Tuesday, September 6, 2011

*Why Daughters Are (Generally) Preferable to Sons

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published September 8, 2011]  © 2011

On Mother’s Day, one of my daughters-in-law sent me a box of divinely scented candles and a hand-made card reading “Happy Mother’s Day!  These are the most luxurious candles, so we hope you’ll indulge and remember what a wonderful mother you are every time you smell them.”  I actually cried.  Neither of my sons would ever have written a message like that.  Which has only confirmed my long term suspicion that where communication is concerned, daughters are definitely preferable to sons.

My adult life has included two husbands (I’m still married to one of them), two sons, two nephews, and a dog named Boris.  Nary a girl in sight until two lovely young women deigned to marry my sons (truthfully, we thought the ladies could do better) and have now produced two tiny granddaughters as well. 

When my sons were in college, friends would tell me that they heard from their daughters daily.  Sometimes three times daily.  Contrast this to Henri’s sophomore year when we hadn’t heard a word from him in two months.  Trying not to be an overbearing Mom, but rather hoping to have some acknowledgment that he hadn’t quit school and joined a grunge band, I finally called him mid-April mentioning that I hadn’t heard from him in a bit and hoping all was well.  In a line that has become immortalized in our family since, Henri replied with barely disguised annoyance, “Mom, I just talked to you in February!”

My older son, Rory, didn’t do much better.  You’d think in an era of email that it would be easy for a child to just check in with his folks once a week.  Olof and I went to college at a time when you had to actually write a letter, put a stamp on it and mail it.  (Long distance calls were prohibitively expensive in the Mesozoic era.) After months of radio silence, I finally sent Rory an email saying that no more money was going to be forthcoming until we received a missive of at least three lines stating how things were going.  In another now-immortalized communication, Rory replied: 


Communicators my sons were not.  I assumed this would all change once they got a little older and indeed our phone conversations – often initiated by them - now spontaneously end with a genuinely felt “loveyoumom”.  As my 60th birthday approached, both sons wanted to know what I might like.  Seizing the opportunity, I said that what would make me happiest would be if they would each write a short letter relating three happy memories they had of me.  I hated to beg, but I wasn’t getting any younger.  Rory, predictably, quickly negotiated down to one.  For his part, Henri replied, “Can’t I just buy you something?”

But ultimately, they both came through and their touching replies were genuinely the best gift I could have received.  I still read them often.  Heroically, Rory even ratcheted up to four happy memories.  Well, five if you include this:  “In addition to these things, thank you for adopting me.  Without which I would be writing to someone else.” 

My friends with daughters beg to insist that theirs can be a rocky road as well.  Recently I lunched with a friend who told me that she and her adult daughter had gone to the Gay Pride parade in July, in support of their many friends who were gay.  My friend related that she noticed some people taking pictures of the two at the parade and whispered with amusement to the daughter, “I think they think we’re a couple.”   The daughter’s happy mood suddenly turned dark and didn’t improve for the rest of the day when she finally confessed the source of her distress:  “They thought YOU were as good as I could do????”

OK, so maybe this daughter thing has its moments too.

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