Grief and Loss Of A (Transgender) Child

It’s an odd feeling to miss someone who is staring you right in the face.

When my 5 year old first started presenting as male I read and read and read some more about anything and everything I could get my hands on as it related to transgender youth. I studied and learned and researched and took notes and sent links to my fiance and family and to myself (to refer back to later). I joined groups and asked questions and met with other families of children who had come out as trans. I wanted to know IT ALL. But one thing I hadn’t prepared myself for was the grief and that accompanies the “loss” of your child. Your child as you know it is gone. And with that comes an intense amount of sorrow.

I didn’t get to mourn the loss of my child like someone might mourn a death. There wasn’t a service, no meal train was set up in our name, I didn’t get calls or texts or cards in the mail to express sympathy or condolences. There was no outpouring of support from family or the community. In many cases, it was the opposite. Months, days and hours defending my child and giving explanations and resources to family and friends.

You are so busy focusing on your child and the changes you are determined to support him through that your own thoughts and feelings get overlooked. The

HUGE changes that come along with social transition shadow your inner emotions until it comes crashing down one day and you start to realize… You are sad. You are mourning. And when you take the time to sit down and think about how you’re feeling and why, you notice that you feel as if someone died. And, in a way, someone did.

My child, as I knew him, was no longer the same person. And in his place there was a new, different child that I was still learning about. I was changing words, changing the way I referred to and reacted to my child. Everything changed. When I found out I was pregnant for the first time I had eight months to read and prepare for parenthood. And even though nothing can prepare you for the true day to day of being a mom, at least you have time. With this, I wasn’t given much time at all. As soon as he expressed himself to me that he wasn’t living his true self, he was off and running. And I was just trying to keep up. 

My son asked me recently if I still think he’s the same kid “now that I’m a boy”. And it made me wonder if I treat him differently now. Is he also mourning the mom he used to have? Has his mom morphed into someone new that he is also trying to navigate a relationship with? I sure see him (physically) differently now.

Everything he does makes this all so OBVIOUS. But I think some of that is me just trying to find and make sense of it all as a parent. How could I have not seen this sooner? How did he know, and I didn’t? So alongside the grief there is guilt. Guilt that I wasn’t doing my job as a parent to the fullest. I didn’t know him better than he knew himself. Which comes full circle back to grief and loss. 

If someone ever told me there would come a day when I would miss the very child laying on my chest watching a movie with me, I would have thought they were bat shit crazy. But now, I realize how possible that is. I know with time the things I miss will get less and less as I continue to watch the development of my child in his element and becoming more and more of his true self. But for now…. it’s just a little sad. 

MomTransparenting

 

If you connected with this post, here are a few others discussing my experiences with raising a young transgender child:

My 5 Year Old Is Transgender, And I Don’t Want Your Advice

What If This Is Just A Phase?

My Son’s First Haircut – A Rite Of Passage

 

 

Follow Me Here:

Things I Promise Not To Do On Your First Day Of School

Dear Son,

As you skip up the walkway and get into line with a group of your peers, all bright eyed and fresh faced with hope and dreams and the future in your eyes, I promise not to lose my shit in front of the friends you don’t know you’ll make yet. I won’t embarrass you and bawl. I won’t scream your name and tell you to tie your shoe because you’re jumping around and I can foresee the future of you tripping on your own laces and face-planting in the hallway. I won’t lick my finger and wipe away the leftovers from your breakfast off  your cheek.

When I come in to wake you that morning, I assure you I will not stir you with my sobs while I stare at your sweet sleeping eyes and think about all of the times I have watched you sleep. Carefully sneaking into to your room to gaze at you longingly, to study the rise and fall of your chest. Expertly moving out of the room begging not to wake you or there would be hours of hell to pay, but I couldn’t help but watch you breathe one more time before bed.

I vow not to tell you that as you were getting ready this morning and making sure you picked out your best clothes and combed your hair to perfection that I was thinking about the day you came into this world and took me by storm. How beautiful and perfect you were and how I stroked that same hair with my hands, in the same way you are now as I nursed you into the wee hours of the night. How I too, carefully picked your clothes before you even took your first breath so that I could make sure to document the moment, with the best photos, and never forget.

I pledge while you sit and eat the special breakfast I made for your very first day, I won’t tell you about the look on your face when you tried a new food that you realized you liked and the faces you would make when you didn’t. I won’t tell you about all of the messes, the noodles stuck in your hair and the sauces rubbed on your high chair like paint and the discolored baths that followed. I won’t tell you that even if in those moments I was frustrated, I was tired, or I seemed mad, in this moment, I would do it all again.

