here’s the truth of it, in all its ugliness: raising a boy is making me a better person. not a better parent, mind you. but a more rounded human being.

i didn’t know i needed reinvention. but turns out those beer ads from college were correct: what does not kill you makes you strong.

or at least, less of a bigot.

i blame SuperBowl XXVI for some of my former wayward and biased assumptions. in 1992,  my birthday was the same weekend as the SuperBowl. i spent most of my supposed “party” perched on the corner of my boyfriend’s dumpster-dived couch choking on the acrid fumes of weed and spicy chicken wings for eight straight hours of joyous pregame- and game-centric celebration with a pack of 200 lb boys and ten 2-4s of beer. nobody – boyfriend included – said two words to me other than, “chips?”

what’s wrong with that, you ask? even in college, i didn’t like beer. or football. not even a little. and chips are nice and all, but they are not birthday cake.

somehow, i have been bitter about “manly” pursuits ever since.

on twitter last week, there was a brief flurry of discussion on moms of girls only vs. moms of boys only. it raised the question of whether boy moms and girl moms end up being different from each other, in spite of being otherwise similar in age, tastes, class, career, education, etc.

and the consensus seemed to be yeh, a little, overall.

and i can see it. or at least, i could see it in ME, had things gone a little differently.

(aside: those of us with children of both sexes were cruelly ostracized from this conversation. please note that we need enlightenment too, people! a little “are you a bi-mom?” quiz would help me know myself, please and thankyou. stage direction: end self-mockery of stereotype i am actually trying to explore.)

when i was a little girl, and lived in a mindscape constructed mostly of cast-off and stolen characters & scenarios from Victorian children’s literature, all hard-knock lives and depths of despair and pretty pinafores, the so-called world of boys seemed like a foreign land.

i tried, occasionally, to venture there. not so much in person: the boys i knew were relegated, in my egocentric universe, to occasional supporting roles of annoying little brother or know-it-all classmate. i did not know enough about dinosaurs or Star Wars to talk to them past first grade.

i thought of their world as a strange exotica populated by Spiderman cartoons, boring little metal cars that never went anywhere and Dukes of Hazzard pyjamas.

i created families in my doodle pads, large multi-generational family trees populated by imaginary people with extraordinary names. i killed off the parents ruthlessly, dull folk named George and Sandra and Ervin and Eunice, gave them dates of death and tidy tombstones. but their children, whom i frequently sent to orphanages dressed in middies and awkward lederhosen sewn from curtains a la Sound of Music? well, some of those children had to be boys. so i drew Jasons and Norberts and Antonys, and relegated them to the rat-infested basements of the asylums inhabited by their far more interesting sisters.

i didn’t really them see them, as a whole, as characters, worthy of empathy or inner lives.  i mistook the stuff that didn’t interest me – the superheroes, the sports, the whole discourse of boyhood – as a sign that the entire gender were dismissable.

yeh, i liked a few of ’em. but i treated boyfriends – particularly after that unfortunate SuperBowl birthday – as rare fossilized humans trapped in the amber of maleness, that most regrettable rock.

and i never imagined myself the mother of a boy. i wanted girls, absolutely. but beyond that, far more importantly, i thought that to be the mother of a boy was to be forever stuck at that SuperBowl party with nobody to say three words to and my nose permanently crinkled in bewildered distaste.

and that, i venture, is exactly how i’d feel today if i’d never had a boy.

mothers are, uh, female. meaning that that most of them were once female children. and a lot of the female children i knew back when i was myself a female child shared exactly the same opinion of boys that i did: ewww. admittedly, a lot of us later changed our tunes, at least regarding individual exceptions to the rule, but i suspect that for many the prejudice against male things and manly pursuits and so-called “boy stuff” remains. fair enough. i still don’t like football.

but i don’t get to perform my parenthood as a bastion against it, draw simple lines that exclude it and keep me and my offspring safely spared, relegated to our “girl things” and smugly superior in our remove. i don’t have to encourage my son to like it, but i do have to reign in my contempt, consider it, try to offer him literacies and considered views as he begins to negotiate the world of what boys are “supposed” to like.

i don’t know if it’ll ever do my kid any favours. but i think it may have actually made me a bigger person.

that, and the nachos i’ve just eaten writing this post through the SuperBowl.