Let’s stop pretending like parenthood is all unicorns and rainbows, ok? There are great days. FANTASTIC days, sure. But there are other days that I feel like an imposter. Like I am living someone else’s life. As if I have no clue what I am doing and it’s only a matter of time that someone finds me out and I am exposed. But why do I feel that way? Because some days… I am not a huge fan of being a mom. Some days I sit and day dream about what my life might be like right now if I hadn’t had kids.
I wonder what kind of home I would have with clean carpet and marker-less walls. What kind of car I would drive that isn’t filled with cracker crumbs and car seats? I think about what career I would have, what kind of hobbies I would have taken up. What I would do with my time if I didn’t have baseball, soccer, karate, gymnastics, school events and scout meetings every night of the week?
I consider what kind of wardrobe I would own if I wasn’t concerned every morning about what food would get whipped at me by tiny hands and find its way plastered onto my shirt by lunch. I think about if I would be caught up on my favorite shows, if my pets would get more attention. Would I feel less tired? Would I have more time to go to the gym or would I eat healthier if I didn’t pick leftover chicken dinosaurs or macaroni and cheese off my kids plates every night?
What would my stress level be like if I didn’t have to fight irrational tiny humans every day to brush their teeth, go to sleep, put their coat or socks on or do their homework. I question if I would have gray hair and crows feet; dark circles and under eye bags. Would those have shown up years or even a DECADE later if I didn’t have kids?
I day dream about my trips to Europe, my girls nights that would be followed up by a day spent on a date with my couch ordering takeout and binge watching Netflix. Without any interruptions to wipe someone’s butt, clean up someone’s spilled milk or kiss a boo boo.
I ponder these things on my bad days and wonder what kind of life I would have had, if I had chosen not to have kids.
And then, something happens. Usually something small. My daughter will smile. Or my son will bring me a portrait he drew of just the two of us. My oldest will hand over a test he scored 100% on that we studied for together for hours last week. And suddenly, I am catapulted back into reality and it’s GOOD. I look around at my stained carpet, my sticky table, the blind my kid broke when he threw a basketball in the house and the sink filled to the brim with dirty sippy cups and I. AM. HAPPY.
I might have my moments where I wonder if I’m cut out for this parenting thing. If I had done things differently, if I wouldn’t be in the financial situation I’m in or if I might have planned better if I wouldn’t have soooo many consecutive years of sleepless nights under my belt. But they are fleeting moments. I can honestly say there are some days that I absolutely HATE being a mom. But I don’t hate the wet, sloppy kisses. I don’t hate the sweet and high pitched “I love you, mommy”s or the tiny arms wrapped around my neck for a hug. I adore their chubby little fingers and their stinky feet. When they fall asleep and are covered in a layer of sweat and drool, I don’t hate that.
I might hate seeing the sunrise every morning, especially when I was up at 12:30, 2:15, 4:45 AND 5 am. But I don’t mind all of the extra cuddles I was lucky enough to soak up during the times of the night when my child was sleepy and affectionate.
Laundry, dishes, and vacuuming are not my favorite chores, but making my child’s favorite meal, finding a special outfit for their big day at school, or cleaning up after a day of making cookies with my three favorite people makes it a little less terrible.
I might not have the fancy car or the plush couch. I may have a bank account that lingers around a balance of three figures on a GOOD day, but I get to spend my days watching personalities grow. I get to witness wonder, reasoning, and the development of logic and love. I am sitting front row to a live show that involves three beings I created as the main characters. And it’s kind of amazing.
My days might be long and arduous but the bad is sugar coated in kisses and sweet scents and the good, the good is just so damn good.
I miss regular “self-care”, hanging out with friends, traveling to places with more adult beverages than costumed princesses and I miss high heels but, honestly, life is a hell of a lot more comfortable with unshaved legs in yoga pants anyways.
So, sure. There are days that I hate being a mom. But that doesn’t mean that I would trade those days in for anything else. Even on the days I hate being a mom, I still love my job, I love my kids, and I am honored to be the one that they call “mom” in the first place.
When my son socially transitioned so many things changed. His appearance, his pronouns, his past. After a playdate where he was exposed in a raw, unexpected way, he didn’t want friends to come over and see pictures of him “dressed like a girl” again.
