When looking at the sonogram, we have no clue what we’re actually seeing. The sonographer sometimes says, “This is baby’s foot.” Or “You can’t really see it, but here are baby’s eyes and nose.” Other times, she just types “ARM L” and “ARM R” and saves the images, the computer chiming and then churning the data with a hum.
So I didn’t know we were looking at our baby’s first cockshot until the sonographer inserted an arrow pointing at the small blob that was our child’s penis and typed, “IT’S A BOY!!!”
Yes, in all caps with multiple exclamation points.
Of course, the caps and exclamations didn’t come close to capturing my joy. Anyone that asked me what I preferred, a boy or a girl, heard the answer before they could even finish the question. “BOY!!!” The next question was always, “Why?” without any caps or exclamations, mostly a suspicious curiosity, as if they didn’t understand why I answered with such immediacy.
My reasons ranged from “Law & Order: SVU” to boys can’t get pregnant to the NFL won’t allow a woman to suit up and play in my child’s lifetime–even if she was just a kicker. Some people told me I was sexist, but I shut that down quick by saying, “The world is a fucked up place for women,” and listing all the injustices towards women I could think of, which usually ended the conversation. No one wants to talk about whether you want a boy or a girl when you quickly turn the conversation into a discussion of female genital mutilation as a tool of oppression.
The real reason, which I’ve only told Jaime, is that I wanted a boy because I wanted to stop the cycle of abandonment. My father wasn’t exactly Ward Cleaver, or even Dan Connor. He left before I was born, and I never met him, but, according to my mother, his fledgling career as an acid dealer was only overshadowed by his gap-toothed smile and stocky but short stature. (Apparently, a man who could file a legitimate tax return and reach something without a stepping stool are qualities my mother didn’t find attractive.)
I can only assume my father’s father did the same to him, scoring somewhere between Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Ryan O’Neal on the scale of bad fathers. Between the two, there are more than a dozen kids, almost as many STDs, multiple accounts of abandonment and abuse, including forced drug use (O’Neal made Tatum snort coke to lose weight.), and one MTV-broadcasted ride to the welfare office in a limousine. If this is what my childhood could have been like, it’s probably better that my father left.
But growing up as a boy without a father made becoming a man challenging. I often blamed myself for his absence–if I only I had been smart enough to understand the complexities of hallucinogenics distribution–and felt ashamed for being different from nearly all of my Catholic school classmates, of whom only a couple didn’t have parents, both dying in tragic accidents where the entire class mourned with them. I, on the other hand, was called a fat bastard so much I wondered if my classmates even knew my real name. (Once the real Fat Bastard came along, I really should have sued Mike Myers for copyright infringement.) Most of the things a father would teach his son I had to learn on my own–and rarely did I do them right.
So, when we first found out Jaime was pregnant, I hoped for a boy because I wanted to make sure he’d know all the things I didn’t, like how to tie a Windsor knot, shave without making his neck look like a case of stigmata or pee standing up, all essential elements of manhood that my mother, despite her best efforts, was never able to teach me. If we were having a girl, the cycle would still end with me, but by having a boy, I could ensure a new cycle would begin, one where dad was always there–even for the gross parts.
The same couldn’t be achieved with a girl because if she became a mother, she would always be expected to be there, to band-aid the boo-boos and put dinner on the table (I’m not saying this is how it should be, but let’s be real here.), which is why when moms abuse and neglect, like Casey Anthony or the two moms who left their combined 10 kids, ranging from seven months to 11-years-old, in a Chevy Tahoe while they were out drinking, the media frenzy is immutable. (I still don’t understand why “When Moms Attack” isn’t a TV show. You heard it here first.)
Unfortunately, fathers aren’t held to the same standards, and little is said about the one out of three children in America that grow up without a father in the home (Is it just me or is this number unbelievably staggering?) and the numerous effects growing up without a father has on a child. (Here’s a taste: 63 percent of all youth suicides; 71 percent of pregnant teenagers; 85 percent of all youth in prisons; 90 percent of all homeless and runaway children; and 71 percent of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes.)
Being there won’t mean that my son is guaranteed to not be a fuck-up, but he will have a father to guide him into manhood, to teach him how to shave, knot a tie and pee without having to squat, which is more than I ever knew as a boy, and as a parent, I think that’s all I can hope for–that I’m able to provide a better life for my child than I had.
And if he acts up, I always have the threat of embarrassing him by showing everyone his first cockshot.