Uncategorized

The S.H.A.R.E. Movement Is Here!

Welcome to S.H.A.R.E.!!

Supporting Happiness, Acknowledgement, Respect, and Equality: A card sharing movement for LGBTQ+ friends who could use some cheer!

~~~~~~~~

I have an amazing friend I met through advocacy work, Ashley, and she brought this amazing idea to me yesterday. I just had to copilot this movement.

The holidays can be a difficult time for so many of us, specifically for some of our LGBTQ+ friends that aren’t in contact with their families or maybe just need a little boost of love.

So, we’re here to spread CHEER and POSITIVITY through greeting cards filled with heartfelt messages.

What a way to spread JOY and LOVE!

Here’s how it works:

  • Click this link.
  • Sign up as a sender and we will contact you with details on how to help.
  • Sign up as a receiver, or someone you know who would appreciate a holiday card, and they shall receive!
  • Share, share, share, share this S.H.A.R.E. Movement on social media!

We hope for this to grow into a huge movement for other holidays, birthdays, weddings, graduations, or any event where an LGBTQ+ friend needs a pick-me-up.

{Please note that home addresses are needed for greeting card deliveries. Privacy, security, and safety is our top priority so if sharing an email address feels more comfortable, do that! And we will send some virtual cheer!}

GET SHARING! Let’s spread some love this holiday season!!

Questions? Email me: VanessaVNichols@gmail.com

Thanks for being a part of something special,

Vanessa and Ashley

Politics, Raising a Trans Child, Ranting, Uncategorized

In This Climate of Attempted Erasure: Parenting a Trans Child

I’ve had such a difficult time finding my words within this past week. But I need to do some processing here.

Last Monday, I woke up to the news of the Trump administration’s attempt to erase trans people out of existence. 

Like many parents of trans kids, I felt as though I was living in an alternate universe when the news went viral. This couldn’t possibly be real. This couldn’t possibly be something that could materialize. These are our kids, our flesh and blood, that we are already fighting like hell to be seen and acknowledged and affirmed.

This made it heavier.

I’ve sat through the past 18 months with my mouth agape, unable to truly accept what this administration has managed to rollback not only for the trans community but across the political, lawful board. Nothing ceases to amaze me these days.

Yet, I had to work pretty hard to wrap my mind around the reality that yes, this might certainly happen. That my child’s whole life might have just become a hell of a lot more challenging.

As if the trans community needed this on their shoulders. As if their life isn’t already a warrior march.

This redefining of gender, as they aim to do which would be based on genitalia only, would limit my son’s entire life, no exaggeration. It would require him to live his life as female, as assigned at birth, completely undermining the scientific advancements, the medical bodies affirming this community, the insurmountable research that’s been collected in support of this community, and then most obvious – that trans people simply know who they are.

Several policy rollbacks for the trans community had already been implemented since Trump has been president.  But this move is bold. And it’s inhumane. And its void of any compassion, to say the least.

And its frightening.

There are an estimated 2 million transgender Americans. And they are being told they aren’t real, that their lived experiences aren’t viable.

And here I sit looking at my child, talking with him, living with him, raising him to the best of my ability, seeing him through so many challenges already…he couldn’t be any more real, tangible, worthy, and valid.

Yet, here we are. It’s surreal.
I’m not sure what happened to empathetic, rational beings. Do they even exist in this climate?

And in the same week that this federal news floated down, our local school board did something amazing and finally set forth guidelines to support our trans kiddos. A battle that been fought for well over a year in our district.

This was a big win.

However.
The backlash has been overwhelming. An entire community of parents are largely digging their heels in, protesting and fighting to rescind the new guidelines. Because BATHROOMS. And because of the constant irrational, illogical vilification of trans people.

And because I’m a public advocate (that’s me in that news link above), I’ve fielded an unfathomable amount of hate.

I’ve been told by local people that:
My child is mentally ill.
My child would be better off if I were dead.
Trans kids should be completely segregated.
“Normal kids” shouldn’t be around or exposed to my child.

Amongst other vile things.

