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Love won’t always keep us together

I got to the end of everything this week.

Jeremy and his brother have had to pick up the pieces again.

I read an article recently about the seven worst things you can do as a parent.  I am happy to say that of all the mistakes I do make I didn’t make any contained in this article.  One that stood out to me was “be a friend to your kids”.  My boys are not my peers, I am the parent and while I believe in equality and fairness I also believe that these two offspring have a relationship to me that is very different to the relationship that I have with my friends.  I am not an automaton, much as the boys would like a momma robot who earns all the money, does all the housework and cooking and generally makes their lives easy and sweet.  They are dragged kicking and protesting out of bedrooms and into communal living areas where they are asked to talk about their days, do some tasks for the benefit of the family and basically take some steps into the land of “everybody else”.  I also believe that to be a good parent you need to show your vulnerability.  So I make no apologies for my breakdown this week.

In October my beloved and I went our separate ways.  It was my decision, one that was very difficult and reached after much reflection and broke both my heart and his.  We have had a few months of limited contact.  On Thursday he dropped off at work some bits and pieces that I had said previously he was welcome to keep.  Like the respectful and kind man he is he didn’t want to disturb me during my work day.  I have had the feeling this week that I should check in on him so the arrival of my possessions prompted a text and we arranged to meet after work before he headed back to the farm.  The boys joined us about an hour or so later for dinner and it was like the whole world was right and bright and happy.

and my heart broke all over again overwhelming me with pain and sorrow

But the reasons that I had for ending our relationship are still there.  They have little to do with with this lovely man, he did nothing wrong, was not careless, or hurtful or cruel.  It makes the decision indecipherable to him.

To live with honesty and truth takes strength.  To stay in a relationship where you can see that each person has their own goals and conversation leads down the same differing paths over and over again lacks honesty and it is better for each party to be on their own than continue barreling towards a point of hate and anger.  When you are not motivated by anger or hate you need strength to stay true to yourself.   The strength that I find so easily for my baby often eludes me when it comes to myself.

It was said to me once that the opposite of love isn’t hate, it is indifference.  I have used that sentence as a barometer to test how I feel about past relationships and whether I have truly healed or if I am nurturing some negativity that it is better to deal with.  I believe that if that sentence has a grain of truth to it then I have to acknowledge that by ending this relationship in the way that I did I have kept a positive link to a very joyful part of my life.  I am proud of that.

I did not have the strength or courage to end my marriage when I first felt I should.  I subjected myself and Jeremy’s father to a further 10 years limping along a path we convinced ourselves was right because we had a piece of paper.  I try to live without regret and I acknowledge that those ten years led us on an exciting journey and I have many wonderful friends from that time that enrich my life.  That does not take away that the damage to the four people of our family is still evident.  If I have learned any lesson I have learned that being brave and being alone are not the worst things in the world.

My wish for J is to always walk through life with strength and so I hope my example will guide him there.  In the meantime I treasure his cuddles and cups of tea offered as gifts to ease my tears.

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Posted by on January 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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And so this is Christmas

We are on holidays, in the loving embrace of my family. I am treading water emotionally as I had anxiety about how I would manage face to face interactions given my journey this year and being separated from my network of support has made me uncomfortable. But so far, so good.
Our journey to Queensland was joyful, lots of love and support for my blue haired baby and wonderfully restorative for me, the opportunity to be face to face with valued friends and talk about next year made me realise that near or far my safety net is strong.
Jeremy has been strengthened by so many positive interactions with family and friends including a second dinner with his dad. Each time that happens it gives him more reason to stay positive, to reject the voice in his head that whispers bad things to him. It is more reason to get up each morning.
Merry Christmas – may your gifts be ones of love and demonstrate the value that the giver places on your relationship. Jeremy and I will have you in our prayers.

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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A Jeremy by any other name

A call today; “Did Jeremy change his surname?”

“No mum, he’s [X]”

Funny question maybe but originally Jeremy, when he changed his name, used my surname – Jeremy Foster had an ace ring to it.  For so many people your name is a gift from your parents, it may change when you get married but fundamentally so many of us start with a first name not long after birth and never change it in any radical way.  Both my children have my surname as one of their first names and have always been told that it is their choice to use it if they want or need to.

