I went to bed with my soul hurting last night. Hurt and confused. Raising a gender non-conforming child is perhaps one of the hardest things a parent can deal with. I’ve been through so much in the short 5+ years I’ve been a parent, it never seems to end, this one is up there. I question what I do all the time as a parent. Am I doing the right thing? Leading them in the right direction? Altering the direction too much or not enough? How much do I let them lead?
Recently, shopping for clothes for my twins has been a personal struggle. Typically, I do shopping like this without them, parents get that, but more and more I have been finding myself completely unsure of what each will like. When my boys were born, and ever since, I have dressed them matching or at the very least coordinated. I said I would always do that until they told me otherwise. Pat has been good and helpful reminding me of that recently, now that the time has come.
This past weekend armed with my 30% off along with other coupons I went to Kohl’s, with both kids in tow. I was going to let them guide the shopping process. Michael was very excited. Patrick can care less about clothes for the most part and will probably always be that way; I have to laugh about it. Michael and Patrick both loved a pack of “Hatchimal” socks so we got those. Michael also picked out a zip up pj with Elsa and Olaf (Frozen, he loves Elsa), a set of Minnie Mouse pjs that were fuzzy and soft (his words) and a pair of black jeans with sequins patches on each leg. He was so excited and I felt good about these choices.
As we moved to the “boy” department, I was finding items and showing them to Michael and Patrick. Patrick only liked the character items so we ended up with Mario and whole bunch of Star Wars gear, and of course the beloved Lego Ninjago pjs. I offered, showed, and tried to coerce Michael into SOMETHING from the boys section. No go. I was informed every time that he does not like or want boy things. I asked. I did my due-diligence. I let it be.
As with any child (or adult), Michael was very excited to wear his new gear. The Frozen pjs went on as soon as we got home and he wanted to wear the jeans and his favorite pink kitty zip up to his Grandma’s birthday party the next day. Michael was so excited in the morning that he was dressed and ready to go before 9:00 am. I wish that were always the case!
To my dismay, Pat was upset. Not with Michael but with me. Or so he thought. What he was really upset with was the prospect of his child being bullied. Being “beat up” or called the derogatory “fag”. I struggle with this thought. Half of me wants to believe that we live in a better world than that. That our children will be growing up in a time when all people are accepted no matter who or what they are. I’m an optimist. Pat is not. He lives in the world that is not nice. The world that will make fun of and bully someone for being different. We balance each other in this way.
This next part gets hard. It is hard because your family is supposed to support you and uplift you. Accept you for who you are. We do not always have that support with some of our family. I hate to say it but I was not surprised when we walked into the birthday party and Michael was quickly asked “what is that on your pants?” and I couldn’t have been prouder when Pat chimed right in and said enthusiastically that they are sparkly pants! I love that man.
Michael’s favorite colors are pink and purple. Everyone who knows him knows that. He was very excited when Grandma’s cake had pink icing, as was she because my husband’s family is very boy heavy and there is just not much pink! All of the girl’s names were being rattled off insinuating they could have pink cakes then too and Michael added he wants pink as well. Then I heard it, “no you can have blue.” I’m pretty sure my head lifted off my shoulders, spun around, and steam came out from my ears. I firmly reminded this person that pink is his favorite color and he could have a pink cake if he wanted. C’mon people! It’s a color! A freaking color! I want to know who it was however many years ago that decided “blue is for boys” and “pink is for girls” because I just do not understand the logic or reasoning. Mental note to research this.
After a number of other comments and conversations, not all regarding Michael, just things in general, I was so happy to leave the toxic “party” environment. So happy we were heading to Costco where I could get some retail therapy. That or I was going to need a drink.
The rest of the day was beautiful. It was family, it was love, and it was everything. All I need. I snuggled with my sweet boy in his cozy Frozen jammies and my other sweet boy in his Ninjago jammies as we watched Frozen and I tucked in two happy 5 year olds.
But when I went to bed that night. When I stopped to think and reflect the emotions came flowing back. I was so upset with how our own family can be so unaccepting. Strangers were nicer to Michael. How do I keep this sweet child happy? How do I protect him? How do we know we are guiding him in the right way and doing the right things? I almost got up to start writing down all of my thoughts but I knew I was too emotional and needed things to digest in my mind overnight. So today I wrote and I made a counseling appointment.