The response has been far more terrible than that of anything community advocates have ever seen. Citizens are more concerned about this than issues that are far more problematic such as school shootings, forced testing, budget woes, or anything else related to our public schools. Even though our trans kids do not pose any threat whatsoever, that they are the ones at risk. And that’s based on facts that are being widely ignored.

Yet, here we are. It’s surreal.

It’s exhausting. It’s defeating. It’s lonely. It’s scary. It’s isolating.
And that fight-or-flight response in the depths of my being is palpable.

I’ve considered Canada. I’ve considered Costa Rica. Both countries protect and affirm my child far more than this “Land of the Free”.

But then I take a breath and I look around.
I look at so many amazing trans friends that we’ve made. I look at all of these beautiful lives. These beautiful faces. These souls that simply cannot be erased. These souls that need our advocacy, need our activism, need our voices, need allies standing next to them on the front lines.

Parenting a transgender child in this climate of attempted erasure feels like we are on the brink of an all out mutiny. It feels like the dog whistle for social justice warriors, for additional allies, is loud and permeable, leaking into the universe for the most giant call to action.

It feels like equality is never found riding in the center of neutrality.
And we must march far off course to rally and assert the need for justice.

It feels like resistance rising.

This is my child. This is my whole world whose life is being threatened.
This feels like the fight of my life.

And I will remain in this fight not only for my son, but for those who have lost their lives to suicide because they weren’t accepted, for those who struggle everyday to been heard, to be seen, for those who are in the closet, for those living loud, for those who can’t fight, for those who are afraid, for those with no other support, and for those who aren’t even born yet.

This administration has completely underestimated the resilience of this entire community.

Erasure is quite literally impossible.

Life Lessons, Parenting, Raising a Trans Child, Ranting, Uncategorized

Gender Best Guess Parties

Hi.

My name is Vanessa and I hate gender reveal parties.

There. I said it.

I can already hear the clicking off of my page, and your eyes are rolling so hard that they might pop out of your head, because my opinion doesn’t matter. But listen, I have some valid reasons that might make sense to you if you read on.

I’m not aiming to change thoughts on these parties, because, at the end of the day, you do you, but just hear me out and you might learn something from my rambling. Or, at least I’ll give you a good excuse to argue in the comment section.

Around 2010-2011-ish, a year or two after I birthed my child, these gender reveal parties started popping up everywhere.

And I was so confused.

I mean, I saw couples go all out for these events. Fireworks, and smoke, and balloons, and surprise cake filling, all filled with the color that supposedly suggests the sex of the baby. Sometimes, like, super over the top shit goes down at these parties. This is a big deal for a whole lot of people these days.

But. What’s the purpose?

When these parties surfaced, I wasn’t some warrior on a path to dissolve the gender construct and it wasn’t because I’m a feminist who thought them to be inappropriate since they perpetuate the gender bias and ultimately the patriarchy.

I just simply thought they were silly.

Aside from feeling that they’re a bit lavish and silly, it also occurred to me that these parties are literally celebrating genitals. And that’s weird.

As expecting parents, typically, we can’t wait for that 20-week big ultrasound, for the tech to exclaim “It’s a boy/girl!”. And they do that solely by looking at…genitals. So, these parties feel a lot like, “Hey, come and guess what kind of genitalia my baby has!!”. You might as well have penis or vagina shaped cookies on the table, too.

Ew.

And I know you’re pushing back right now, arguing that it’s a celebration of the gender itself, right? But is it? And if so, why?

Turns out, for me, I became the mom of a transgender son. I was one of the thousands who thought that I had birthed a gender, a girl in my case, one that would love to go shopping with me, share make-up and maybe love gymnastics, only to be oh so very wrong. I had the nursery painted purple, donned my child in all pink at his first birthday, complete with a tutu and headband, tried to shove him into that gender conforming box.

And he would have none of it.

As soon as he could assert his opinions and his choices, around the age of 2-4, he was all boy. For him, his gender identity didn’t match his genitals. And that does happen more than you probably realize. So, it would have been a complete waste of good pink unicorn poop shooting out of a cannon, had I celebrated that way.

