What’s In A Name?

 

There are so many facets to coming out as a trans person. As an adult or even older youth, I assume many transgender individuals are constantly thinking about all the ways their life would be and will be different before they begin revealing to people how they feel inside. When a young child presents as transgender, despite professionals advising parents in this situation to follow the child’s lead and let them pave the way to wherever the path is going, ultimately the responsibility for all major decisions lies on the shoulder’s of the parent. A parent who hasn’t spent days or weeks or years day dreaming about how differently life could be for them (unless you count what I think my life might be like as a Kardashian. But I don’t. Should I?). There are many situations that have come up that I haven’t even come close to contemplating until the instant it’s shoved in my face and I’m forced to make a BIG decision on the fly. One I’m not sure I’m ready to make on behalf of my dependent. One I’m scared to take the credit or, more likely, the blame for later.

I have joined every parenting group I can find to connect with other moms and dads with children like mine; to bounce ideas off of them, to share my fears, or hear their successes and horror stories, to prepare myself for the journey ahead of us. But sometimes, no matter how much you research, how much you prepare or plan, there is no warning for situations you are going to have to tackle.

One topic that comes up a lot is names. And more specifically, legal name changes. I’ve heard of parents petitioning for these legal name changes as young as 3. Kids that haven’t even been able to put their feelings about their gender into words (because they didn’t have words) for very long. Kids that don’t know how to articulate how they feel yet, just that they feel wrong or different. 

Until today, I couldn’t wrap my head around why someone would go through this excruciating process with a young child to officially and legally change their name. In my thoughts, there is a good possibility the child’s feelings on the name they choose may change. Many times. I can’t even confidently select a sandwich to make my child for lunch for the following day without concern that their taste buds will change overnight and they will instantly reject PB&J and only eat ham from that point on (until Friday, then it’s something else, isn’t that how all kids work?). In my experience, kids are notoriously indecisive.

I guess perhaps this is where some of my misunderstanding or my personal bias comes in. I think about how when I was younger I wanted people to call me Dorothy for many months because I had watched the Wizard of Oz and wanted to be the girl in the blue and white plaid dress with ruby slippers who could click my heels and transport to other parts of the world, whenever the hell I wanted to. I didn’t respond if you didn’t call me by my new, chosen name, and most people thought it was adorable and would play along. Fancy that, because when my trans son asks people he knows and admires to please call him by the shortened version of his name, some have flat out refused… apparently it’s not “adorable” when it’s serious and a matter of acceptance and mental well-being. {eyeROLL}. I digress. My parents would have never ran out and changed my name to Dorothy even if I had been consistent and persistent about this. And, as luck would have it, the phase ended and I was back to answering to my birth name in no time. Maybe this is a bad analogy, because, for trans kids, a name is a BIG deal.

I have read about changing a child’s name, legally, but I have not embarked on this journey yet. It’s a big step. One many parents and trans kids will consider a huge milestone and success to be celebrated. It’s a process that includes court filings, court hearings, money, and going in front of a judge pleading your case to prove this is in the best interest of your child. I don’t know what the statistics are on getting denied, but I do know it certainly happens. And I couldn’t even begin to imagine the disappointment families must feel at the mercy of the judge who just denied their child’s existence as their true self, in a way.

A trans person’s birth name associates them with someone they used to be, someone that was in pain, someone that was misunderstood and living a life that wasn’t true to themselves. Their birth name (also known in the trans world as a dead name) isn’t THEM anymore. They are now known by a new name, one with hope, with peace, and most importantly (and hopefully), acceptance. So to refer to a person who is trans by their old name is considered offensive and hurtful. It can cause emotional trauma, especially if it’s done intentionally. It can remind them of all of their terrible experiences living as someone they were not. And as a parent, no one wants to knowingly put their child in a situation where that could happen. Ever.

Getting to the point (finally)…. I met with the school this week to talk about my son and his situation. We are just starting elementary school and as if coming into kindergarten isn’t scary enough for a child, my child socially transitioned from a girl to a boy since we registered last winter and it has put us into a tailspin of explanations and preparation before school starts. I feel the need to give them some insight as to how he likes to be referred to, what staff members should be included in his circle of trust, and what situations we can try to prepare for.

It wasn’t until this meeting that it clicked. I now understand why parents of young trans kids are changing their names. The principal informed me that per state law there are certain forms, certain cards or documents that will have to be received by my child with his full (girl) name on it, because that is the name that coincides with his birth certificate. If he has to sit down and take a state exam, there will be a box he will have to obediently check that says “yes, this is me (dead name )”.

The summer camp my kids attend is one my son has been registered with for years. They had his girl name on the roster, and this is another one of those situations that had to punch me in the face for me to be like “ahhhh, shit, this isn’t good and I should have prepared for this”. We walked in the door and he noticed his name tag and got upset, hurt, and didn’t want to go inside the classroom. I quickly alerted the counselors who swiftly changed his name tag, attendance list, and cubby holes for backpacks, and that was that, problem solved. But in school, it’s not going to be so easy.

If the teacher is a sub, the lunch staff is in a hurry, or the librarian doesn’t make a conscious effort to correctly call my child out by their preferred name over the name they will see on the computer screen or card he hands over…. this might devastate him. This might “out” him to whoever is in line with him, to his classmates or peers, and it could be terrible. I instantly felt pressured with the decision of keeping his legal name and preparing him for these anticipated situations that WILL arise through the school year, or starting the process of changing his name legally and hoping that as a 5 year old he has the wisdom to pick a name he will want to carry for the rest of his life. What kind of pressure is that for a child? It’s immense. He has a name picked out, he’s been testing it out for over a month when strangers he meets ask him his name. He likes it and ironically it was one of the first names he told me we should call him on the VERY DAY he told me that in his heart and in his brain, he is a boy. Maybe he will stick with that name forever. But what if he doesn’t?

But am I? Pressured… that is. Is this a national or state-wide law or just a district policy? Is this something I’m being told is a requirement when really it’s just never happened before at this level in the school and they don’t know how to address it? Stay tuned because this is something I’m going to get to the bottom of. This is one of those times when being an advocate for your child is so important. Therapists and doctors will talk about putting your child on hormone blockers to keep them out of puberty and give them more time before making long term decisions, and this is one of those circumstances that warrants more time to decide.

So on top of getting my kids prepared for a new school year and trying to learn as much as I can about what is going on with my child, I am now going to start researching what the hell the law says and why a name has to be officially and legally changed in order to get a report without your kid’s full girl name on it. I’m scrutinizing district policy and what it will take to have the system changed so that I can give my kid (and myself) more time to think about this. More time to be sure before we go making a drastic change that is something I vowed not to do until years down the road. Something that isn’t easily reversible.

I guess we aren’t in Kansas anymore.

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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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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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Mom Transparenting

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