Parenting is unarguably the greatest commitment I have ever made.
The vow I made to you and myself, albeit sometimes implicit, is to teach, love, model, show you the way to adulthood and independence, and never, never, never give up. The past 23 years have been a long journey with twists and turns, ups and downs, and a lifetime of unbridled joy and sorrow. I joke about how I have earned the title, Goddess of Patience, but it really is no joke. You, my beloved child, have been one of my greatest teachers. I am blessed to be your mom and grateful for all you have taught me even though it may seem I am not because sometimes I’m tired, need to rest, and gather my wits about me to prepare for what’s next.
When you cried, I held you. When you were sick, I sang to you while I held you, took you to the doctor, and nursed you back to health. When you couldn’t find the words, I gave you art supplies. When you kicked and screamed, I found people to help me learn how to contain your rage safely. When you put the grub in your mouth, I let you spit it out in my hand. When you jumped into the pool (even though I was not ready), I caught you. When you had trouble sitting still in first grade, I gave you a small box with cotton in it to put Jimmy and Timmy the Tornado (a.k.a. your hyper energy) to rest during class so you wouldn’t be disruptive. When you were sick with a mysterious illness, I took you to every doctor I could find to get answers. When we learned a moldy school building was causing your illness, I moved you to a different school. You see, my child, I was with you, and I took my job as your mom very seriously.
As you got older, it became clear I could not love away your pain.
I could not protect you from the intense emotions you felt. When you began cutting yourself, I cried tears of terror, disbelief, and heartbreak. I did my very best to learn, to find out all I could to try to help you, to get help. When you got suspended from school in 7th grade for smoking cigarettes on campus, I was mad as hell and went to the obligatory parent class on drugs and alcohol. I met with counselors. I listened. When you needed more support to stay in school, we found a place where you felt you could be yourself. I nurtured your love of and talent for music. School of Rock rehearsals and shows gave me hope. When The Whitman Walker Clinic in DC said you were too young to be evaluated by them or to get services there, I called Children’s Hospital only to find out you were too old for their program.
The night you didn’t come home and didn’t answer your phone, I knew something was wrong. It was drizzling freezing rain. I called every one of your friends and begged for information about where you might be. When the paramedics came, they stripped your clothes off while you laid unconscious, and I rode in the ambulance with you to the emergency room, staring at all the cuts on your thighs, and praying to the spirits of the universe to save your beautiful soul. Love wins, doesn’t it, I wondered? When you were admitted to an adolescent boy’s unit of a treatment center, I prayed for your protection and care. And relief. When you declared aloud you are trans in that auditorium, I cried tears of pride, relief, and joy. I thought this was going to be the turning point. I whispered in your ear, it’s time to let go. You’ve got this.
The last time you overdosed I got the call on a Thursday night, and was on a plane at 6:00 a.m. the next morning. I flew to Florida to be by your side, not knowing if I was going to be bringing your body home in a bag. You were intubated and in ICU.
So, what have I learned walking alongside you on the journey thus far?
- You are the only self you will ever have
- Self-love is what matters most. It is time for you to fall in love and make peace with you. May you find it now
- No one and nothing – not even Mom – can save you from your pain. The only way out is through
- Some of us need to take medication. It is not optional
- You are a beautiful human being, worthy, and deserving of a life of love and happiness. And camping by the sea.
Share your thoughts, lessons, and comments below so we can keep learning from each other, how to braille our way through the journey of loving and parenting a transgender child who hasn’t yet found their peace.
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