But aside from that, what I’ve learned is that gender is nothing more than a social construct. If you don’t believe me, dig into history and read up on how gender roles have changed over time, how that up until the 1920’s, little boys wore dresses and kept long hair until they were between the ages of 6-8. That these pink and blue boxes that we all like to put almost everything in life into didn’t really surface until the last century. Girls like pink, and make-up, and princesses. And boys like dirt, and sports, and trucks. That’s what we’ve been groomed to believe in modern day society.

It just seems narrow to me to celebrate these gender roles and societal norms for girls and boys. Especially since you have no idea what your child will gravitate towards and what they’re going to capable of. It might not fit into the box that you’re hoping for.

And if you’re saying “No, no, no! My child can like whatever they want! My girl can love sports and the color blue and my son can dance if he wants!”…then what on earth are we celebrating at a gender reveal party if that were true?

Even if I can’t get anyone on board with any of the above, here’s my final thought: Oftentimes, we hear “I don’t care what the gender is, as long as they’re healthy”, and if we mean that, why have a party to reveal the gender? What significance does it truly hold? I can’t think of anything worthy or reasonable to answer those questions.

I’m all for a good, fun party, for sure, but this is one party theme that has always rubbed me the wrong way, even before I knew my son was trans. When I’m scrolling my feed and I see pictures or videos of pink or blue sky writings announcing the sex of babies, I have relabeled them as “Gender Best Guess Parties” in my head.

And then I imagine a rainbow of colors shooting out of that firework, or oozing out of that cupcake.

Because our kids are so much more than just pink or blue. Let them be colorful.

Life Lessons, Parenting, Raising a Trans Child, Uncategorized

Let’s Talk About Sexuality Vs. Gender Identity

I read a post today that I wanted to love deeply. It was about parents needing to accept the fact that they might have an LGBTQ kid.

I really, really wanted to love this post because it’s so true.

Parents that don’t accept and affirm their LGBTQ kids are assholes.

They just are and I’m done mincing words about that.

I don’t give a shit who or what is telling you that being LGBTQ is wrong but it’s a bunch of self-serving, self-indulgent bullshit. If a book written a billion centuries ago, and then rewritten, and interpreted a billion different ways, is telling you that your kid is going to hell for loving someone of the same sex, therefore you as a parent cannot love them, I suggest digging deep in your soul to see if you’re prepared for your child to live a life of depression, emotional distress, and possibly suicide. This is the reality for them when they live in the closet. Check the stats. 

I would gladly give up eternity if it means that my child can live a happy, healthy, full life here on earth. If I believed in that sorta thing.

I agree that it’s high time for parents to get with the fucking program and realize that you cannot choose who your child will love or how they will self-express and identify. I’m not saying it will be easy for everyone, but it will be worth it. Take the time to reconcile that shit within yourself and your faith but ultimately- unconditionally love your kid.

Yes.

However.

The aforementioned post was lacking and needs some clarity. Specifically on the topic of delineating gender identity versus sexuality.

So, if you’re a woke folk who is with me so far, please read on for clarity.

Gender Identity, by definition: {noun} a person’s perception of having a particular gender, which may or may not correspond with their birth sex.

Sexuality, by definition: {noun} a person’s sexual orientation or preference. 

These are not one in the same and we must recognize this and understand the difference so we can all be awesome LGBTQ allies.

I am a mom of a transgender son.

When he was really young, around age 5, he started to verbalize his gender identity by saying things such as, “Mama, I feel like a boy in my heart and in my mind”.

And because I myself didn’t completely understand the concept, I patted him on the head and said, “No worries, my love. We will talk about this when you get older”, firmly planted my in my thoughts that puberty would sort through this one way or the other. I assumed that I was supportive because I allowed him to dress in all boy’s clothes, play with boy toys, cut his hair short, and so on. {See my Scary Mommy post that ran in 2015 before I was a woke soul.}

I didn’t comprehend that gender identity lives in the brain and formulates very early in life, unlike sexuality. My child knew who he was and he tried to tell me.

