My Trans Child And A Year Of “Firsts”

When your child comes out and starts to socially transition changes start manifesting whether you’re trying or not, right before your very eyes. Some of these changes cause stress, tears, and heartache. Others bring joy, satisfaction, and overwhelming pride. Whether you know it or not at the time, each of the steps you take along the way become little mile markers in your trip down the road to where you are leading, wherever that may be.

Every little event culminates to the big picture that creates this new person, and leaves behind the child you knew before. Some of the steps down the path are ones that you don’t realize were BIG moments until they have already passed. And some are so monumental that the anxiety and preparation to the event almost makes you ill until it’s finally over and you can breathe a sigh of relief. Whether big or small, each of these “firsts” are just as important as the last because they are what come together to make up the person your child is desperately trying to become.

In our first year (that hasn’t even come to a close yet) after my son came to me expressing that he is transgender, many things have happened that have all become benchmarks along the way. Everything we did and continue to do since him coming out becomes a fresh “first” of things I get to experience with my child. Some for the second (or third or hundredth) time but in a new light and a completely new development to mark as a milestone on his transgender journey. Even though each of these “firsts” brought on excitement and anticipation or dilemmas, tears, and “what if’s” they each have brought my child to a place that’s creating a safe, accepting, and supportive environment.

His First Haircut: This was our inaugural “first” we repeated. Something he had done before a few times, but never this way, and never with the outcome of a new appearance altogether. I wrote about this day specifically because it became a rite of passage for my child. A haircut meant he would look in the mirror and see the person he felt like on the inside looking back at him for the first time.

Our First “Boy” Shopping Experience: We’d been shopping many, many times before. But the first time we went shopping and I allowed him to pick out shoes and clothes in the boy’s section was a definite first to remember. It was him finally experiencing a trip to the store in the way he wanted, not me picking out a bunch of shirts with glitter and bows that he reluctantly accepted, but never truly wanted. It was excitement for a new collared shirt, not sorrow while I forced him to put a dress on and parade around the dressing room while I told him how “pretty” he was… while he longingly glanced over at the racks of clothing on the other side of the store wishing he was dressed in suits and ties.

His First Day Of School: Not the summer day when months of break were coming to an end where your child holds up a sign wearing a big smile on the way out the door, prepared to take on the new year and a new grade. This was a day in May, when summer break was actually around the corner, and he had been in school for eight months. But this day, was his first coming in with a new, shortened name, a new haircut, as a new person. Declaring to the world that he had finally told on himself and he was ready for everyone else to know his true self too. Expressing to the entire student body and staff that would listen that he was someone new now, and they should recognize him as such.

His First Birthday Party: It was actually his 5th birthday, but this was a different kind of party than he had seen before. One where he didn’t have a Disney Princess on his cake and instead picked Star Wars and had a “boy” theme. Full of friends instead of just family and light saber weapons made of pool noodles and finally opening a pile of gifts that wasn’t made up of baby dolls and barbies.

His First Real Friend: Someone who understood him as he changed before his friend’s eyes, and his friend didn’t blink an eye. Someone who knew my child before and after and didn’t seem to mind. This was someone he could be honest with, be himself without a filter. His friend gave my kid the confidence to keep sharing his true self with others he knew. He’d had many friends before, but this friend showed him that being him was ok. And that meant the world to my child. I hope to one day express to this friend of his how much his actions and thoughtfulness as a kindergartner changed someone’s life for the better.

The First Time A Stranger Recognized Him As A Boy: Most kids would take a little (or a lot) of offense to someone recognizing as the incorrect gender. Not my son, and not in his path of transitioning. For him, this was a HUGE exciting moment. When he first cut his hair and changed his clothes he wanted nothing more than for everyone to accept him. It wasn’t until we went somewhere in public and someone referred to my child as a little boy did he feel he had successfully achieved his goal of being a boy. It was instant validity. He beamed and it was obvious that at this moment he was finally presenting as the person he was meant to be. Inside and out.