I swear on my life I won’t tell you stories about how through my sleep-deprivation, my stress, my long days, that even though I may have appeared defeated and tired, I (secretly) loved waking up extra early with you and sneaking in extra snuggles. I adored watching the sun come up with you in my arms while you fell back asleep…. but my coffee was finally kicking in and now I was wide awake. Just studying you. Memorizing the lines on your lips, the wrinkles in your neck, how you smelled, your perfect little nose, those miniature ears. The way you smiled in your sleep.   Your incredible sense to reach up, even when you were fully enveloped in dreamland, to search with your fingers for my face before you sighed with relief and continued on snoozing away.

And after the day is over, I cross my heart that while I hear your stories about all of the friends you made, your new independence and the experiences you’ve had (and will have) that didn’t include me, I won’t tell you that I missed you. That after I walked away and left you in the hands of the school, your teachers, your friends…. I cried today. How I thought about all of the things we could have been doing if you weren’t busy at school, without me. I won’t tell you that I worried about how you were alone with no one to hold your hand and guide you. But you weren’t lonely at all. I was. But I promise I won’t tell you that.   

Follow Me Here:

My Son’s First Haircut – A Rite Of Passage

A first haircut is a milestone for any parent and their child. Most parents will take their kids in for a big to-do snapping endless photos, snipping tiny locks of hair and saving them in a book or a box to remember the day forever. (Even though we all know it just sits in a bin in the basement or attic collecting dust until we move, and then the box is moved to a bigger basement/attic to collect new dust.. but, hey, we care).

Even though there will be a million more to come, and eventually the “magic” of the first or second haircut dwindles and the routine becomes mundane like any other, we celebrate this event for our kids. For my son, right now…. haircuts continue to be a big deal. Maybe bigger than they were before. His “first” haircut was years ago, and it was very uneventful. A tiny trim to conserve his perfect ringlets that seemed to get fuller and more dramatic (and devastatingly beautiful) with age.

But now, we don’t count that hair cut. For him, his very first true and memorable haircut came after he revealed me that he is trans. And it’s a day that will forever be etched in my mind as a turning point for us, for the better. After my son told me how he felt on the inside and that he felt he was living a lie: a boy trapped in a girls body, he wanted badly to change his hair to a boy style. It was a drastic change that had us all very nervous, even just talking about it before the day came caused (me) panic.

I was anxiety ridden, he was scared kids would make fun of him after, and I might have been holding on a little too tight to that tremendous head of hair he had. Honestly, at first I thought he might back out. He seemed unsure once the moment was staring him in the face and I definitely didn’t want to pressure him into anything. Before the first scissor blade almost grazed his hair he turned his head and  stopped everyone. He asked for us to be alone to have a chat. He explained to me that he desperately wanted this change. He was dreaming about it for months. He was ready. BUT  – he was petrified. He didn’t want the kids at school to “call him names for being a boy now”. A haircut meant that his appearance would match his heart and he couldn’t hide anymore if he felt uncomfortable. He would be exposed.

School was almost out, summer break was close and my son wouldn’t be going to the same school next year. So I tried to urge him to wait a couple weeks. Once summer officially started this whole thing would be a lot less stressful, for all of us. But he didn’t want to wait another day longer. This was happening and it was happening today.

The stylist first put his long, beautiful curls in a pony tail and asked one last time before she started moving her blades through the bound locks. He nodded and… snip. It was GONE. And I anticipated the tears, the instant regret he would have once he realized that this was it. There was no going back now. But instead, my child beamed.

As the stylist continued to even out the long layers my son increasingly got more and more frustrated and my heart dropped because surely this was the remorse setting in and soon he would be crying all over the floor. Yet instead, he said, “it’s not short enough, I still look like a girl.” So my friend (his stylist) kept snipping away, looking at me for reassurance as she slowly cut more and more off until he had a Bieber-esk style cut and was grinning from ear to ear. Once he found words through his smiles and giggles he looked at me and said, “mom, I really look like a boy now, isn’t it GREAT?!?!” He was so incredibly happy and all of my fear, my panic, the tension this day had built up, melted away and all I saw was a very happy little boy who had just experienced one the best days of his life.