Just like you or I have known our whole lives whether we were a boy or a girl, so do trans kids. It’s already developed in their brains, early on.

Similarly, if someone offered you a million dollars right this minute, but the condition was that you must change your gender, surgically and all, chances are, you wouldn’t do it because it isn’t who.you.are. in your soul. And you wouldn’t want to live that way.

I refused to listen to my son back then because I was lacking the education. Until he became self-conscience, isolated himself, and even self-harmed at the tender age of 8. It was then, I finally realized, when a literal brick fell on my head, that I was confusing gender identity with sexuality to an extent. I was intermingling the two, assuming that they were both determined with age, maturity, and development.

Then there are kids who gender-bend, are gender fluid, or non-binary.

These are kids who don’t necessarily feel as those their assigned gender doesn’t match with how they’re feeling in their minds, but they play with the confines of gender roles. They might float between feeling like a girl and a boy, expressing themselves in fluid ways. Maybe they’re exploring, maybe they’re just fine with identifying as male or female but they live outside of that box, (that we so love to put everyone in), maybe they identify as non-binary (which can also fall under the transgender umbrella, if the individual so defines themselves this way), or maybe they just like what they like without boundaries or labels.

All acceptable. And none of which should make any parent uneasy or uncomfortable.

None of these things I’ve mentioned so far determines if you’re gay, straight, bi-sexual, pansexual, etc. None.

Young boys that like to wear dresses, play with dolls, and paint their toenails? Doesn’t mean they’re gay.
Young girls that love short hair and football and despise makeup? Doesn’t mean they’re lesbian.

Sexuality defines that part.

Sexuality and sexual preference is when puberty comes into the discussion. Around that awful, dreaded time of hormone surges, around the ages of 10-13, this is when we start to realize who we’re attracted to, who makes us feel funny, who we start to look at in that way, who we get those butterflies -in-our-stomach feelings about. Those proverbial crushes start to form and heartbreaks are inevitable. We all remember this part of life. Sigh.

This is when our LGBTQ kids might come out as gay, bi, lesbian, etc. usually. Hopefully we’re creating open, safe spaces for them at home to feel free enough to share how their feeling at any moment of any day about gender identity and sexuality. These really shouldn’t be awkward, uncomfortable conversations.

And regardless of, or because of, all of the above, we love our kids selflessly and let go of all of the binary hopes and dreams we might have had for them. We realize that they are their own person and we follow their lead.

But it’s important to know the lingo to be a proper, effective ally.

I’m certainly no expert and I’m not aiming to condescend. I’m learning and growing every single day because I’ve been fortunate enough to be chosen to parent a transgender child, so I’m hopeful that by passing on the correct information, we can get to a place of understanding and acceptance together.

The more you know.

 

 

Parenting, Raising a Trans Child, Uncategorized

How We Knew It Was Time

This piece is deeply personal.

My inner battle whether to make this public was a bit tormenting.

I felt as though I was treading on thin ice, whether this is telling too much of my child’s story, which is his to tell, and wanting to help other parents who happen to be in my same shoes of raising a transgender child.

Because, what if others hadn’t shared? Where would we be in this journey?

What if, in December of 2017, my son wasn’t able to scroll social media with me only to see Jacob Lemay in my feed? A trans boy exactly his age. That was a pivotal moment for my son. What if his mom didn’t share publicly? Would my son have trusted me enough to share more of his feelings, without seeing one of his peers going through the same exact journey? I don’t think so.

Ultimately, I’m hoping to help others, as others have helped me, because I know I so appreciate those who have told their story.

I want to de-stigmatize, normalize, and hope to help humanize. (And yes, my son has given me permission to write this, absolutely.)

I want kids to stop taking their lives because they feel alone. I want them to know they matter and that they’re loved.

So here it is:

3 years ago, I wrote this  about my non-gender conforming child. I went pretty public with it.

When I read it now, I laugh a little at myself, cringe a little, and realize just how ignorant I was. And still am on so many levels. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I didn’t do all of the proper research, I didn’t really listen to anyone, not even my own child. I pushed it all away a bit.

I needed my denial.

