Many of the fathers I spoke to admit that showing vulnerability to other men can be difficult. Daniel, the divorced dad in Brooklyn, recalls that, growing up, mealtimes with his brothers were a kind of “blood sport”. Even now, he observes an “impulse to snuff out every manifestation of weakness as it’s being expressed”. So it makes some sense that many men set their sights on having a son. Raising a boy affords fathers a chance to be both strong and sensitive, to be powerful yet tender. With a son, a father may believe he has been delivered an adoring male ally in an atmosphere – the home – that often feels like the domain of women.
This profound sense of kinship comes with a similarly profound sense of responsibility. Many of the men I spoke to said they understood it was their job to guide their boys through the choppy waters of adolescence. “It’s just a responsibility assumed,” says Tom, a father in his late 50s with one teenage boy. “Sometimes my wife will say, ‘Hey look, I would like you to talk to our son about such and such’, but really it’s not something we even need to talk about.” Louise, the mother with a teenage boy in London, agrees that “the father’s influence with a boy is absolutely key.” She adds that male friends with sons have confided to her that they are more apprehensive about abandoning their families. “They worry more about the guilt and the damage they may cause.”
This entire article, “It’s a boy thing” by Emily Bobrow in The Economist’s 1843 is fascinating and.. disturbing. The preference for sons by fathers has been analysed from multiple perspectives but I find the one above some of the more interesting for me. Parenting taps into something profound about sense of self. It does not surprise me that men, as fathers, might feel a particularly strong attachment to sons given the opportunity it presents for them to be safely close to another male and to also repair some of their own childhoods as emotionally isolated little boys by recreating them and re-imagining them.