my littlest Valentines

I really wanted a daughter. Her name was Emma, and her nursery was to be the loveliest shades of pale pink and spring green. She would like art and enjoy mani/pedi dates with me, but also be spunky and tough and very much her own girl. My vision of motherhood was based on my tightly-knit nuclear family of sister, mother and lone father, which is to say I looked ahead to mostly girls all the time.

When Jack was eleven weeks in utero, he flashed his nascent manhood at us via ultrasound, and Emma faded to Jack, William or Max. Bright blue and red airplanes assertively took the place of delicate pink and green to-be-determineds, and my visions of precious dresses and embroidered bloomers gave way to rompers and overalls, once I could find cute boy clothes that is. Until recently, little boy fashion seemed nothing more than a laughable rumor, while the possibilities for girl tots were endless and breathtakingly sweet.

Armed with zero knowledge of boys, an eight-months-pregnant discovery of Janie and Jack's adorable wardrobe options and assurances that really, my son would still call me once he grew up and out, I welcomed my beautiful Jack early one morning and was instantly smitten. That little girl would probably come next time around, and as I used to ask for an older brother for Christmas, I realized the perfect hand fate had dealt me when gifting me with my wonderful son.

Two years later, Oliver remained coy during his first few ultrasounds, and my resurrected hope of Emma's pending arrival burned bright. At twenty weeks in utero, however, the great white whale showed himself, and Emma was gone. I cried for twenty-four hours, mourning the loss of that old, powerful dream. I cried for the mother-child relationships I now knew I'd never have. I grieved for the door shutting and locking on spa days, prom dress shopping and even mother-of-the-bride'ing. I wailed for my future as mother-in-law to women (egads!).

As I sorted Jack's old clothes over the next months, readied another not-pink nursery, considered Oliver versus William and worried that whatever his name, it was now possible that TWO children would grow up and never call me again (girls always call), I thanked ultrasound technology repeatedly for enabling me to have time before my boy came to make peace with my resultant lack of daughters.

Peace I surely found, and if it's possible (although I don't think it is), I fell in love with Oliver even more quickly than I did Jack. He was born, cleaned and swaddled and then he snuggled up on my chest like he'd always been there.

I'm a happy mom of sons, and though I don't really believe in any sort of guiding hand, I nonetheless feel that I got what I needed. And that Jack and Oliver did too. A trio could not be more closely connected. I know each of them better than they know themselves. They derive strength and confidence from my all-encompassing love, and I from theirs.

Early on, I decided that if boys were my path in parenthood, I'd raise good ones. The sort of boys anyone would want their child to be friends, teammates, study group partners or, ultimately, spouses with. The kind who can speak easily to adults, know how to comport themselves in various social settings, behave chivalrously and respectfully and are in touch with their emotional selves. Mannered humans who walk with confidence, eschew the win-lose binary and take care of others.

Although they can be absolutely disgusting, and I suspect Jack will never be an overly clean person, I think we're on the right path so far. And I think they really might call me when they're adults.

I'd asked them not to wake me this morning, and despite my ear plugs, I could hear Tom pleading with them to respect that wish. But they kept peeking in, wanting to say "Happy Valentine's Day, Mom," and perhaps earlier than I'd have wished, the three of us ended up snuggled in my bed. I'm looking forward to a V-Day dinner with T tonight, but my little boys made awfully wonderful, warm, morning Valentines.

Our house is full of creativity, drama, faux-fainting, costume changes and even some pink that's not just mine. All that is in the presence of just one double-X chromosomal pair, and it's quite enough for me. I haven't missed Emma once.