Because after all, he was “so young” and I just wanted to see where this gender piece would go with “a little more maturity”. That was my thinking because apparently there’s no manuals that come with raising kids, let alone kids who gender bend.

When he was 6, he looked up at me with his big green eyes when I went to tuck him into bed one night and he said, “Mama. I feel like a boy in my heart and in my mind”, my response was, “Aww, that’s totally ok, babe. And we can talk about this when you get older!”. And every question after that when he asked about “becoming a real boy” was met with that same answer: “We will talk about that when you’re a little older”.

I thought I was being so very supportive since I was allowing him to dress how he wanted, choose his own toys, cut his hair off.

Yet, I was so dismissive.

I knew the stats. I knew the high suicide rates of trans youth. I knew the mental health struggles of non-affirmed trans youth. I also supported those parents who affirmed their young trans kids, allowing them to socially transition. But because my child was seemingly happy, well adjusted, and well liked, I didn’t think we fell into this category.

Because I thought I knew better than him. A 6 year old can’t possibly know more about himself than his mother does, right?

Oh how very wrong I was.

So much has changed since my child was 6 years old. We’ve grown so much physically, emotionally.

What I do know now, in this moment of this day, of this month, of this year, is that what was best for my child, who was assigned female at birth, was a social transition.

He has a new name and male pronouns.

And I have a happy, energetic, out-going, self-confident child. Something I didn’t have before.

The reason why I’m writing this is because after we came out on my private social media page, I received so many messages filled with questions. Many of which came from a place of personal experience, because they have a close family member, or even their own child, who is similar to mine.

And they want to know how I knew that transitioning at the age of 8 was the right thing to do.

My answer is this: it was the only thing to do. Because my child was hurting. And it was obvious.

In the fall of 2017, he started self-harming. He was biting himself to the point of giant bruises and bleeding. His answer when I asked him why he was doing this to himself was…”Because I like the pain. It feels good”.

He was withdrawn a bit from friends, especially at school, struggling to fit in, and he wouldn’t talk to me about his emotions, even denying that he was struggling with friends. He didn’t know how to articulate it all. He was full of shame. He was internalizing everything and he was hurting.

I’ve never felt more terrified in my entire life.

I assumed it was the gender component rocking him at his core because it’s been so prevalent in our lives since age 3-4, but if I’m being honest, I was hoping it wasn’t. I was hoping it was the divorce or some innocuous thing that we could tackle. Maybe even hopeful that it was a sensory issue. I was hoping for almost anything else to be behind this.

Because I was scared. I was scared of the label of “transgender”. I was scared because I don’t want his life to be any more difficult than it would as a cisgender (a person who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth) or even as a lesbian.

So, we sought help from a professional. Someone amazing who has experience with the transgender community.

A few months into his sessions, he began to open up, telling her how he feels. And how he feels is that he knows he’s a boy in his heart and in his mind. And he just wanted the inside to match the outside.

So, we played with the new name amongst ourselves, in our home.

And a different child emerged.

One that is so full of life and light.
One that is so full of confidence.
One that will now look us in the eye.
One that has a different shine to his smile.
One that isn’t full of shame.
One that isn’t withdrawn.
One that isn’t self-harming.

He was a caterpillar morphing into a butterfly. He needed his wings.

And that’s how I knew.

This is the answer. This is how we fixed his hurt. We lifted the shame and the confusion. We let him be himself.

I’m listening now. And I’m sad I wasn’t listening then.  I screwed up, as we all do as parents.

But I’m here with him, I caught up to him, following his lead now, letting him explore every aspect of this new world, his new freedom.

This is how I knew. And it was the easiest decision I ever made.

And I’m not scared anymore. He is changing hearts. He is showing me what it means to be brave.

This was our experience, what led us to where we are, but this certainly isn’t everyone’s. It’s really ok to follow your child’s lead if they’re expressing, consistently and persistently, that they’re a different gender than what they’re assigned. My advice would be to let them explore it. Allow that space. Let them play with a new name and pronouns. It’s really not a big deal to allow this exploration.

