There’s a lot of self-imposed pressure on the last surviving boy in your family.
For reasons only history can understand, it is traditionally the name of the male in each family who carries on the family name into the future.
If you have ever done much poking around on a family tree, you can see the many, many branches of the family tree with names that never quite made it more than a few generations. They wither and die, either as a spinster bachelor or a family without children, or they become subsumed by the male name from another family tree that intersects it.
I had three sisters who survived into adulthood; all of them married, meaning there was only me left to carry on the tradition. I did my best (not that I had much control over the process) and fathered two boys. I brought along my Y chromosome and my wife did the rest. So my part of the gig was up, but that only holds until the next generation carries the baton to the next generation. If I thought I was helpless getting to the raising-a-son stage, I am even more pathetic at the grandfather stage. I have no cards left to play.
My older son did have a granddaughter, our only grandchild to date, who was named after her mother’s mother, who died tragically, while her younger daughter, my daughter-in-law, was still in high school. That baby was a girl and destined to carry on the first name of the grandmother she never met. She wears the mantle well. But if tradition carries on, the likelihood of her carrying on the Peterson thread was slender.
So when the next grandchild entered the gestational pipeline, the speculation was rampant. Unlike our generation, “kids” today seem more inclined to know the gender ahead of time. (We waited until the birth for both of our kids.)
So what was this little child going to be? With birth still months away, the speculation was rampant. Both of my sons were the only ones convinced that it was going to be a boy. They had a sense that neither I nor any of the double-X chromosomers did.
I could not have been happier than anyone to have another girl or to have a boy. Grandchildren are the best no matter what flavor they come in. Plus I was raised in a family dominated by girls (as was my wife), and then our family was dominated by boys when we became parents, and I just presumed that the pendulum had swung to the girl side of the equation the next time up.
And then came the grand moment, when the ultrasound was about to reveal whether it would be a circle with an arrow or a circle with a cross. (Drum roll please!)
As you undoubtedly guessed, the ultrasound was plainly clear. There was no doubt about what this little guy was going to be: A boy!
It was more thrilling than any of us had imagined it being.
My daughter-in-law said she had no idea how much our son, her husband, had wanted a boy until she saw the tears in his eyes when the ultrasound technician made the pronouncement. Like me, my son would have been happy either way. He adores our granddaughter and she adores him. But having a son, that you can teach to be a boy and then be a man, is something every guy thinks about at some point in his life.
You want to buy him the first baseball glove, teach him how to throw a spiral, have him hold the flashlight while you replace a defective outlet or advise him how to mow the lawn or catch a fish. A girl can do all those things, too, but there is something about teaching someone of your gender how to grow up to be like yourself; it can’t be beat.
And then, of course, there is the pressure. Like me, I am sure the son was feeling the need to do his duty for the sake of our moniker.
Now, the monkey is off of my back, but now it is on my son. Once you have a son, you have to be prepared for the expectation that you don’t want to be the last Peterson in the line, or for your son to be the last one.
In the whole scheme of things, it’s not really a lot of anxiety and it certainly is not all that important, but I have to admit, there would always be that nagging question in the back of your mind: How could you be the one who let the Peterson name fizzle?
So when my son called me on the phone that day and was just bursting with pride and excitement as he shared the news, I was teary-eyed myself. “That’s my boy!” I smiled to myself.
“And that’s my boy’s boy!” I said right after that. And there are not many things better than that feeling!