So he asked me to take down all of our old photos. Years of memories, family events, holidays, birthdays and school concerts. Any proof of our past that included him were essentially erased from our home. At his request. And as much as it pained me, I’ve said from the beginning I wanted nothing more than to be supportive, accepting, and to show him that even if I make mistakes along the way I will always LOVE and respect him no matter what.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t miss having the memories hung on the wall. The cute photos I had of him as a toddler (albeit in a dress). But, I also understand that for him those photos can be hurtful.
They can be reminders of a life lived as someone else.
Someone who didn’t make him feel as his true self. And because of that, I had to stuff the old photos away in a box and not look back.
When I first started sharing our story I was contacted by a photographer. One who graciously offers to take new photos of families when their children have transitioned to give them a replacement to all of their old family memories hanging on the wall. She does this as a way to show support to the trans community, support to the individuals, and support to the families.
One thing I wouldn’t have thought of in the beginning was to schedule sessions with photographers to replace all of our framed possessions, but I didn’t have to think about this one. Someone is out there doing that part for us, and she’s amazing.
We made the day special. I let him bring any extra outfits of his choice, and he chose a mustache. (Of course he did!) She took care to make sure to get some extra special shots of him, and him alone. As well as countless family and sibling photos to replace the precious memories I had hanging on the walls of our home.
She knew this day was important to us and spent time to make sure the final product was just perfect. A worthy replacement. And I couldn’t be more grateful.
Being a single mom, I don’t often spring for family photos. Any pictures of my family happen to be spin-off of a larger family event. Weddings, parties, something (honestly) not on my dime, because I simply can’t afford luxuries like professional photography.
Many of my “family portraits” were taken with a timer while I was desperately trying to scurry my way into the frame before it was too late. And even then, it takes far too long (and too many) to get one good shot that I can consider even shareable, better yet frame worthy.
I met an entire community of people when my son came out as trans to me. One that welcomed me with open arms and showed me support when I needed it most. They became and extention of my family and I share some of our biggest hurdles, and biggest wins with them. Our first “family photo” included.
If you have a child that transitioned, I HIGHLY recommend taking the time, spending the money, putting forth the effort to replace the old photos you can no longer gush over.
It’s well worth it and I couldn’t be more appreciative to have been able to do this for my incredible son. They turned out perfect and so did he, in every way.
Find Our Astounding Photographer On Facebook Here: Painted Leaf Photography
(I was not paid for this endorsement, this is not a sponsored post. I think what this photographer is doing is amazing and abundantly supportive of the trans community and I wanted to share our experience as a family, but in no way was asked to)
If you’re looking for more trans youth related stories of mine please check these out:
Like many, Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. It got especially magical after I had kids. I can’t wait to see their little faces light up on Christmas morning with delight as they burst out of their bedrooms with anticipation to see if Santa actually came.
You know, the man in red with the jolly disposition and the mystical elves that make toys from scratch and report back to the North Pole every night fueled on “cheer”. The man who somehow manages to make it across the entire world in one night living solely off of milk and cookies and Christmas spirit.
I love Santa. I love the idea of Santa. And I love that my kids think that Santa is magic. It adds an extra element to Christmas that fills them (and me) with intoxicating excitement every year. What I refuse to play into is that Santa shows up with the expensive, hard to find gifts and mom and dad bring things like socks and pjs.
The concept surrounding Santa and his reindeer ALONE is one that I think brings hope and enchantment to kids lives during Christmastime.
If we can get them to believe that there is a human being in this world who flies with wingless, hooved animals (one of which has a light bulb on his face), who lives in a hidden land that you can’t find on a map and has an entire staff of tiny, pointy earred people who have not yet managed to go on strike for being forced into overtime and being overworked, and have to do it all in dangerous conditions of freezing cold and hyper active machines throwing paint and nails…. well, I think we’ve done our jobs getting them to believe.
Isn’t that enough?
I work my ass of every year to make sure my kids have a good Christmas. To make sure that they are delivered just as many presents as their friends and they aren’t lacking in all of the “hot items” that they desperately asked for. For a month straight I live off of coffee and evergreen fumes trying to scrape together pennies to bring my little ones the MOST joy I can on the mindblowing morning called Christmas. I become a ninja of gift hiding, wrapping, and assembling. On Christmas Eve, I morph into a woman who doesn’t need sleep, hydration, or daylight to survive and I spend HOURS setting up an entire display for my kids to enjoy when they wake up at the ass crack of dawn because… SANTA!