The first time I introduced him as my “son”. This was a big occasion and a turning point for us both.But one that I wouldn’t have considered as such in the moment. It wasn’t until much later that I realized the importance of this small incident. I remember someone asking about the child standing next to me, holding my hand. And I wrestled with how to answer such a simple question. “Is this your son?” If he had been born my son, this would have been a no-brainer, but since he wasn’t and this was all still so new to me, I was stumped for a hot second. But then, I nodded and agreed. Of course. No explanation needed. And once I finally spoke and said “yes, he sure is” my child breathed a sigh of relief and revealed the biggest smile. The strangers recognizing him as a boy on the street validated him physically, but my words to the person who specifically asked about him to me, that did so much more. That sent a magnificent message of love, acceptance, and profound emotional approval that, had I answered differently, would have been catastrophic.

I am sure we have a number of “firsts” we haven’t even encountered yet. And when we do they will be all new and all memories that we think of fondly. A new name, legally, perhaps. Or changing a gender marker, officially. We aren’t there yet, and maybe we never will be. Or maybe we will. But regardless, each of these “firsts” we’ve experienced have brought more joy and hope and acceptance to my child about himself and each and every one of them has significantly made his life more fulfilling and helped transform him not only into the boy he desperately wants to be, but a child with confidence, with acceptance and understanding, and with pride.

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As A Single Mom, Sometimes It’s Bring Your Child To Work Day

In real life, when I’m not picking boogers out of one kids nose and gum out of another’s hair, I am a Realtor. I’ve always had a job. Besides the obvious reasons of needing the dough to survive, to me, having some sort of interaction with the outside world after I became a mom was important. Something to break up the long days of baby-talk and over zealous reactions to my infant finding their feet. Before the big D (divorce, get your mind right), it was nice.

It was the perfect job for a mom that wanted to pretend she was a stay at home mom too. I got to wear both hats, because theoretically, I was both. Back then, I would work when I knew my (then) husband would be home and make sure to not schedule any appointments when he wouldn’t be. I could be the one that was raising my kids and not missing any of the big (or little) moments in their life, while providing some sort of contribution to our family. Win-win. After the big D, my job became dangerously necessary. I NEEDED a steady income, and an ok one at the least.

And so, regardless of my new status as a single mom, I was determined to make sure that my career prevailed, whether I had help or not. “Or not” being the most common scenario. And because of that, there are more times than I would like to admit that I have had to take my kids to work with me.

I really try not to. Let’s be honest, I could use the break from then as much as they can from me. Still… babysitters are a luxury that I just can’t afford consistently, especially when it’s going to be a brief- 20 minute appointment that I’ll be paying a sitter a minimum 2 hour rate for. On the other hand, it’s just not “professional” in some cases. But when you are a single mom and you have three little kids and bills and baseball and karate and gymnastics and need groceries and toilet paper and laundry detergent, you gotta do what you gotta do.

I’ve gotten exceptional at slipping in a little disclaimer to my clients up front that I have young children, there might be a time or two where I may need to cart them along with me. And most of my clients are more than ok with that. Some even encourage it as a way to give their own children in tow someone to interact with while we are out.

That being said, in truth I kind of like my job, and my clients, and I would like to KEEP them as my clients. And there are days where I really shouldn’t bring my kids with. Not because my client would disapprove and not because the circumstance wouldn’t allow, but because on that particular day all three of my bio kids are apparently in need of some sort of exorcism. They have clearly been possessed by some malevolent poltergeist and are in desperate need of purification before they spontaneously combust.

One particular day speaks to me when I think about all of the times I have paraded my children into the car with outlandish promises of fast food, ice cream, unlimited IPad time or whatever else I can come up with in the moment to threaten them into submission so I can get through this engagement without completely losing my credibility.

