While I'm away, readers give the advice.
On using privacy as a form of control • I lived in constant fear as a child that I was going to let slip one of our so-called "secrets" which I realize now were innocuous life details that no one but my parents would care about. And yet I remember getting in trouble many times for releasing this prized information. It made no sense to my child-self then, but now I see it as one more way my parents were trying to control both their lives and mine. It gave them a sense of security and fooled them into thinking they could control every detail. I make sure I never burden my own kids with that type of pressure.
On wishing for a child of one gender over the other • When I was pregnant, I wanted a girl desperately. I had visions of baking cookies, sharing secrets about boyfriends, and doing all sorts of girly things to make up for my deficient relationship with my mother. My first was a boy. I had a C-section with general anesthesia. The nurse asked me if I wanted to see the baby. I asked her the gender and, when told it was a boy, I opted for more sleep instead.
I love that little boy more than my own life. We baked cookies, and enjoyed each other's company doing boy things like digging for worms. My second was a boy, and I enjoyed him so much that when I was pregnant again, I was perfectly ecstatic with the idea of three boys.
My third was a girl. She does not enjoy baking or sewing and has never been open to learning any of the girl skills I envisioned teaching. She is secretive, and never confides in me about the smallest of life events. I love her dearly, but it certainly isn't the relationship I dreamed of.
My point is that before we have children, we picture certain relationships and ways of being a parent. Then the reality of each child, with his or her own unique personality, asserts itself. Just being open to enjoying the child you actually have, instead of the one you dreamed of, makes all the difference.
Carolyn Hax's column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.