Did I mention I love Christmas? I really do.
It’s all worth it. It is. BUT, I will be damned if I am going to go through the hell of November and December’s lead up to the big day and let the fat guy in the red suit take all of the credit for the gifts that I had to fist fight someone over in Target because it was the last one on the shelf. NO. WAY.
I want my kids to have the magic of Christmas in their very own homes every year. But I also want them to appreciate the season for what MATTERS. Gifts are great. Getting gifts as a kid is one of the most exciting parts of Christmas, but plenty of kids DO NOT get gifts and if they do they aren’t nearly as cool, high tech, or expensive as some of the gifts my kids have gotten over the years.
How do I explain to my kids that some kids (the ones who really need the miracle) don’t get what is on their list from a man who theoretically brings presents to ALL kids that are good? Do I tell them those kids are bad? What makes those kids less deserving? Nothing.
How do I explain that if we have had a year when money is tight that Santa suddenly doesn’t have the “disposable income” to supply the mountain of gifts he has in recent years? I can’t. Not without them losing some faith in the big guy.
Plus, I’m trying to raise responsible and grateful humans who understand the value of material things and what it takes to make and spend money. Christmas happens to throw all of that out the window for the weeks leading up, and at least a good month after.
The holiday comes and suddenly they become entitled brats (albeit adorable ones) who deserve the world just because they exist because for weeks family and friends have been showering them with gifts. And that is WITH me giving the best gifts from mom. If they thought Santa brought those? I imagine the priveleged attitude they carry would be slightly worse, and last a little longer.
It’s because of these reasons that my kids get the good presents from me. Call me selfish, but I want the credit. I want my kids to know that I worked hard to make sure that they got that one thing on their list they really wanted.
I want my kids to see that even though I might have missed a few important sports games or school events, it’s because I was working. Working to make sure we have a roof over our heads and our bills get paid and also so that I could do things like buy them the iPod they really wanted for Christmas. I want them to know that even when I was exhausted and stressed out I might not have seemed like it, but I was in fact listening to them when they mentioned a cool toy they had played with at a friend’s that they wish they had for themselves.
I want my kids to understand that Christmas IS magical, and there are TWO people that make it so. Santa, and ME. Maybe I’m a little self-serving, but I’ve noticed since I’ve started switching the tags around on Christmas and marking the extra special gifts from me, my kids have a new appreciation for their packages under the tree.
I have a better explanation for kids that may not get the same number or types of gifts as them or why our Christmas haul may vary year after year. And I don’t have to stress about remembering which gifts came from Santa and which didn’t when something doesn’t work correctly and I have to try to come up with some outlandish story about how I’m going to phone in to the North Pole to get a replacement.
If you ask me, the magic of Santa lies in my kids believing. Believing that there is someone watching them, rooting for them, willing to marvel them with his abilities every year because he loves little kids. He does it all in one night because he’s spectacular. And he brings things they will love and play with for the whole year (hopefully).
But the big ticket stuff, the gift that they requested for MONTHS, the one that cost a small fortune and will bring the biggest smile and the most thanks? That one comes from Mom. Move over Santa, I’m soaking up the cred over here. You already have a group of elves to do your bidding, I’m all on my own.
Halloween. It’s the parent’s ultimate compensation event. Not only do you get to send your kids out in ridiculous garbs, but they’re off begging other people for shit they don’t need for a change. Triumphantly working their little tails off (in a way that any other day would be considered child labor) collecting coveted chocolate covered and fruit flavored escapes that you get to enjoy for months to come. Until the guilt has finally set in and the reality that “bikini season” is once again around the corner and you’ve spent the winter packing it on like snowman.
But it’s “fall y’all”. The season of not giving a f*ck and the perpetual mindset of “this is a problem for spring me”. We are seemingly decades away from the time of year where you’ll start worrying about self-inflicted holiday coping weight, again.
So here we go. If we are going to rage eat our kids candy in the bathroom over our own sobs while they bang on the door begging us to refill the sippy cup we’ve only just handed them on our stumble through the lego minefield on the way in here, shouldn’t we at least do it right?
Have no fear. I’ve compiled a complete list of essentials, so you can be sure that your caloric sweet treat is the ideal choosing for the dumpster-fire parenting situation that life has handed you today.