On this specific day, I actually had a babysitter lined up, but as {my} luck would have it they had some unavoidable situation pop up and could no longer help me. I had a long(ish) appointment to be at, and in my career, it is not easy to reschedule steps of major importance to the transaction so my options were limited.

After carefully considering all of the things that could go wrong and the ways I was going to proactively safeguard said things from happening, I made a pact with my oldest, pledging him the title of “the boss” and therefore far too much power for a (then) 6 year old, and packed my nuggets into the car with promises rolling off my tongue as I strapped them into their car seats.

“Do NOT say anything about the house. Don’t even THINK about running. You absolutely can NOT start whining and crying. Don’t you DARE ask to leave or complain. And when we are done, if we get through this hour with ZERO issues (yeah right)…. I’ll take you to Disney World.” – Me, in my blissful ignorance.

Once this appointment is rounding the corner to the finish line, my youngest falls asleep, my oldest is ready to play on his IPod and my middle is just done. So I offer to take them all out to the driveway where they can wait in the (doors locked, heat running – I’m not an animal) car. They gladly take me up on my offer and off they go. I run around the house in a frenzy making sure all of the lights are off, windows are closed and doors are locked, and as I’m doing so I start hearing some very loud techno music coming from outside. The old lady I’ve become is secretly cursing whatever teenage driver must be on the road and how “irresponsible” they are (as if I was never that same adolescent without a care in the world).

I’m standing in the doorway delivering my clients the rundown and summary of our appointment today and next steps for them as we start walking out of the house… and we all look over simultaneously to where we can see all three of my children have created their own rave in my minivan.

The car is vibrating up and down to the base of the music that is BLASTING out of the speakers into the silence of the neighborhood and if that wasn’t bad enough one of my demon-spawn rolls down the (very large) back window revealing that dependent #2 is whipping their shirt over their head screaming “DANCE PARTY!!!!” as they all jumped up and down some more squealing with delight.

At the time, I was mortified. Now, looking back, it was pretty flippin funny. Thankfully, my clients saw the humor in it from the beginning and were cracking up at my tiny humans cutting a rug in between the seats of the car, half naked.

After that day, whenever I am faced with potentially having to take my children to work with me or finding them a new sitter at the last minute, I try a little harder, beg a little more, and consider deeply the possibilities of what they are capable of before I decide on risking their attendance at my important meetings. Luckily for me, this particular little stunt of theirs was in breach of our contract guaranteeing them a future trip to Disney World. (PHEW!)

Until next time… be the mom that gets the job done. Even if it means you have to drag your kids to work with you. Even if it means you have to promise them the world (or Disney World) to do it. And remember, whatever they do now that makes you want to cry, will probably make you laugh years from now.

MomTransparenting

 

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Mom Anxiety – We All Have It

Can we talk about mom anxiety? I know this isn’t a technical illness with a formal DSM diagnosis, but let’s be honest, it’s a thing. I firmly believe there is a whole population of moms out there that experience this specified version of panic that only has an onset when you create a living, breathing being from your own body. Or, in some cases, even if you haven’t created said being, but care for it as if you had.

This debilitating “disease” can range anywhere from serious to seriously asinine. It starts off precisely at the moment you find out you are pregnant. For a whole second (or longer) you stop breathing.

It’s as if the world stops, and you crawl into The Matrix, there’s an absolute transformation, and suddenly you go from being an independent, free-thinking, free-spirited woman to an anxiety ridden, over-thinking, over-analyzing, always questioning, never sleeping, always worrying mom…. and the baby isn’t even here yet.

People will say things like “there is so much for you to worry about later, and stress is not good for the baby. Enjoy your pregnancy!” But you simply CANNOT when you are incessantly finding myriads of information on the internet that send you into a click hole of examples of what could go wrong at any given moment now that you are pregnant.

