A few weeks ago I wrote about grief.
I think I failed to articulate that positive parenting is a journey of mixed joys and sorrows. These sorrows are not always disappointments. Some parents mourn the end of each stage of development, they mourn the passing of toddler mispronunciations, they cry at the child’s first day of school, last day of school, the list goes on and on. Parenting is a continuing journey of change and development. The baby that you gave birth to develops into a child and then an adult.
I have also written about the parents of Riley Mostel, who refused to use their child’s preferred pronouns, acknowledge his gender and were a significant contributor to the disturbed mental state that led Riley to suicide. I am vocal in my condemnation of any parent who is less than 100% supportive of their child. Personally I cannot comprehend a situation where a parent would reject a child on any ground, be it social standing, religion, shame. That position is due totally to the parenting that I received from my amazing mum and dad and the freedom that I had to choose how I wanted to interact with the rest of the world. In that I am truly blessed.
You know what else? Parenting is hard, it requires effort, it requires sacrifice, it requires consistency, patience and endless love. But the reciprocal rewards far outweigh the effort. The primal love and energy which is instinctive and helps to get through those first vulnerable years where the majority of growth and development occurs in your child lessens as your child becomes more independent. Parents come out of the “baby coma” and find that they can go out without having a small person following them to the loo, they can eat a meal at a time after the sun goes down off nice plates. They start to think about their lives “pre baby”. For first time parents there is even a misconception that some day this journey will end. I remember thinking that I would have the goal post of 40 and my baby would be 18 and my job would be over. That goal post moved to 46 when J came along. Here I am, four weeks off J’s 18th birthday and my journey as a mum is far from being over for both my boys. My eldest son, who I nearly lost at 16, can hover at the edge of depression that when he slides in, it can be very difficult to reach him to help him get help. I lost my job two weeks ago, my Mum has been a constant voice of positive love and light at the end of the phone. The nature of the tasks change but the role of “parent” remains one for life.
In my post about I wrote “The child you gave birth to is a miracle. The person they have become is a miracle. Acknowledge the loss of one but embrace the joy of the other.” I have seen this interpreted as that somehow I now believe that I have not given birth to my child. This shows such a lack of insight into the complexity of the parent – child relationship. A baby becomes a child who becomes an adult. The adult is not the baby that you gave birth to, when they were born they were a jumble of limited experience gained through (hopefully) 40 weeks in utero and the miracle of a tangle of inherited characteristics from the DNA of parents. The adult reflects the wealth of experiences that time has given to them – every sight, sound, touch, taste, smell is absorbed and reflected back utilising the free will of that person to chose how they wish to appear to the world. Parents have the privilege of guiding another human being through this maze of experience. But we also have the responsibility of letting go, allowing free choice, trusting that the basic lessons that we taught are true enough and strong enough to be a foundation for positive choices. Parents also require the wisdom to allow children to explore concepts and experiences outside those of their experience.
For the parent of a transgender child, a child who comes out as transgender places, initially, the greatest trust that a child can place in a parent. It is one of the few experiences that parents can find themselves feeling overwhelmingly alone. How that parent reacts probably reflects how they have parented to date. I have used this blog to explore my feelings about Jeremy’s transition and I have been open with the negative as well as the positive. In doing so I have hoped to reach those who really need to hear my words, those parents who feel overwhelmed with the transformation of their child from one gender to another, those whose experience with transition and options are limited and probably negative. I have tried to strive for a point of positive and simple information giving to help parents feel less alone.
As for Jeremy, like any proud momma I measure the successes that are important to me. I have a child who can maintain successful interpersonal relationships, who is academically successful, who is depression free, who is anticipating the next step in his transition. He is, and always will be, a child of my heart.