Reese’s. A go-to for any occasion as it pertains to raising hell-bound heathens. Whether in the shape of a smooshed cupcake or a pumpkin, they are timeless. From a tiny bit of toothpaste in the bathroom sink to sharpie on your brand new leather couch, these are sure to make the blinding rage fade away, if even for a few moments. Stuff the whole damn thing in your mouth because they are big enough to satisfy in one bite so you don’t have to share with your tiny terrorists. But small enough that you (probably) won’t choke.
Snickers. Anything with crunch is perfect for when you’re white-knuckling it through dinner trying to make it to the final stretch of the evening so you can lay down and let your mind race about all things you have no control over. These come in “fun-size” which is really just code for “calm down on the candy, mmmk?” But HEY, you can take this as an opportunity to remind yourself that is IS in fact fun to devour something your kid worked hard for. Karma.
Tootsie Rolls. Save these as a passive aggressive way to get back at your kids on days they have pissed you off just enough, but not entirely to the point of making you lose your ever-loving mind. Nobody likes these little turd shaped nuggets. I use these for when my kids are begging me for candy and just won’t STFU about it already, but they really don’t deserve it after their mini-episodes of insubordination throughout the day. So here you go, little Satan spawn. Chow down. (muahahaha).
Skittles. If you like fruity , like I do, these are great. I have mastered how to silently pour the tiny bags from the front seat of my car into the cup-holder so that I can sneak little morsels to suck on while my kids are screaming for whatever bullshit toy I told them not to bring into the car that they (of course) dropped the second I pulled onto the road. I highly recommend. Starbursts and suckers work for this as well (although harder to hide from the blood sucking sugar cravers). It makes reaching around into the black hole that is my minivan while simultaneously trying to not kill everyone in a fiery car crash that much more enjoyable.
Smarties. It wouldn’t be Halloween if your kid’s buckets weren’t overflowing with these cellophane wrapped chalk wafers. This is the La Croix of candy. The first one or two may be ok, enjoyable even. But after a couple you end up with a sugar burn on your tongue and aren’t even remotely satisfied. You know it, I know it. But our kids, for whatever reason, do not. Save alllll the Smarties. These can be used as bargaining chips in the future to bribe your kids into good behavior when you’re desperately trying to complete a task (like pee in peace) or need them to just get the hell out of your face for a second so you can think.
Your kids are going to get a lot of bullshit candy for Halloween. Circus peanuts, jelly beans, Good N Plenty. All of those are basically compost material. Or a lovely parting gift for the neighbor kid you’re constantly turning away who comes knocking on the door at dinner time every night to see if your kid can “play”.
Some asshole will for SURE hand out those stale popcorn balls that in my house I use as way to showcase my impressive nothin’-but-net shot… right into the garbage can.
If you’re like me, you’ll tell your kids they can’t have any until you’ve carefully investigated it all for dangerous ingredients like razor blades and gluten. Let’s be honest, I’m a lazy (or more accurately, exhausted) parent. If I weren’t sorting through it anyways to find my stash, I’d probably risk it. I’m detail oriented, but only when it comes to stealing from my own children while they’re asleep, what can I say?
Halloween doesn’t have to only be known as the holiday that kick’s off the annual downward spiral of eating like a complete assbag for months on end. Leading you to question what kind of magical elf stowed away in Santa’s trip down your chimney and found it’s way into your unopened drawers to replace all of your spring staples with similar items, just a couple sizes too small.
So, if you’re gonna pilfer candy from your kids, make sure you do it right.
Godspeed, kiddos. Go get your mamas some chocolate.
If you liked this check out some of my other parenting inspired humor pieces:
I hear a lot about my trans son that he’s too young to know about gender. Maybe if he were older, it would make sense. But at this age, he just can’t understand these things.
But isn’t that precisely the reason WHY it seems so obvious that a child would know about this if only they were experiencing it first hand?
I consider myself a pretty progressive person and even I was taken back by my son’s exclamations of being a boy on the inside. It shook me to the core. I was fearful of his future, scared I had no idea what to do in this situation and it gave me just another worry about how I could fuck my kids up unintentionally just because there is no handbook for this parenting thing.
My son was never exposed to anyone that is trans on any level he would be aware of. Gender identity is not something we openly discussed in our home until it became something he was wrestling with.