You could eat the wrong food. You did, in fact, yesterday… and now you are petrified that you have somehow stunted your unborn child’s brain grown with one bite sized sushi roll. You definitely haven’t taken enough folic acid, so surely your baby’s spinal chord hasn’t developed properly. That happens early, ya know. And that medication you were taking before you found out you had a fetus growing inside of you, that causes club foot. So that is inevitable.

I waited for each ultrasound like it was Christmas and I was visiting Santa to make sure he knew what presents to bring me. As soon as I left the doctor’s office knowing all hands and feet were in tact, I could breath… and start worrying about the next thing. Like what problems I would encounter on the delivery table (oh, GAWD, would I POOP on the table?!)

You tell yourself, once the baby comes and everything is healthy and perfect you can and will relax. But that is just a little inside joke we tell ourselves, as moms. Besides the sleepless nights that come with an infant, there are the sleepless nights that come with mom anxiety.

As my kids get older I worry about so much more. It was first development: rolling, crawling, walking, talking, running, eating, growing. I thought those were a really big deal. I was so blissfully ignorant.

Now, my fears have only been magnified as they grow figuratively and literally. I wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night wondering if I ever remembered to mount the new furniture to the wall so that when one of my monkeys climbs on it, it doesn’t come crashing down on them, killing them in the process. (I did, of course).

I think about all of the day’s events that could have went horribly wrong. Like when my child opened the door to the neighbor knocking to see if they could play. What IF that were a stranger? What IF they had come to steal my child away and at that very moment I happened to be in the bathroom screaming at them to leave me be so I could sit on the toilet in peace!? I’m a bad mom… I could have lost them to child trafficking today from their very own living room, and I was so selfish I wasn’t even THINKING.

Every day is loaded with examples like this. Where I simultaneously am screaming my head off at my kids while worrying in agony that something terrible will happen to them, to me (and leave them motherless), to our house, to my job, etc etc etc.

Mom anxiety is crippling and ruining my chance to enjoy my kids, but I take solace in knowing that absolutely every other mom out there has the same crippling (unwarranted) fears running their lives too. And I’m not alone. Neither are you.

 

Despite this terrible “disease”, be the mom you want to be. Even if she wakes up in the middle of the night wondering if the oven was ever turned off. Even if she calls the neighbors seconds after leaving the house because she can’t remember if she closed her garage door. Be that mom. And rock the shit out of it.

 

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Common Excuses My Kids Have Used To Avoid Sleep

In my house we have a special kind of song and dance at bed time because I have multiple kids sleeping (in their own beds) in one room. I have mastered how to stagger bedtimes so that they each go to sleep on their own, in chronological order.. but on nights where their bedtime refusal game is strong, it screws with my whole system, and we all hit demon mode in the end. I say a little hymn every night before I start this ritual, but some nights…. we had no fighting chance to begin with. And they have their arsenal of reasons why going to sleep was inevitable from the beginning.

1. Someone saw a shadow, and now there is a monster in their room

They are moving around, sitting up and talking to their siblings and now they have caught a glimpse of their own shadow and have convinced themselves that someone, or (usually) the more chilling version that some THING is in their room. Trying to show kids how a shadow works when you’re running on fumes is something for science, not tired moms.

2. I can’t put on my BLANKETS!!!

The same blankets I expertly placed and smoothed and tucked onto your tiny body before I left the room? THOSE BLANKETS? Someone find

me the nail gun so I can make sure this atrocity doesn’t happen again.

3. Ummmm, MAHMMM, my doll needs blankets too!!!

FFS.

4. The ice in my water melted, so naturally I can’t drink it now

My kids have this weird fetish with ice water, but only at bedtime. Throughout the day, cold water from the tap will do just fine for their sophisticated palates. At bedtime, however, water must be precisely the correct temperature with the exact ice cube count for them to be satisfied. And, God forbid, the ice melts just a SMIDGE and all hell breaks loose.