You might be beautifully surprised by the discoveries that are made. They know themselves. They truly do.

Let them lead with this, you follow.

**********

Good reads:

https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2018/03/15/transgender-people-are-born-that-way-a-new-study-has-found/

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/science-pinpoints-dna-behind-gender-identity-3vmrgrdnv

https://news.utexas.edu/2018/03/30/name-use-matters-for-transgender-youths-mental-health

If you would like additional resources, or have any questions, please ask me.

Life Lessons, Parenting, Politics, Social Media, Uncategorized

About That Letter. A Follow Up.

Well. Wow.

Hi.

I’m Vanessa. Welcome to my tiny space on the internet.

One week ago, I wrote an open letter to teachers that went viral. It had an organic reach of over 500,000 views in 4 days, which is giant for this little blog. (For reference, 2000 views per post is average for me.) Love What Matters also picked it up and was able to reach even more for me, to get my message to educators. And it’s still racking up the views as I type.

I’ve never had a post go “viral” from my blog. Many of my most popular writings were republished on online journal outlets, such as Scary Mommy, BLUNT Moms, etc., but never have I written anything that reached the masses from this space. I am one small whisper in the loud, vast chatter of the blogging world.

I was shocked that this specific post resonated with so many people. I didn’t feel like it was so wonderfully written or anything special. And this isn’t me just being humble. This is me saying that it wasn’t that unique but the reason why it touched so many is simple:

Teachers do not get the recognition and accolades and appreciation that they deserve. Ever. And they were just grateful to have someone say “thank you”.

I’ve been sitting with that all week.

It’s incredibly heartbreaking to me that we forget about the most important people in our world. The special humans that chose to make their life’s work about bettering our entire society: teachers, first responders, and social workers are the first that come to mind for me. Of course, our military, too. We forget to thank them and we forget to respect them. And none of these professions make nearly enough money to do what they do. They do it for the greater good. They do it for their passion.

And the comments I received, the messages, the emails, from teachers on that post were sobering. I need to share a few to drive this home for everyone. (I want to share all 200 of them but I chose the ones that hit me the hardest.):

~~~~~~

*I absolutely would protect my students if that’s what it came to because that’s my job when their parents aren’t there. I just hope my own family will forgive me and understand my love for my students didn’t outweigh my love for them if something would ever happen to me in the line of duty.

~~~~~~~

*Thank you for this. I retired at the end of last year after 33 years. I chose to work in high poverty areas. These areas are also rife with abuses of all sorts. I can remember having to have a discussion with my fourth graders after a shooting. They were scared. As their teacher, I didn’t know what to say. They knew I would die defending them if I needed to. I loved my job, but I realized the stress was getting to my health and it was time for me to go. I visit 2 of my old schools and just hate that we have to buzz people in because we can’t be sure about anyone. It is a sad day and most teachers I know around where I live do not want to be armed. They want to do their jobs without fear. My heart breaks reading some of the ignorant comments from people who think the job is soooo easy. I asked a person once to come sit and watch what I do after they criticized teachers in general. Their reply was something I can’t put in my print.

~~~~~~~

*Thank you for this. I had a shooting at my school more than 22 years ago – it was a parent to a staff member (no one was injured) but the students saw this and a shotgun slug shot was fired into an empty classroom. I have been a teacher for more than 30 years and every time these events happens, I look over my shoulder or out my classroom windows twice just to make sure I am aware of my surroundings. More and more teachers are leaving because people with feelings opposite of yours are pounding teachers efficacy into the ground. The general public hasn’t a clue what teachers actually do and due to confidentiality, we cannot share the most serious and detailed parts of our jobs. We need more people like you sharing these thoughts and feelings with the world and with those who make education policies. Thank you again for this, it will be shared with fellow teachers.

~~~~~~~

*I love teaching and wouldn’t change anything about my career path. But as a teacher I feel society’s loathing of us every day. We are disrespected and hated. Society does not want their tax increases to go toward our salaries, school supplies, buildings, etc. Unfortunately, society only cares about teachers when they are shielding students from bullets.