I walked in to that appointment scared out of my mind, questioning everything I was doing and feeling so unsure about all of my most recent decisions as a parent who’s child just expressed to them that they might be transgender. This was such a huge moment for him, and for me. Once his hair was short and he was thrilled, it all made sense. I wasn’t doing anything that I couldn’t take back (after all, hair grows back) but to my son, I was “allowing” him to make the changes he needed to feel himself, to feel loved, to feel like his body and his mind finally made sense, and to know that with me, this was all ok. And in the end, that’s all that mattered.

Since then, we have had many haircuts. And every time he wants it just a little shorter than before. And afterwards he still walks around rubbing his head and smiling in disbelief. Like he went to bed a frog and woke up a prince. As if he never thought it was possible to look in the mirror and see someone staring back that matched how he felt inside. But it was possible, and I couldn’t be more grateful that I was the one that stood by and held his hand while that transformation took place. I don’t know what the future holds for us, but I will forever remember his first haircut as a defining moment for him, and for me. Maybe more so than I will remember my other kids hair cuts. Because this haircut was one of the experiences that made him who he is.   

Of course I held on to those long locks of his from this very official day. Bound together by the very same ponytail and wrapped delicately in a ziplock bag…. sitting in a box… in my attic.

Follow Me Here:

When Your Child Comes Out – Family Can Be Harsh

Once my son expressed his true feeling to me about feeling like a boy trapped in a girl’s body, he was rapidly ready to make some serious external changes, and people started asking questions. My child was very open about how he felt to most people. At school he walked right in and announced himself as a boy. In the neighborhood kids asked “so, you’re a boy now?” and he would simply respond, “yep!” and continue on playing, business as usual. There was no doubt in HIS mind, but it sure as hell did make some heads turn or eyebrows raise, especially if this was the first time someone saw him since his appearance drastically changed.

It’s interesting to watch. Especially at this age, because kids {mostly} don’t care. They seem to breeze right over it move on to more fun things. It’s not the kids that scare me when it comes to my child. At least not yet. It’s the adults that seem to be confused, scared, and downright mean.

Since my son has gotten more open about his feelings, we’ve gotten support where we least expected it, found friends in strangers that have gone through similar struggles, and received a lot of backlash from the people I expected to be our biggest supporters.

My son made it very clear rather early that he wanted me to do the explaining. He didn’t want to sit and field questions as a child, he was still figuring this all out for himself and at four that’s hard to articulate to an adult anyway. On top of the language barrier between adult and young child, anyone that wanted to question him seemed to have an agenda of using whatever he said as a way of discrediting his feelings or making him prove to them that this wasn’t some child’s play. It. Was. Infuriating.

Everything he said and did started getting dissected. If he had played with a doll while I was at work (even though he was playing the dad and the doll was the son, as he often did) my family babysitter would call me after and say, “you know, {FULL GIRL NAME} was playing with dolls today, and SHE LIKED IT!” Huge effing eye roll from me.

Photo Credit: Trans Student Educational Resources

No one understands until they do the research that this is a spectrum, that one action does not make or not make you identify as a boy or a girl. And who am I to tell my child how they feel on the inside because of the toys they play with? I’ve always had toys for both sexes in my house. If my oldest (born male) son puts a headband on and prances around the house (and, he has) does that make him feel like a girl on the inside? No.

Comments like this made me quickly realize why he was overwhelmed and decided to defer the questions off to me to let me handle the explaining. Mama Bear mode came on strong in many cases.

Everyone had their theory, everyone had their opinion, and many times… it wasn’t favorable to the path we had already decided to take with my son. The path that the professionals, the parents, the doctors, and every other person I could tell my story to, begging for an answer, had advised us to take. I would spew out statistics and evidence-based research, but it didn’t matter. There are some people that no matter WHAT you tell them, will always think they have the answers. When my son started requesting male pronouns be used to refer to him, some family members flat out refused.

My family tried to tell me horror stories of other trans kids they had heard about (but didn’t personally know), how my kid was going to get bullied out of school, how other kids were afraid of my child. As if I wasn’t already afraid enough for my child. As if this was a choice. I heard all about how my child needs attention, is around too many boys, must be confused, is too young…. I should wait five years. See if this sticks before we do anything “drastic”.

My kid was told “NO” when he would ask them to address him by his new, shortened name. And then they would emphasize his “dead name” when they addressed him to show their opposition to his change. (Dead name is the name you were given at birth. The name you no longer associate with. And for many trans kids, a painful name. Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t familiar with terms – I still am learning all of the lingo and politically correct terms relating to all of this).

I learned a lot about my family in the beginning, to say the least. And we are still working on some (most). It’s sad when you have to consider if it’s going to be safe and healthy for your child to attend something as simple as a family BBQ, or if you should just stay home altogether. It’s not fair. Hopefully, by this time next year, things will be much different. One can wish… right?