5. Someone is talking to me in the monitor

yeah – it’s ME. Telling you to lay down and GO TO SLEEP. {eyeroll}

6. I forgot to tell you that next year, on my birthday, I want to have cupcakes instead of cake.

I know birthdays are exciting, but seriously? Yours isn’t for 9 more months, kid. And therefore, not even on my radar. My mind races at night with all things I need to do too. Is this what it looks like inside a child’s brain on it’s way to sleep? Birthday, cake, ice cream, shadows, puppies, Legos, YouTube, ponies, baseball, homework, ABCD…., birthday, blankets, princesses, water, birthday, cake…….

7. It’s really important that this night in April we discuss my future Halloween Costume

See #5. I believe this applies. And, let’s be honest, you’ll change your mind 20 more times before October rolls around. That’s why I don’t have the luxury of getting my Christmas shopping done early. Because if I did, you would turn your nose up at half of your presents because they aren’t “cool” anymore.

8. I need to explain to you in detail the reason why two weeks ago, on Tuesday, I peed in my pants (or got sick, or spit milk out of my nose)

Something “traumatizing” happened and now my poor kid has been trying to figure out why for weeks. I can honestly say, this one is my fault. I over obsess when I do something stupid and embarrassing. Sorry, kid. You inherited this self-reflection and need to replay the moment over and over, from me. I wish I could say it gets better… but it doesn’t. And the embarrassing things you do, only get more awkward and unforgettable (For you. The good news is, everyone else you’re worried about remembering already forgot).

9. There was a tooth fairy sighting, and we are scared

I can’t even make this shit up. This happened. Twice. Next time I see the tooth fairy, we are going to have words.

And the ever-famous….

10. But I’m not tireeedddd….

 

Every mom has a list like this. It’s unique to your children’s choice of excuses on a given night, but you have one. Because all kids look for every excuse in the world to get out of going to bed at night, while we moms are praying to the Gods of Sleep that today is the day they all magically drift off without a production at bedtime. Because WE are exhausted. We are DYING to go to sleep. We’ve been thinking about it all day.

It’s been our oasis through the long, hot, and sometimes lonely,  hike of the day: cleaning up after them, breaking up toddler fist fights, and sitting through episodes on YouTube where grown adults sit and open up plastic eggs with the tiny toys we never want in our house. We’ve licked every wound, washed every dirty hand, wiped every butt, cleaned and re-cleaned every room in the house.

We’ve made it to the top of the greatest mountain known to mom, the one that takes hours and hours of prep and even more time to conquer…. we did the laundry. And now, we just want to slip into the endless abyss of nothingness until around 1 or 2 am when the middle of the night shit show starts because someone woke up with one leg out of their blanket. But we can’t. Because our kids won’t JUST GO TO SLEEP.

 

Until next time… be the mom that gets some sleep. You deserve it.

 

MomTransparenting

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Trans-parenting… The Story Continues.

If you haven’t read my previous post… find it here: In The Spirit of Transparenting – Let’s Get This Party Started

This is a two-parter and you have landed on the back end, so rewind, and come back. See you soon. 😉

So, where did we leave off? Ahhh, yes. My 4 year daughter has expressed in some pretty profound ways that she identifies as a boy. Now what? As a parent, I instantly went into panic mode and started learning all I could to help, support, nurture (but not push) my child. People are constantly questioning if we moved too fast, if I may have decoded this message from my child in error. Maybe they just need attention? Maybe they are around too many boys? Aren’t they too young to make such drastic changes to their lives?!?

Photo Credit: TransStudent.Org/Graphics

I’m a person with a Master’s level education who loves research, so my initial reaction was to get on the internet and figure this out. Whilst burying my face in google, and joining every mom group related to this I could find, I ascertained that many kids who present with gender confusion start to “figure this stuff out” around this very age. Whether or not they voice it or know how to articulate it in a way that an adult can decipher, is a different story.

