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August 10, 2009 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Congratulations, it’s a boy


Every New Zealander wants to raise an All Black; it’s a never-ending cycle of hope and disappointment. It starts with the baby branded stretch ‘n’ grows, leading to the rough and tumble toddler play fights, which soon develops into the wrestling in the mud in the schoolyard. Eventually you get the tweens actually learning the rules and techniques of the game, aiming for the top college teams, and all they can see in their future is rugby and the after parties. It’s all about planning, that’s the only reason why people ask what sex the baby is when it’s still the foetus floating in icky fluids, because they want to start scheduling the trainings and organise club teams.

If you reply that you’re expecting a girl you often get a drawled out “Oh, that’s nice”, and a couple of pink knitted cardigans. Exclaim that you’re expecting a boy and you get that enthusiastic “A boy! A little tyke! Someone to catch the pigskin and pass on the family name.” A boy kicking around in the womb has strong legs, is a little fighter just like his dad and is going to be a famous footy player when he grows up. A baby girl kicking around in the womb and pressing on your bladder is just a little shit making you want to pull them from your uterus and put them on one of those leashes you see stressed mums using at Kmart.

Why is it that girls are put in dresses, even though adults know they are going to throw their legs around the place? They wear those tacky bow headbands in their bald heads, just to make their 8 strands of hair look more feminine. Parents put nappy pants on girls to cover their nappies, as if people don’t know what they’re wearing. However, boys get to run around in nothing but their nappy. I was an activist from day one, ripping off my nappy in the most inappropriate situations, just to make it clear to my parents that I didn’t approve. It was my contribution to the bra burning protests. To this day I can’t think of anything as liberating. I was the child who would tug at the neck of my skivvy, I’d flick my scrunchies at the boys, and I cut the frills off my rash suit.

My dad, like most other Kiwi dads, dreamt of having healthy active children. I imagine he visualised taking his boy to his first game, and having the ‘Player of the Week’ photo in the backyard that all Kiwi kids seem to have. Well, my dad got two girls, but that didn’t stop him. Some babies are played Mozart when they are in the womb; I was played reruns of test matches and recognised the voice of Wayne Shelford over my own mother’s. We were brought up kicking the soccer ball up the hallway and playing bull rush with all the neighbourhood kids. My mum, on the other hand, loved my sister doing ballet and me doing gymnastics. I have the trophy photos in the backyard, only I’m wearing a leotard, not quite what my dad had in mind. Mum forbade us from playing rugby, because we would “Get broken, especially by those Kaipara Girls.” Soccer was as muddy and rucked as we were permitted to get, but that wasn’t enough. My sister played rugby for a whole season without my family knowing. She even blamed one of her black eyes on me tripping her over (similarly she blamed her first hickey on me throwing the remote control at her neck…like that happens often). The only reason she was busted was when she won player of the year in rugby.

I did all the tomboy sports; I surfed, played soccer, touch, cricket, basketball and baseball. The only thing I enjoyed about netball was the bounce and the swishing skirts. Admittedly I loved gymnastics, I had a passion for the balance and strength that I was strictly taught, but I wasn’t a fan of how the leotard left nothing to the imagination. We had a few boys at our club, they got to wear skimpy white shorts and skin tight t-shirts. I remember at age seven that I knew that’s what I wanted; I wanted to look like the youngest von Trapp son. They claimed I had to wear the leotard because I competed with the other kids in the leotards (yes, they banned me from competing with the boys), and they even tried making the leotard sound more attractive because “there’s all the pretty badges on the arms”. It’s like when parents buy the electric toothbrushes and the blue glitter toothpaste to make the chore seem more exciting. It gets old fast, as did my spandex get-up.

I think it’s important to raise children to follow their hearts, and don’t impose ideas that they need to keep to the stereotypes of their gender, and mostly not to put high pressure of expectations on young kids; but let’s be honest, I want my daughters to be the next Evers-Swindell girls, and I want my boys to be an All Black and a Black Cap. Is that too much to ask? I want them to make a mint load kicking Australia’s ass and be gorgeous and fit while they’re doing it. I wouldn’t have to be the parent who calls constantly trying to keep up with their happenings, I’d just Wiki them.


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