Parenting is not for the faint of heart! As a parent it is our responsibility to prepare our children to become fully functioning and happy adults who will take to heart the lessons that we have tried so hard to instill in them, children who will take those lessons into adulthood and into their own lives and their own relationships. Being a good parent is an arduous and thankless job! There is no handbook to tell you how to do it, no boss or supervisor to guide you and tell you if and when you are doing it right! As a parent, it is our responsibility to consistently be looking and evaluating our “results” so that if we are off course, we can do what we need to do to “course correct”. It is also important to look for those moments that let us know we are on the right track and we should keep going in the direction that we are going. Anyone, who is committed to being a good parent is going to live a large part of their life, holding their breath, wondering if they are doing it right and often fearing that they are somehow screwing everything up, which in other words, really means….THE ULTIMATE FEAR….that we are permanently screwing up our kids and scarring them for life! Parents, I think that it is so important for us to look for those moments that let allow us to, if for only a brief moment, finally exhale! Those Blissful Moments of Validation that let us know that we are doing ok, everything is going to be ok and most importantly, WE are ok!
This becomes even more relevant and important if and when you have a child who is “different” in any way, a child who doesn’t fit into the “perfect child” box that society has created, whether that means you are raising a child who is transgender or maybe simply just having a child who is on the shy or anxious side. While I am very strong and confident in my beliefs and decisions in raising a transgender child, I would be lying if I said that I was 100% confident in all of my decisions and actions 100% of the time. I would be highly suspect of anyone who would ever claim such a thing. I think that once we think we have it all figured out is when we shut ourselves off from growing as a parent or as a human being, for that matter.
I am fortunate that I see these moments quite often in my children. They are genuinely happy and joyful most of the time! But, every once in a while, there are those extra special moments that really catch you off guard, I love those moments! There have been a few moments since Ashlyn’s transition that have really stuck with me and I wanted to share those with you.
Like the time when Ashlyn totally out of the blue and with joy in her voice said to me, “You know, being a girl has made me feel a lot closer to God.” Ok, what???!!! First of all, we aren’t even a religious family. Our family is what you would call “Spiritual but not Religious“…..I know….I know…the term is over used, often criticized but it really is very applicable. And as a spiritual person, those beautiful, profound and innocent words from my 9 year old little girl blew me away! When we are willing to love and accept ourselves, to truly be authentic and let the world see us for who we are, it does make us closer to god! WOW!!!
Or, the time that she announced very matter of factly, “You know, being a girl is pretty much like being a boy.” YES!!!! Yes, it is!!!! That is because we are all human beings first and being a boy or being a girl is just such a small part of who we are. Dang, this girl gets it!
Or recently, when I found out that someone at school had made a silly and ignorant comment about being transgender. I was concerned with how this would affected Ashlyn so, I began explaining to her about how sometimes people don’t know about things and they say silly things and how we need to just know who we are and be confident in ourselves, how we need to forgive people who may hurt us….etc…etc….insert touching, very meaningful speech here….I mean really good speech people, this was Mother of the Year award winning stuff here! When I was done with my moving life lesson, I asked Ashlyn if she had any questions or wanted to say anything, to which she replied, “Can we have Pizza Hut for dinner.” Seriously?! No “Oh mother, your wise words have touched me.” or “Mother, what would I do without your guiding force in my life.” NO! Can we have Pizza Hut? I couldn’t help but start laughing hysterically. Ummmm, ok then I am going to take this as an indication that she is just fine and everything is A-ok!
And sometimes, I have wonderful moments of validation from other people in my life like when Tyler (my 18 year old) came home from the dentist recently and told me how the hygienist (who hadn’t seen Ashlyn since she became Ashlyn) had asked him, “How is your brother?” to which he replied, “Great, but she is actually my sister now.” He proceeded to tell me how he talked to the hygienist about Ashlyn’s transition and how the hygienist thought that was really awesome! Now, while Tyler is one of the most loving and accepting people I know and I have never doubted how he feels about Ashlyn being Transgender, he is still a teenager and with that typically comes the intense need to fit in and be accepted. So, to hear him so confidently and matter of factly say “Great, but she is actually my sister now.” was such amazing validation that this kid is growing into quite the confident and capable young adult! Good job Tyler, you rock!!!
And finally, although they are not at all any indication of my parenting, I love those moments when I am reassured by people who I don’t even know that the world is a good place and there is hope yet. Like the hygienist who thought that Tyler’s story about his sister’s transition was awesome. YES! It is awesome! Or, like when, just last week, I picked Ashlyn up from school. She jumped in the car and I started my usual, “How was your day?” “Did anything interesting happen?” to which she typically replies, “Fine.” or “No, nothing interesting happened.” and depending on my mood, I either leave at that or prod a little more. But on this day, Ashlyn perked up a little bit when I asked if anything interesting happened at school, “Oh yeah, there is this kid Christopher in my class and he asked me today if I was a boy or a girl.” “OH” I said, “And, what did you say?” “At first I just said, I’m a girl.” Ashlyn replied. “But, then I said, Well, I am a girl but I used to be a boy.” “Ok.” I said. “Now you know sweetie, that’s great you said that but you know that you don’t have to tell people that you used to be a boy.” “I mean, you can tell people if you want, it’s up to you, but you don’t HAVE to.” I told her. “I know.” she said, “I wanted to.” “And, when I told him, he said, “Oh, that’s cool!”” “Isn’t that awesome mom, he thinks it’s cool!” she said. “That is totally awesome!” I said. “Yeah” she continued “When he said that….I went, YES!” she continued to tell me as demonstrated how she turned her head slightly to the side, made a fist and thrust it inward towards her body in a gesture you would make after good news or a victory of some kind. And this is a victory! It IS cool when someone is willing to un-apologetically be who they are truly meant to be. It IS cool because it is what we should all be doing and it IS cool because when one person does it, it inspires and invites others to do the same! You got it Christopher, it IS cool, you little love-muffin!
I live for these moments and I would like to make my Blissful Moments of Validation a regular feature so, look out for more of these stories from me in the future. AND, I encourage all of you parents out there to tune in and take the time to look for your own Blissful Moments of Validation. Parenting is the hardest thing you will ever do and if you let it, it can sometimes lead you down a road of fear and insecurity. You owe it to yourself and your kids to have a reserve full of Blissful Moments of Validation that you can draw from when you need to be reminded that “Everything is going to be ok.” And, my darlings, it is!