So maybe my situation wasn’t as far fetched as I had first considered. I also discovered how family, especially their immediate family, reacts to and treats the child regarding their requests to start identifying as their true self makes a HUGE impact on their mental health and well-being for years to come. And by HUGE, I mean, it’s a matter of life and death. According to Trans Student Educational Resources,  more than half of transgender youth with families that do not support them and accept them attempt suicide at some point in their lives. The statistics on this are astounding.

That was when I made the decision to follow my child’s lead, wherever that may take us, and not look back.

People keep asking me if I’m sure. If she might be too young. If we “allow” this then what if?? What if we are WRONG….

And to those questions I have to say, I’m not sure. At this age I don’t think anyone could or would be 100% certain about anything when it comes to their child. BUT, if we don’t accept this, if we don’t “allow” it and follow their lead to wherever it takes us on this path, the consequences of that are astonishingly terrifying. Scary enough that I’m going to do whatever it takes to show my child that if he is different, if he is not who we thought, if he is trans… it doesn’t matter, not to me. Because no matter who or what my child is, he’s mine, accepted and loved. Every single way I felt about my child before this event, hadn’t changed.

If anything, I had only grown to have far more appreciation for my child. My heart swelled with pride. I was so proud of his bravery, his strength, his courage, and….. quite frankly I gave myself a nice big pat on the bat for raising a child who had such awareness for himself and felt comfortable in coming to me, his mom. I know I sure as hell wouldn’t have had the guts to do that when I was a kid. My mom scared the crap out of me. She still does. But, I digress,  that’s a story for another time.

Nothing I’m “allowing” my child to do isn’t reversible. But I feel like it’s important to mention that I am not “allowing” anything! I am simply listening to my child. I feel like I’m chasing a moving train that left the station LONG before I got there and I’m just trying to catch up, catch my breath, and enjoy the ride to our destination. Even if it’s not something I ever thought would happen in my wildest dreams.

Photo Credit: Tran Student Educational Resources

As shitty as this might sound, no one WANTS this for their child. Nobody wants to know that the life they are leading is one that will inherently cause more stress, more opportunities to be bullied or disliked or treated differently or unfairly. Nobody asks for their child to be part of a population that is known in history to be misunderstood and discriminated against. Even the most progressive parent is not going to kickoff this process jumping for joy when their child says, “hey mom, I know you guys thought I was a girl… but guess what? I’m really I’m a boy”. Progressive parents don’t spring to attention and say “HELL YES! I am so HAPPY for you! You get to be part of the group of people that the majority of the population is completely confused about! YAYYY!” No. As parents, our first reaction (from almost all parents I’ve talked with in this same situation) is fear. But, when the reality of it is, this is who they are… you just don’t have a choice. It just IS.

Photo Credit: Trans Student Educational Resources

I would like to say our process in these short 6 months has been a slow one, and maybe for my child who has been having these thoughts and feelings, it has felt like forever, but from my perspective…. it’s been really fast. Shortly after my child told me his true feelings we got a hair cut, he started refusing any and all of his “girl” clothes and needed an entire new wardrobe. Soon after that my child asked me to start using male pronouns to refer to HIM (him/he/his/son), because, he’s a boy. He walked into school and shortened his name to his first initial. And unlike the “average” little “girl”, when we are out in public and someone recognizes him as a boy, he is elated. It just makes his damn day, and I love every minute of it.

I have no idea what the future holds for this kid. In my research frenzy it sure seems that when a child at this age is this in tune to their gender, chances are they aren’t going back to the gender they were assigned at birth. And for my son, it sure seems like living his true self as a boy has made him a happier, bubblier, less angry, and more social kid overall. He sure seems to me like he’s finally found his place in this world, and for that I am eternally grateful. I’m just so thankful that my child had the insight to do it and the confidence and bravery to come to me before it was too late.

I’ll be sure to update along the way, but until then…. be the mom you want to be. Even if it means you have to advocate for your kid. Even if it means that you might be the villain to others, but to your child, you’re a hero.

 

Mom Transparenting

 

 

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