But it got me thinking about the process in deciding to change a name when changing gender.  Jeremy made a pretty bold decision and changed totally from his previous name.  I asked him about it, his first name started with “k” and apparently the “k” names that he looked into didn’t fit.  From the middle of grade seven he contemplated “James” then settled on “Jeremy” leading up to telling people that he was transgender.  He says that the “Dean” just seemed to fit.  In choosing his own name he has taken steps in defining who he is the new gender, an empowering step for anyone I suspect.

Jeremy has friends who live gender neutrally and either have gender neutral names like “Ashley” or use initials to identify themselves. Then I thought about that other category of transgender people, those who have a name that they have chosen but for a myriad of reasons they are unable to say that name to their world.

I have had a realisation recently that Jeremy was blessed in one way, he made that bold declaration that came either from great trust or that supreme confidence that teenagers have in parents to make it all better.  Either way he took a leap of faith and the majority of his world followed suit and accepted him.  He has said that using male pronouns and the name Jeremy felt so comfortable and right like coming home.  It saddens me that in 2014 there are people who could not accept when someone close to them trusts them enough to disclose that they feel they are living in the wrong body.  It is a the sad reality that many people may never meet anyone who is transgender and so the announcement that someone close to them believes that they are the wrong gender is confronting and scary.  The reactions from family could be angry, aggressive and hurtful.  Or worse, understanding in private yet requiring the transgender person to live a double life to maintain external “normality”.

When I consider all these aspects I keep coming back to the relief that Jeremy expressed when he was allowed to live as a boy.  That relief on his part was all the convincing that I needed.  But I am a parent, not a partner or child.  I had faith in a family open in love.  I have a community who is open to alternatives.  I am blessed.

I wish I had the means to provide a safe haven for any and all who are struggling with transgender issues.  I want to hug you and tell you that you know who you are and I will help you tell the world.  Because the only thing worse than anger fear and rejection, which belong to others, is not being true to yourself.  I want to help you come home.

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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And now ladies and gentlemen, a word from Jeremy

Before I start, I just want to let you all know that my heart goes out to those fellow trans* men, women, and people, who have no family to go home to these holidays, due to misunderstandings and unfortunate losses. I know it is difficult to live the life you have wanted to live when the people you thought would love you no matter what have decided that you are no longer deserving of their love for the way you dress and the name you choose. This family, my family, love you no matter who you are, what name, gender or clothes you have. We are here, and we will always welcome those in need. 🙂

I realise that throughout the course of 2013 my mother has been expressing to you all my journey as a young transgender man. I thought that now was a good time to give a little personal update from the trans* man himself! I wanted to thank you all for the online support that has been given to me. For the most part though, I wanted to thank my beloved mother. I know that having a child trying to find themselves in the realms of gender and sexuality would be so very difficult. I have tried my hardest to show my immense appreciation for her strength and continuous love and care for me. There are days that go by that aren’t so great, in which I see her doubt her ability to raise children. When she doubts herself, she doesn’t know how much further away from the truth she could be. This amazing woman has raised two awesome children (especially the youngest). She has taught us amazing life lessons and shown us that humility, modesty, and care for others, are just some of the things that make a great human being. I know that without her, without this amazing, wonderful, and not to mention beautiful mother, I would not be so confident to express myself, not to mention my transition would be hideously delayed.

I don’t think that Mum sees the wonderful lives that she has gifted to my brother and I. Luke and I are seen in our respective communities as mature and thoughtful young adults, with conscientious hearts and a raging loyalty to those who show similar views to our own. All in all, I really just want to show you all how much this woman has done for her family. She has cared for us, given us a roof over our head, food in our stomachs, and clothes on our backs. I love her with all my heart, and with the upcoming year, I wish you, Mum, and everyone reading this, a happy and safe holiday season and new year.

I want you to go out into the world, express yourself, and show everyone who you are. You are a wonderful and beautiful individual, and you only have this life to show the world who you are. We are an ever-expanding community of love and acceptance, so why hide your individuality?

