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A Boy For You and a Girl For Me

Jun
22
2006

The Associated Press reports that foreigners with the money for it are going to the U.S. to choose the sex of their children because fertility clinics can offer that service legally in the States, unlike in many other countries. Which of course means that many Americans are doing the same thing in their own country too, although the AP article said no one tracks the total numbers.
Some of the tourists are from likely suspects countries and are looking to have boys. But the article also mentions that Canadians come looking for girls. I don’t know if that extrapolates more generally to a preference for girls across Canadian society, or in rich Western countries in general. But assuming there’s no great bias to have kids of one gender or the other in a society (or personal medical reasons), what are parents thinking about when they’d prefer a boy or girl?
Since I have two sons, I occasionally get questioned as to whether I’m going to “try for” a girl. (I’m guessing families with just girls get asked the same kind of thing in reverse. There’s a whole series of questions inquiring into others’ fertility that can be asked with varying degrees of tact. Childless couples get asked when they’ll spawn; families with one kid get asked when the second is coming; with two, asked about the third; and so on, I assume.)
Anyway, suppose we did “try,” and succeeded, would that make one of my sons just a spare? No one ever asks couples who have a couple of kids with an artistic bent if they’re going to try for a mathematician. Yet we’ll reduce a child to just one quality. Yes, I know, it’s the first categorizing principle humans apply to each other; yes, I know it’s absolutely natural and possibly reasonable to see boys and girls as providing different experiences or a balance in the family, but still.
What do parents hope for? A girl, who’ll bring her kids around their grandparents more? A boy, who’s easier to raise? Someone to play ball with? Someone to shop with? Someone to care for you when you’re older? Someone to maintain the family name? There are all sorts of assumption about how sons and daughters are. But even if there are traits that tend to group with one gender or the other (and it would be silly not to acknowledge that there are, although not necessarily the ones that get passed around as playground lore), any individual child could fall anywhere on that curve, making a mockery of the best-laid plans of moms and dads.

Share  Posted by Deborah Klosky at 4:45 PM | Permalink

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