There really is no other way to put it: We were doomed.
First, let me give you a little context. Our daughter, who is an amazingly sweet, beautiful and pious 11-year-old, loves her two little brothers very much — most of the time. Fine — occasionally. Being the only girl, she puts up with near-constant pestering from Grant (the 8-year-old) and Jacob (the 5-year-old).
Here is a typical conversation on, say, a lazy Saturday.
Olivia: “Dad, I’m bored.”
Me: “Go play with your brothers.”
Olivia: “They want me to play _____ (insert something no girl — ever — wants to play. These wonderful options for Olivia generally include the following “games”: Building a zoo out of Grant’s 1,000 stuffed animals, wrestling, seeing what dumb things you can make Jacob do, beating each other with foam swords, beating each other with pillows, jumping on the couch or our bed or on Jacob himself).
Me: “Well, play what they want to play for half an hour and then I’ll make them play what you want to play.”
Olivia says “seriously?” (note the question mark) all the time. It’s her go-to response. In this instance, she says “seriously?” because she knows the drill. She’s going to acquiesce, like the good, sweet child she is, and then, when it’s her turn to pick the game, her brothers will dump her in order to continue their intellectual pursuits of reading and playing chess. (Just kidding, they’re still beating each other with swords.)
This, of course, causes a great deal of infighting and, worse, forces me to get involved. If you’ve never tried making 5- and 8-year-old boys play “girls games” — their words, not mine — it’s less enjoyable than you’d think.
Anyway, so Olivia has been none-too-shy about letting my beautiful and devout wife, Erin, and me know she would like a sister.
After Mass one day, she mentioned this wish to the mother of one of her friends, who told her about how her daughter prayed for a sister every night for years. God listens, she said, and her family was eventually blessed with a baby girl. So she told Olivia to pray.
Here was my exact response to that pearl of advice: “Seriously?”
Erin and I were certainly open to having more kids, but between the hectic lives and the cramped house and the three wonderful kids we already had, it seemed like God had blessed us quite enough. But every night for the past year, Olivia finished her bedtime prayer with “… and for mommy to have a baby girl.”
Cut to early March, in our bathroom, where Erin and I held debate No. 4 over whether the blue line on the pregnancy test was solid enough. As always, she took the affirmative position, while I argued for the negative. And despite my usual solid points — “Honey, if you hold it up to the light, you can’t even SEE the line!” — the truth became clear: I’m terrible at reading pregnancy tests. Also: Erin was — is — most definitely pregnant.
After nearly two months (and what a loooong two months it has been for my tremendously sick wife), we told the kids. They were over the moon — beyond excited. Olivia’s first response wasn’t a surprise: With eyes as big as saucers, she said “Seriously?” We didn’t expect her second response: “I don’t even care if it’s a girl or not.”
Well, I don’t like to call anybody a liar, but let’s just say emotion carried the moment that night. The boys said they didn’t care if the baby is a girl or a boy, and I actually believed them. Jake loves any and all babies, so he’ll be good either way. Grant has admitted he’s conflicted, smartly acknowledging that if it’s a girl, she likely won’t mess with his stuff (his words), but if it’s a boy, it will give him one more little brother to repeatedly bash with household objects (my words).
In the days since, like the pesky, rotten brother he is, Grant, even though he really doesn’t care, has been praying for a boy. And Olivia has changed the final line of her prayers to “… and that it’s a happy, healthy girl.”
We never stood a chance.
Scott Warden is the associate editor of OSV Newsweekly. Follow him on Twitter @Scott_OSV.
For more of Scott's Confessions of a Catholic Dad, click here.