my favorite.
My favorite was Baby Brother. Despite his rocky beginnings in the NICU, he was the easiest baby. The surgeons did such an amazing job putting his innards back where they belonged that the kid never spat up. (When he threw up, it was projectile vomiting on a Exorcist like scale, but that was rare.) He laughed easily, rarely cried, and thought I was the bomb.
Heck, with him I was the bomb. We built helicopters out of giant tinker toys. We shot each other with flashlights. We turned his cozy coup into a race car and won the Indy 500, crushing Future Lawyer Sister and Baby Screaming Sister. When I threw a comforter over my head and pretended to be “Amoeba Man,” (7th grade science had its uses), Baby Brother shrieked and giggled hysterically as I engulfed him. He would say, “Tan we pway Amoeba Man?! Pwease?”
Baby Screaming Sister, on the other hand, had screaming nightmares about Amoeba Man. By order of my mother, Amoeba Man was forcibly retired. Paramecium Man suffered a similar fate.
Baby Brother was all fun and no drama. I knew I didn’t want kids — not then, maybe not ever — but if I had to have one, I wanted a little boy just like Baby Brother.
Until I started babysitting for other boys. Seven-year-old boys, to be exact. They didn’t listen when you told them not to touch/ eat/ step on stuff, then broke/ ate the stuff that you told them not to touch, and then lied to their parents about having broken/ eaten the stuff. One seven-year-old boy locked my older sister in the basement so he and his younger brothers could pour chocolate milk all over the kitchen floor and make milk pictures.
After that, we only babysat for girls. Girls colored nicely. Girls played with My Little Ponies and liked to do our hair. Girls were positively restful, at least in our neighborhood. The only danger with girls was being burned by a curling iron. (Future Lawyer Sister learned that lesson the hard way.)
When Andy and I got married, our nieces smiled adorably and behaved perfectly (aside from the six-month-old who puked on my dress). Our nephews? Not so much. Pretty Space Cadet Sister’s son commandeered a bellhop cart and ran amok, overturning the water for the bouquets on my wedding dress (damn, that wedding dress took a beating). The other nephew had to be hauled out of the ceremony for yelling just before I walked up the aisle.
Years later, when I got pregnant, my Chinese-American husband upended thousands of years of cultural misogyny by declaring he wanted us to have a baby girl. I told him we were destined for a boy. He argued that I could not possibly know this, and angrily accused me of not wanting a girl.
“Of course I want a girl! I am a girl, and girls are awesome, and I feel like there’s so much I could teach a girl to counteract the harmful messages she’d get from the patriarchy and the media,” I explained. “Also, it would really piss off your dad.”
“Then why are you so sure it’s boy?!” Andy practically yelled. As if not having a girl would somehow be my fault, which was ridiculous since it was HIS SPERM that decided our child’s sex.
“Because I just know, is all. Because boys are exhausting and that’s just my fate, all right?”
“I don’t believe you,” Andy grumbled. “Baby D could be a girl.”
Secretly, I hoped I’d be wrong. Like Andy, I wanted an adorable, amiable little girl like our nieces. We both went into my seventeenth week ultrasound anxious to learn our baby’s gender.
Baby D had other ideas. Baby D curled up like a little cannon ball, hiding its genitals.
“Well,” said our special ultrasound doctor, “the good news is that everything else appears to be developing normally. Maybe next time we’ll be able to see if it’s a boy or a girl.”
Andy gave a massive sigh.
“Isn’t there anything I can do?” I asked. “We’ve been dying to know, and this kid has a couple of grandparents that won’t leave us alone until they know if their Number One Son is having his Number One Son.” (This was — surprisingly — a complete lie. Andy’s father had only called once since learning we were pregnant. The man had apparently given up on his son ever having a child. Either our pregnancy had stunned him silent or he was afraid to jinx it by calling.)
The doctor — another man — took pity on us. He suggested that I jump up and down and touch my toes while he checked on another patient.
When he returned, I was sweaty.
Baby D hadn’t moved.
“Damn it,” I said. “Obstinate already.”
The doctor tried to cheer us up by pointing out a hand. “See that? Baby is waving! Hi, Mom! Hi…oh…no, not waving,” he said with a chuckle. “It looks like your baby is doing something else, actually. Baby is pulling on another appendage. This behavior almost always means that baby is checking out his penis…and yes, there it is! Definitely male!”
Andy stared at the screen as the doctor moved the cursor around, showing us more views of our child playing with himself. I patted Andy’s hand and heroically refrained from saying, “I told you so!”
Instead, I asked, “Are you okay?”
Andy laughed, turned to me with a huge grin, and said,
“That’s my boy!”