So please, have a happy 2014, this is a whole new year just waiting for you.

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Being a parent means you usually have to share the treats

Right here, right now:

  • I provide a beautiful home for my children that is also a stable environment
  • I have the means to pay for doctor’s bill and prescriptions for Jeremy
  • My bills are paid (mostly)
  • I live in a wonderful city where I can drive past water and see the swans

Some days you need to remind yourself about the little things that mean you are travelling ok.

This last weekend has been a family one; a trip to the markets, Saturday night dinner making Jeremy’s dinner of choice, a trip to Footscray for brunch then onto Bunnings on Sunday, lots of time spent together.  In the car during conversations about upcoming celebrations, my 45th birthday & Jeremy’s 18th, my beloved and I were joking how we would get married when we are 50 and I invited Jeremy along for the festivities. “Well thank you for inviting me to your wedding”.  “Of course kitten” I replied, “I hope you will give me away”.  We shared a smirk, my youngest son and I.

Because here is the deal – this blog is about parenting and my child happens to be transgender, which adds a touch of the complex on occasion to general parenting.  This child has another parent, one who apparently got married this year.  I have spoken about his engagement, but only recently found out about the wedding.  There has been a touch of furor about the wedding that had no family invited.  

So what is the big deal?  This person has recently reached out to Jeremy and stated that he wants to “father” Jeremy.  He has the right to ask, 50% of the genetic material of this child has come from him. Parents should not be martyrs, they need down time and their own bars of chocolate that are sacred.  They share sandwiches, kisses, beds, the contents of wallets, opinions and what is for dinner.  Parents lives are intertwined with their children’s.  There are times when you are challenged by your child and times when your actions challenge your child, anyone who has tried to put an over tired three year old to bed will agree with this.  Even when your child does not live with you there is still a level of consultation and inclusion appropriate to their age.   

Most parents aren’t faced with the task of discussing marriage with a child, but a surprising number do like the joking conversation that was had with Jeremy.  Jeremy trusts that when I remarry and / or re-partner I will seek his support because he is my family and if my partner is someone he isn’t comfortable with then that is too high a price for me to pay. Because I am in this for the long haul,  I am trusting Jeremy to pick my retirement home.

So there is a reasonable expectation when you are fifteen or sixteen that a parent will have a chat with you about a life changing event that impacts on them, raising topics in weekly phone calls, using that time to explore any areas of conflict prior to the precious few days that you get to spend together.   When that doesn’t happen when you are on the cusp of “adulthood”, whatever the reason, there is a lot of work to be done to build a bridge back to open communication.

I stumbled onto the other niggling point of this issue by accident when reading the other day.  I have been re-reading “Committed” by Liz Gilbert, a book where she explores the topic of marriage.  In the last chapter she says; “Marriage is not an act of private prayer.  Instead it is both a public and private concern, with real world consequences.  While the intimate terms of our relationship would always belong solely to Felipe and me, it was important to remember that a small share of our marriage would always belong to our families as well – to all those people who would be most seriously affected by our success or our failure”.  There are many reasons to privately celebrate the union between two people, regardless of religion, race or gender.  But no man is an island and so logically no two people are an island, fully self sufficient.  This becomes even more so for couples who are marrying for a second time with children involved, the event itself becomes more like an international negotiation with demarcation lines, neutral zones and plans of attack. In this instance it seems that the couple in question have shut out those on whom they will rely most for support in the future, parents, families and a child.  Appearances can be deceiving though, I can only speak as an outsider looking on from afar.

So it has been a tumultuous few weeks for Jeremy in the fathering arena during a year when he asked for space.  I am proud of how he has managed communication to date and I will stand by him as he reaches back, I won’t let his hand go until he’s ready.

 

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Going back to the drawing board, or “Mum, my psychiatrist says you need to talk to someone”

Last week at the end of a day of back to back meetings, after a night of broken sleep because of Jeremy’s coughing, I dashed from Box Hill to the RCH for Jeremy’s second appointment with the psychiatrist.  Due there at 4 I was already half an hour late, brain dead, hungry having missed lunch, and walked zombie like into the hospital.  I grabbed a snack and put my head down on a table, aching for sleep.