I think this contributed to my son’s confusion in the beginning because for him, he was feeling very different and couldn’t quite figure out why.
The words he used to explain how he was feeling to me included “mom, did you know in your heart that you’re a girl? Because in my heart…. I feel like a BOY”. And, “mom can God make mistakes? Because I think God made me a girl and he was WRONG.”
He used to ask me questions before expressing he is trans that applied to textbook gender stereotypes. I would be painting my nails and he would come up to me and ask, “hey mom, can boys paint their nails too?” And at the time I never really considered any of these questions could have a deeper meaning.
I always just assumed it was general curiosity about the differences between boys and girls. I would just remind him that boys can do girl things and girls can do boy things. You don’t have to act or be a certain way because you are a girl.
Looking back, these situations speak even more to the fact that his feelings are VERY real. Because if he was hearing me at all, the message was always that you don’t have to be a boy to do BOY things. Yet, he still felt the urge to change himself. To BE someone else.
Research shows that during development children start to become aware of gender around 18 months to 2 years. This means they recognize that boys and girls are different. Physically they look different.
According to this research supported article in The Conversation,
In infancy, children will start to show a preference for gender specific toys. “Trucks are for boys” “Dolls are for girls”.
By the age of three kids will point out gender stereotypes and verbalize them. They can also associate with their own gender.
And by 4 most kids have a sense of and are comfortable with THEIR gender.
So at the age of 5, a child should most definitely be able to comfortably identify as either a boy or a girl (according to research). But what if they don’t?
What if your child is questioning their gender?
If a child is not sure, not comfortable they may express their gender confusion in different ways. Some kids experience gender dysphoria which is flagged by distress. They feel locked in a body that doesn’t belong to them.
This happens markedly during puberty, but can happen anytime, really, kids will show serious upset about their bodies or their expression of gender. To a point where it is causing serious mental or physical anguish (or both).
But some kids aren’t greatly distressed at all. Those kids are just ready to be someone else. And considering the science behind it, why, as parents, should we wait for our kids to get to a dangerous pubescent age where the potential for them to experience gender dysphoria increases significantly?
If we can save our kids from any discomfort, hurt, or harm… isn’t that our ultimate goal as parents?
Consider the changes being made at a young age for a child. Really, it is just words. Making some adjustments to our language to make sure we appropriately refer to our child as their preferred gender and possibly a name change. But other than that, as parents of very young trans kids, that’s about all. And that’s about all for a number of years.
The hope would be, at that point, we would have given ourselves and our children time to live as their true selves, and time to be sure. To let them experience life as the person they feel like on the inside matching the outside and have an opportunity to decide if there is more they would like to do about this, later… years later.
Basically, according to the pros at the Human Rights Campaign, we are allowing my child to be who he needs in this moment and in the meantime, we are looking for signs. Signs this is forever before we make any major decisions regarding his body and mind.
He needs to be consistent, persistent, and insistent. If he waivers, if he questions, if he goes back and forth between the two…. that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s NOT trans, but it could mean he’s non-binary or gender fluid, or… he got it wrong.
My son has shown me nothing but consistency and insistence since he’s expressed his true feelings to me that he be referred to, recognized as, and treated like he was born a boy.
If he faltered, I might have concerns. But even then, I don’t think that allowing him to live the way he wants to live (as a boy rather than the girl he was born as) is DAMAGING. If anything, the message being sent is that he is loved, he is accepted, and he’s allowed to be whoever he feels he truly is on the inside. He doesn’t need permission to be HIMSELF.
So do I think 5 is too young for a child to understand their gender? The short answer is, I don’t know. At this age and with my kids with ALL.THINGS. in general, I can’t say I’m 100% certain of anything. Ever.
But, as someone who is raising a transgender child but never questioned my own gender, I say no. The professionals say, no. If someone asks me how he could possible know and understand any of this at his age, I typically respond with “at what age did you realize that you were a girl (or a boy)?” And most people don’t have an answer for that because the truth is, they have NEVER questioned their gender. It always just was.
In some ways, I think my child is far more aware of himself than I am at the age of 34. And for that, I feel proud to have raised an assertive, self-aware, and confident little dude. Wouldn’t any parent be proud of that?
If this article resonated with you here are a few others of my experiences raising a young trans child that you may want to check out: