I was remembering tonight that, when pregnant, I’d said I didn’t want a girl. I’d been relieved at the scan, when we saw definitively that he was a he. Now don’t get me wrong. Girls are great. I should know, I am one. But I’m not a girly girl. Sure, when I was little I played with dolls, tottered in my mum’s high heels, smeared on her lipstick. But, more often than not, I was with my brother climbing trees, jumping off walls, building dens and sending Action Man down a death slide. I once tried to shave my face, emulating my dad (RIP) using his razor blades. Cut my face to ribbons, but it still seemed cooler than any female accoutrements. Blame three older brothers for my tomboyishness.
So it was not misogyny (I don’t think) that worried me about having a girl. It was the inability to relate to girls and women. Girls and women seemed difficult, duplicitous, and untrustworthy. They cared what boys thought of them, they were coquettish, and I was the plain-Jane book-reading geek. Mystified by socialising – how to make and keep friends – I was bullied by the ‘mean girls’ clique. So, as a girl/woman, I knew the difficulties a girl could face. I didn’t want that for my daughter.
Fast forward several years. We find out that my boy’s dad has Asperger’s Syndrome (or is on the autistic spectrum, whichever terminology you prefer). We realise that darling son is likely an aspie too. His extreme quirks, fears, obsessions, oddities, extraordinary vocabulary, and extremely high IQ all make sense. No longer do I feel bewildered by his ‘tics’, ‘stims’ and OCD habits. The one where he had to lick his fingers in a particular order a thousand times a day. The one where he would grimace, flap his arms like a chicken, then jump (all in the space of a few seconds). Many more have come and gone. At the moment, his tics are mostly vocal (a lovely humming, where he goes up then down the scale again). Rather musical and rather lovely. But then, I suppose, I am biased.
I didn’t want a girl. But, I didn’t want an aspie either. I didn’t want a child who was teased by the teaching assistant, when he was overwhelmed with stimulation and would clamp his hands over his ears. I didn’t want a child who cried at birthday parties and clung to me, but would still refuse to leave. I didn’t want a child who didn’t want to go out, go to new places, eat new foods, acknowledge people or look them in the eye. One who couldn’t follow simple instructions, or would cry when being taught new things. One who already dominated me intellectually. I didn’t want a child that was bullied.
I got the child who mastered sarcasm, aged two. The child who reads better than most adults. Whose understanding of complex social situations, people’s intentions and true natures, is akin to psychic. The child who notices every little detail, tells me I am beautiful, and gives me a pep talk about how to cope when things get really bad. He is seven years old. He is as old as the hills.
We don’t always get what we want. And aren’t we lucky.