We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned,
so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.
so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.
In looking back on all the years of raising the kids, I think I struggle(d) with the idea that somehow good parenting could control the outcome. In some ways it can, for sure. But in other ways, these beings are clearly of their own mind. The older they get, the more independent. In a strict logical sense, it's perfectly normal and expected. Emotionally, I've carried this thought that their outcome, what they are in life, is on me. I think most would agree that's a fairly large burden to carry around.
I have good kids. They know right from wrong. They exercise good table manners (at other people's houses). They are always polite to people they meet. All of them are still in school, learning to better themselves. The two oldest are actually working too.
But, and there is a but, it is interesting to note that the older two are not going down the path I wanted for them. That is not to say that their path isn't right for them, but that it's not the path I imagined twenty years ago when I started this journey.
I struggled when my oldest didn't go to a four-year right out of high school. It was disappointing. I saw it as him not reaching his potential. I also recognized that he just wasn't ready! My path for him was not his for himself. And that's okay.
He's still at home. Still delivering pizzas in between community college classes. I enjoy his company immensely and am so happy to have him around still. I am fortunate. He is now applying for his transfer to a 4-year and I'll support him on his path.
More recently I've been on a journey with my middle child. Nearly two years ago I came home from the Christmas party to a note on my pillow saying that he was experiencing "gender dysphoria" and wanted to start "HRT." My immediate reaction was being incredibly scared for my child. The world is a mean and nasty place, and kids can be the worst.
There were a number of factors at play at the time. Danny had been suffering from depression and anxiety for quite some time. Earlier in the year he confided in me that he had been cutting and doing self-harm. He entertained thoughts of suicide. He also lost his entire social network his freshman year of high school, was bullied by and ended up quitting his lacrosse team. He was in a dark, dark place. It broke my heart to know how severely he was hurting. To add another reason for kids to be mean to him seemed like it could push him over the edge. I did not want this life for my child.
We talked and had conversations. My initial reaction was that I didn't want him to make any big changes in his life when he was so fragile. Also, considering he was only 15 at the time, there was no way I was going to let him make a permanent decision about his life. At 15, you have no idea what your life is going to be like in 5 years, much less 10 or 20. How could he be so sure? But he was, and later that school year actually came out on Facebook to all his friends. And the kids were amazingly supportive.
I finally managed to find Danny a therapist that he could connect with and he started going consistently. It took far too long to be honest. Dealing with insurance companies and then finding a therapist that will actually call you back was no small affair. Then, of course, Danny needed to be able to connect with the therapist as well. Over time and regularly weekly appointments, the self-harm stopped. And the topic of transitioning became the crux of the issue. I wasn't opposed, but I wasn't running Danny to a doctor either. I had the cover of an unsupportive father for the meantime. It allowed me to bury my head in the sand. (As I type this, I realize how stupid that sounds but it was my excuse at the time.) I wasn't going to bring up the issue or push it at all.
I have my brother-in-law to thank for bringing the statistics to my ex-husband, and to me. The reality we needed to understand: would I rather have a dead son or an alive daughter. If put in terms like that, it seems clear as day, a complete no-brainer.
So over the course of this past summer, we did some investigation and there is a transgender clinic at UCSF. His father made the appointment and the three of us, as a family, went in September, on Danny's birthday as a coincidence. Two weeks ago we signed all the papers to allow the hormone therapy to begin. Signing those papers was hard. Harder than signing anything else in my life, including my divorce papers. I wanted to cry, but I needed to be supportive for Danny.
I am handling this okay. I am not sure Danny would say the same. From his perspective I'm sure it's taken way too long. And I still haven't switched the pronouns. I have more than 20 years of being a mom of boys - even a mom of three boys. That's part of my identity. This isn't a change that just affects Danny. It affects the whole family. Danny has had a tough time recognizing that - he is, after all, still a teen.
Where do we go from here? Well, the next step is the implant. I just keep putting one foot in front of the other. I know eventually I'll walk across the floor. Pronouns will come. It takes time. I've had 17 years of a boy named Danny. I deserve some time to get used to my girl named Danielle. By the way, I have no idea how to parent a girl. FML. This is not the life I'd imagined for her or me but we play the cards we've been dealt.
Here's a pic. I did her hair. That was a big thing for me.