I’m going to be a terrible father. I say this not because of my own deep-seated insecurities, but because of irrefutable empirical evidence. Consider the following: We’re having a girl. The ultrasound confirmed beyond a reasonable doubt that my progeny lacks the proper reproductive organs to be considered a first-class citizen. I have nothing against girls. I have nothing for them either. They just seem to be a lot easier to ruin than boys. With a son, bruises are a valuable learning tool and negligence is a laid-back form of love. If I had a son and he grew up to be a man – as opposed to growing up to be a carrot or a wolverine – then I did the right thing, regardless of if that thing was a total shunning or beatings around the clock. But with girls, the only thing more unlimited than their potential is the number of ways I can fail as a father. If I’m too involved in my daughter’s life, I could turn her into a tomboy; if I’m not involved enough, she might spend her high school career day job shadowing a prostitute. I’ll consider myself to be an adequate parent if I can help my daughter find some kind of middle ground between becoming a softball player and growing up to be crack whore with daddy issues. I’d better start watching Dr. Phil.
The only thing more dangerous than over-parenting or under-parenting is parenting exactly the right amount. Raising a vibrant, successful child would be tragic. I’m not ashamed to admit I feel threatened by the very fetus I helped create (I’d feel even more threatened if it was a fetus I didn’t help create, but my wife made the rookie mistake of procreating with her own husband). According to Lola, I’ve already moved down a few pegs in the household’s hierarchy due to the impending arrival of the baby. I now rank somewhere between our two dogs and that ugly chair in the second bedroom my wife keeps asking me to throw away. Fortunately for me and the chair, we both have too much dead weight to be removed easily. I’m currently less popular than a child who spent the past month doing nothing but making my wife fat and kicking her in the bladder. This kid is going to get away with murder.
The ugly chair, which I obtained from an estate sale, is a source of both comfort and inspiration. Its last owner managed to hang onto it until his death, and I feel compelled to do the same. It should be an easy feat to pull off since Lola will kill me when she finds out I haven’t thrown it out yet.
It won’t take long for my daughter to surpass my own accomplishments, but I set the bar pretty low. My sole achievement is somehow managing to reproduce, and that’s only noteworthy because it defied the expectations of everyone on the planet. Take that Charles Darwin and senior class that voted me most likely to become a priest. Simply being a parent isn’t much to be proud of. There are fifteen-year-olds walking around with entire litters of children, but I guess that’s one of the advantages of attending public school. The list of things I’ve accomplished that a rabbit can’t is depressingly short. I manage to dress myself without bloodshed most mornings, and I’ve successfully opened every jar I’ve encountered for at least the last three years. I’m starting to feel the pressure of the streak, though. The last time my wife asked me to open a stubborn container of pickles, I agreed to do it, but only after I went to the bathroom to throw up.
A jar of pickles is an adversary as cunning as it is delicious. Actually, the jar itself tastes terrible, but that’s just one of the many hard and severely lacerating lessons I’ve learned while defending my streak.
I’m sure to be a negative influence on my daughter, but she’ll have an equally adverse impact on me. Immediately upon her birth, I’ll be outnumbered in this family two to one by what scientists agree is the lamer gender. If my little girl takes after her mother – who hates roller coasters, violence for violence’s sake, and America – I’ll be on the losing side of every vote for vacation destinations, restaurant options, and movie choices for the next eighteen years. It may be almost two decades before I get to see Violence Orgy Six: Napalm Espresso, even if the blurbs from the movie reviews assure us it’s “gratuitously awesome.” I could correct this gender imbalance by having a second kid, but the only thing more dangerous than one daughter is two. If my current luck holds, I could end up with fifteen or sixteen girls before I get a boy. I have to imagine Lola would take issue with that approach. Pumping out that many babies would interfere with her God-given duties of cleaning the house and cooking dinner, which in our progressive household would be simply unacceptable.
Contrary to everything I’ve said in this article and at every other point in my life, I actually wanted a girl. My reasoning was twofold. First, I predicted we would have a girl, and the most important thing in successful a marriage is being right all the time no matter what. Second, everybody I know is having a boy. I was worried the impending gender imbalance would lead to the extinction of the human race. I guess I’m just too altruistic for my own good. Based on how the ultrasound went a few weeks ago, though, it was hard to tell I was excited about having a girl. In what may prove to be an important bit of foreshadowing, I developed a severe case of the flu on the afternoon of Lola’s doctor appointment. I missed the actual gender announcement because I was down the hall curled over a toilet. I plan to spend most of my daughter’s childhood in the same position. While I was indisposed, the technician told Lola that on ultrasound images boys’ nether regions look like turtle heads while girls’ look like hamburgers. I’d put up the pictures confirming we’re having a girl, but I’m not sure how child pornography laws apply to the unborn, or to reptile documentaries and McDonald’s ads for that matter.
Before the ultrasound, all of the baby clothes we amassed were at least somewhat gender neural. Now that we know what we’re having, we can start stocking up on burlap sacks, pink leather jackets, and whatever else it is that little girls wear.
Lola isn’t due until May, so I still have a few months to think of new and inventive ways to mess up our child. It took us longer to name our dogs than to pick out a name for our daughter, so we’re off to a good start. See you soon, dear.