I hear from other trans kid’s parents that they sent out letters or emails, sent an announcement to their family when the situation got real for them to explain what was going on, how to address their child, and many included a number of researched referrals/articles for their family to read if they had questions. I didn’t do this. I should have. Maybe I was giving it some time to make sure, maybe I was scared. I honestly don’t know. But I think it would have helped prepare my family (and done my kid some good) if I had warned them all before we showed up at the next family function with a hair cut, boy clothes, and a new name. Lesson learned.

 

Until next time, be the mom that sticks up for your kid. Even if it’s to family and even if it brings you pain. Be in their corner. And be proud of that.

 

MomTransparenting

Follow Me Here:

The Day I Told Someone I Have Two Girls And A Boy, And My Son Was Devastated

There are endless opportunities for you to screw up as a parent. Every single day there is some situation, some reaction, some word that you said that you regret. Endless moments that at the end of the day as you reflect on all of your mistakes you realize you could have done differently, more loving, more understanding, more patient. If you weren’t so tired, weren’t so overloaded with sports to get to and birthday parties to remember to buy gifts for and doctors appointment and school registration and…… as your list continues the list of reasons that magnify your chances to screw up become endless as well.

We all, as parents, have those moments. But one of mine that will always make me cringe with absolute heartache happened shortly after my son came out to me as trans. We are only currently about 6 months into this process, so this was {maybe} 4 months into his path of transitioning.

I was on a work call, and wandering aimlessly around my yard while the kids were all playing with their random toys that didn’t belong outside, that would normally make me squawk at them to take back in the house, but…. I was on the phone… and so they know, this is their chance to get away with murder. I believe all kids of all ages, shapes, and sizes know this offspring life-hack.

Mom said no? Well then, just wait until she’s is on the phone, and then…. ask for whatever you want. The world is your oyster once she has someone important on the receiving end of her cell. She will say yes, and if you’re lucky, the call will take just enough of her focus and energy that by the time she hangs up, she will forget you even did this to begin with. Kid WIN.

My son was currently practicing this little snippet he learned from the  children’s secret society we have no intelligence of (or maybe it was Pinterest, who knows where they figure this shit out): he was asking me for something (I couldn’t remember what if I tried), and I was waving my hand in the “go ahead do whatever you need/want be quiet this is important” mom motion. Meanwhile, the person on the other end of the phone heard my kids in the background which prompted him to ask about them. And I quickly responded, I have two girls and a boy, and continued our business discussion without another thought.

My child was off playing again with his siblings until the next epiphany would come to them to request from me before my phone call ended and their time ran out. It wasn’t until I hung up the phone that my son came up to me and tugged on my shirt ever so gently with a single tear rolling down his cheek. I thought for sure he had fallen off his bike or tripped on the sidewalk and had a boo-boo for me to kiss somewhere on his little body. But instead, he simply said, between the most inaudible but tragic sobs, “mom, you told your friend that I was a girl.”

UGH. Those little words, that devastated face, the wretched shoulders. In that moment I felt so small. So lonely. So undeniably AWFUL. I couldn’t believe I did it and I also couldn’t wrap my head around how intensely upset he was. It wasn’t an obvious visual or audible upset. It was as if someone had just died and the initial shock hadn’t worn off but the emotion was so deep. So hurt.

I’ve since explained in great detail to my son that I am determinedly trying and making a very conscious effort to change my language in regards to HIM. But, there are times I can’t get my kids names right when I am looking right at their faces! I call them out as their sibling, the dog, the neighbor boy, whoever’s name pops in my head first in my fit of fury. But to my trans child, when I make a (avoidable) mistake like that it cuts him on such a deeper level, and so I really need to be more careful.

I haven’t made that mistake in public or with an “outsider” of our family since. And after that moment, I don’t think I ever will. As parents, we always want what’s ultimately best for our kids and we never (intentionally or not) want to be the one that causes their pain. Ever. The excruciating hurt of that one slip was way too much. For us both.

Until next time… be the mom you want to be. Even if she has faults. Even if she gets through her day and promises herself that tomorrow she WILL do better, and tomorrow comes and so do the new day’s errors. Nobody is perfect, but you are trying. Always give yourself credit for that.

 

MomTransparenting

Follow Me Here:

Mom Transparenting

Instagram
Facebook
Facebook
PINTEREST
PINTEREST
Follow by Email