In what was perhaps the quickest reveal in The Big Bang Theory history, it took less than five minutes for the show to announce the sex of Bernadette and Howard’s second baby: a boy! The Wolowitz’s, who welcomed baby girl Halley into the world last December, find out they’ll be having a son come 2018; but prior to the reveal, they tell their doctor they don’t care. (“For the first one, we really wanted a girl, but this time around we don’t have a preference,” Howard says; “yeah, boy [or] girl…as long as it’s healthy,” Bernadette adds.) Their real feelings, however, are made clear as soon as the ultrasound indicates they’re having a boy. “Oh,” they say—and that’s it.
The scene definitely felt like a stark contrast to the way other shows have handled the “is it a boy or a girl?” question. For those shows, the episodes are usually cute in nature but never really amount to much. The audience waits 20 minutes into the program before finding out whether subsequent episodes will feature a pink or blue nursery. And then, TV kids generally don’t have much of an identity until later seasons, if at all. Of course, The Big Bang Theory has already bucked that trend altogether by never even showing us baby Halley, though we did notice she has her share of “Daddy’s Little Girl” outfits and red tutus in tonight’s “The Explosion Implosion.”
But that’s why Howard and Bernadette’s reaction was so interesting. When Raj comments that they can’t be that disappointed to have a boy, Howard opens up the conversation with this gem of a line, “I barely know how to be a man myself! Now I have to teach someone?”
I haven’t conducted any scientific surveys, of course, but aside from having a healthy baby, it seems like many parents want either what they’re familiar with (the “mini-me” syndrome) or a re-do of the childhood they never had growing up. But it’s frustrating to see parents basically decide on a child’s personality before the kid has a chance to form their own. Tonight’s Big Bang, however, at least got us a little closer to resisting that trend.
Howard admits to Sheldon that he’s scared to have a son because his own father abandoned him, and he never had a masculine influence in his life. As the two work to build a rocket (the same one that Howard never got to work on with his dad), Howard says, “Sheldon, help me. What do I know about raising a boy?” Sheldon’s response: “What do you know about raising a girl?” I’ve been hard on Sheldon this season, but his answer was brilliant.
See, that’s the thing. You don’t raise a gender; you raise an individual. To break down a child by ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ stereotypes is to limit who your individual child could become. No one fits into a box, yet society gives us extremely limited options during those early months pre-birth.
But let’s get back to the episode. Bernadette asks Raj if it’s wrong that she wanted a sister for Halley, considering she grew up with all brothers. “Of course it’s wrong,” Raj exclaims. “You don’t know what this little boy is going to be like! Maybe he’ll be rough and tumble, or maybe he’ll be sweet and sensitive, or maybe he’ll be all those things like me!” In the span of 20 seconds, Raj just became my favorite character. As long as a child grows up to be a good human being, it doesn’t matter if they’re into sports, fashion, a combination of both, or neither. And note to Bernadette: I love my sister more than anything, but we fought and argued so much growing up that our cat had to go on anti-depressants because we stressed her out so much. Be careful what you wish for.
Before the episode concludes, Howard ends up coaching Sheldon as he drives on a long stretch of road back home (remember, Sheldon got his driver’s license a while back and then didn’t tell anyone). In the moment, Howard nails what a great father is: being supportive and knowledgeable. “You’re a good teacher,” Sheldon says sweetly. “Your son is going to be lucky to have you as a father.” “Thanks,” Howard says. See, no sports knowledge required.