Some days are harder than others.

I was about to get into the lift to go to the specialist clinic when Jeremy got out of the lift, 20 minutes before his session was due to end.   He had his usual “I am at war with the world” scowl that I have learned is his defence face.  We sat, talked about his session and Jeremy told me that the next session would be for me with the psychiatrist, apparently I need to talk to someone.  I won’t deny that it is a good idea, but an hour with my child’s mental health professional may not be the best solution to this particular problem.  The message I took away from that is that Jeremy is worried and that I am obviously on edge more than normal.  Message taken on board son.

Jeremy also said that he said to his psychiatrist that if he could he would start his stage two hormone therapy as soon as possible.  I know my reaction was less than positive, my head went straight to the court action that would need to be taken, the latest whinging e-mail from Jeremy’s father which failed to ask a single question about Jeremy’s welfare, and that not so long ago this kid told me that he wanted to wait until after VCE.  Tired momma doesn’t cope with back trackers.  Jeremy just said “Mum, this is IF it was just me to consider, not in the real world”.

I am never sure if my negative reactions are a sign of normal parenting or just that I am not as resilient as I should be.  I want to be open and supportive but I love a stable goal post.  J Dawg just ain’t the stable goal post kind of offspring.  So I worry, was this his way of opening up, now he’ll retreat back into his shell and something that he wants is now unable to be articulated.  I see so many scars from a past that seemed so happy but was full of an adult’s inability to love his child like a parent should.  A parent who saw his child as an extension of himself and delighted in the mirrored traits, unable to cope with the individual as a whole.  A child who yearned for approval from a father who would pop in and out of our lives due to the nature of his work and learned what had to be done to get that approval, be sporty, listen to whatever daddy says, be interested in whatever new interest daddy has.  It was going to end poorly at some stage.  I have an ever awareness that despite my love Jeremy still has these patterns of behavior, not wanting to upset and especially not wanting to upset me because I am his stability.  It is an unenviable position on occasion.

Onto Monday where we went to school for a much delayed appointment with the guidance counsellor.  J and I (still sick) coughed our way through an hour long conversation of options and decisions.  We came away with many ideas for Jeremy for year 11 and 12 and I made the following stand: My preference is for Jeremy to finish year 12 with an ATAR so that he can attend University.

Jeremy does not have to go to Uni but I am not doing the right thing if I don’t make every attempt to get him to a point where he can go if he chooses to.

Jeremy disclosed that he doesn’t want to be a psychologist any more.  He talked about doing hospitality so he could get a job. I keep having the idea floated that he could do a baking apprenticeship. As an adult he has no idea how disparate these ideas are and how he shows no real inclination, no vocation for any of this.  My point remained that as a responsible parent I have to be open to all ideas and options.  If Jeremy spent all his time in the kitchen  experimenting with dishes, showing interest in baking cupcakes or developing curries, I would support his idea of finishing via VCAL. Jeremy can cook resentment into his pasta sauce, this is not his passion or his talent.  We discussed though that it is still open to Jeremy through the VCE program to do a certificate in hospitality if he chooses.  He can be the best qualified dish pig working his way through Uni as he realises that he has the talent to do what ever he damn well chooses.

Having looked at the Victorian College of the Arts and RMIT I think we have consensus that the VCE program at RMIT may be the solution that we are looking for – an older demographic of student in a Uni atmosphere should be the non judgmental environment that will give Jeremy some relief from the “douche” factor he is facing at “normal” school. With school holidays around the corner Jeremy is going to check it out.  I nurse a little sorrow that he will probably not have a formal but hey, he has so many other rights of passage in his own social group that I shouldn’t sweat the lack of renting a tux and a stretch Hummer.  In the long term the real goal is to have all the tools to be able to follow any dream that he chooses, when he is old enough to define his dream.  Because this kid shows all the signs of being able to be at the top of whatever field he does finally settle on – the looks, talent and personality are a winning combination.

The ever shifting sands of Jeremy, maybe he could be a soap opera writer?

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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