It’s been 14 months since I wrote a Parenting Jeremy. Up until recently there has been nothing really of note to write about in our lives with respect to parenting challenges.
J is now 21 and a second year baker’s apprentice. I have uppped stakes and moved across the country to follow a plan for myself. I am 2000 kilometres away from this child of my heart, but he and his brother are young men and have their lives to lead and I have mine, I am only a 2 hour flight away from them. It has been a time of change for us all, but I think we have coped well, we are ok about our apartness. The boys are rising to the challenge of their new reality, and I love the daily insights into their lives, like the decision to change electricity and gas providers. I am still coming to terms with mine, but my changes have been different. I am in my parent’s home and they have loved me being here and I have enjoyed the break from being “the adult”. The boys are “home”, they are surrounded with all the trappings of home from childhood books to family treasures. I arrived with two suitcases of clothes and not much else. I have a newish city, I have not lived here for 21 years, but I have loved the re-connection with those who have known me forever. The boys and I seem to be the better for being apart so far. I miss them and I miss my things, my wine glasses, my books, my shoe collection, my nightly cuddles, my daily train ride with my eldest. But mostly I miss my stuff, and I can cope with that level absence.
Last Friday I had a couple of conversations, one with J and one with work. Suddenly a reality became really really real for me, and since then each time I contemplate it I find myself welling up with tears, my voice cracks, I want to run and hide and because I am who I am, I think must not be alone in feeling this way. The time has come to start preparing for J’s first surgery. This is not a new topic for me, it has always been a topic since the start of J’s journey. I have spoken to other parents about top surgery, in matter of fact ways, discussing surgeons, when J was having his surgery, recovery and how to draw from superannuation for this surgery. I have been factual and loving and positive. I still am. So why this reaction? What has changed?
I have looked deep into my soul for the answer. When I found myself saying “it’s like I’m losing “her” all over again” I realised that on one level I still had not fully laid a grief to bed. I want to differentiate though between grief and not being accepting. You can mourn or grieve for certain aspects of your life or your loved one regardless of what has happened and still be supportive and accepting. If a loved one lost a limb, or a sense, or have some profound life-changing event happen and there can be a period of adjustment and mourning. In my heart I know that I am supportive, I am a fierce momma bear, this has not changed. I have always viewed the lives of my sons as gifts that I was blessed enough to receive. I have not taken their rearing lightly, I am still heartsore at my parenting failures, of failing to protect my eldest from the indifference and self-centredeness of a step parent, failing to see J’s distress in his teens for what it was prior to his transition and many more. I promised J at his birth that I will always be his loving momma, and that will never change.
So I know my grief is not based on any aspect of who J is. J is awesome, with a killer smile, wicked intellect, fantastic skills professionally, socially and with a terrific social awareness. So why? Why now? Is it because now this is a reality? I have been intellectually talking about this surgery for so long and now I have to start completing forms and talking to my employer for carer’s leave to care for J post surgery? Maybe it is because intellectually I see this as J’s first irreversible step in his journey. J was never on puberty blockers and our consult with his medical team was comfortingly reassuring for me with respect to starting testosterone. I have known that J can stop T, or stay on it, that being transgender does not mean a set series of processes, that he has choices and that he can stop T if he wants to. I know that the T will leave his body and although some physical changes will be permanent many are not. I have tried to to bend to it all like a reed in the wind. Instead I think I have been like a Pink Floyd lyric, I have been “comfortably numb”.
Although I was aware of these medical facts let me be crystal clear – J has never wavered in his “persistence”. J is male, was always male, this has nothing to do with J and who he is. This is all about how I have been an emu (or ostrich) and hidden my head in the sand. But only partly. I have been surprised that there was a corner of my heart that still had a tiny window into the future that I wrote for J in his first fifteen years prior to transition. J’s reality is one I would not change. I think what this is is a reminder. It is the tail end of losing a dream. I am being kind to myself about feeling this grief. To put it into perspective on the 20th anniversary of losing my grandmother I wept again for my loss, there was a sliver of pain as raw as when I first lost her. On the day of would have been my 22nd wedding anniversary I was sobbing wreck, for no other reason really than the loss of a dream. Then I remind myself, like all grief, it gets easier. This too, this grief is not going to be a constant companion. It is simply a reminder that I love deeply, and I grieve deeply. You cannot put timetable on grief. Just like’s J’s progress to his true self, my progress through this process is uniquely my own. Once upon a time I harboured secret plans for my second born, and it was a beautiful dream. Sitting on a chair in the sun this afternoon, watching cats play on the lawn, talking about how I was feeling I acknowledged again that it was only a dream, and not one that J had ever indicated was his.
Grief is an ok place to visit, over time it loosens the claws it has dug into your heart and you breathe better. But you see see your life with a new marker, a new anniversary when your life changed. I am trying to embrace the change, but acknowledge that I am change weary right now and this may take a little while to accommodate.