~~~~~~

*I received this immediately after leaving a memorial service for one of the children killed in Parkland. I sat in my car, and cried thanking The Holy One that someone could put into words what lay so heavy on my heart. I immediately shared this with the teachers at my grandsons’ school. I pray that it will bring them comfort.

~~~~~~

Wow.

Just. Wow.

I am crying rereading these.

I cannot imagine feeling so under appreciated and ridiculed in a profession that very few are willing or able to do.

What this experience did for me was gave me even more appreciation to those that are molding our future generations. It made want to shower them with praise. It made me recoil on my annoyance of homework and projects and realize they are absolutely just doing their job. It gave me even more compassion for these special souls that get up everyday to meet our children and care for them almost as much as I do.

So, hey, everyone with a child in school: please, please say “thank you” to their teachers. Somehow. Words, letters, emails, coffee, gifts, chocolate, whatever. Just please, say thank you.

And thanks to all of you that read my letter and reacted with such love and positivity. I’m honored to have made it to so many of you.

Oh, and, lastly, to those that accused me of fear mongering or made this into a gun debate, let me be clear that my sole intention was to thank teachers for all they do. I don’t care which side of the gun debate fence they’re on, I don’t care which side of the political fence they’re on, I simply wanted to say thank you.

With or without the threat of gun violence, they are amazing humans that deserved to be recognized. Full stop.

Parenting, Ranting, Relationships, Uncategorized

FYI: You’re Not A Single Mom If You’re Married

I read yet another blog piece about how difficult it is to be a “married-but-single-mom”.

You know the ones.

The ones crying about how difficult their life is because they signed up to be a stay at home mom and now their husband’s work 60 hours a week…so they can be a stay at home mom… and the husbands don’t feel like changing diapers, or they don’t clean up their own dirty underwear, or perhaps the husbands literally don’t lift a finger in the house. The moms that complain that their lives are so painfully lonely because they got everything they ever wanted and now realize how hard it is to be a mom and a caregiver to all of the humans in the house and they think they’re living the same life as a single mom…

Listen. Just stop with this.

Ladies, (and yes, I’m singling out the moms here since that’s who I see debating this subject time and again), if you are married you cannot be a single mom. It is virtually impossible.

Simply put, “single” and “married” are antonyms. They have opposite meanings. You cannot be married and single at the same time.

When can you call yourself a single-mom? When you’re single and unmarried, raising children. Full stop.

Husband gone 5 out of 7 nights a week for work? Not a single mom.
Husband works nights and you work days? Not a single mom.
Husband doesn’t lift a finger around the house to cook, clean, or care for the kids? Not a single mom.
Husband is included in any of your vernacular when describing your relationship status? Not.a.single.mom.

I understand that your husband might put in long work weeks and expect dinner on the table and the laundry to be done and that yes, you are the primary caregiver for everyone in your household. I get that. I get that is nothing short of the most incredibly difficult job on the face of the planet. Because it is. Parenthood is hard. And yes, husbands are like having an additional child. Absolutely.

But you know what you have that single-moms don’t, in case it isn’t obvious? A partner. Of some sort.

If you’re a stay at home mom, you have a person providing financial means. Emotional support. An adult human that lives with you at least some of the time, even if he works long hours or even if he travels for work. Someone to talk to about something other than MineCraft and 3rd grade math. You have a person.

And I’m not willing to give those a pass, who do not actually know this struggle, to share a title with any single mom. Just…no.

Call me an asshole. Call me bitter, (because a divorce that I didn’t want has made me both of those things), but that title isn’t suited for you as a stay at home mom who has a partner. Sorry.

I’m not saying your situation isn’t difficult. I’m sure that when you’re comparing yourselves to other married moms whose husbands come home at 5pm and immediately chip in with the kids, help with dinner, bathe the kids or whatever, I’m certain you have it more difficult. But you’re still married. Maybe it looks different than the fantasy you created in your mind about how it would be, but you’re married.

When I was married, I worked a typical 8-4 job and my husband worked nights as a restaurant manager. When my daughter was a baby and a toddler, six nights a week after 4pm- the caregiving and on weekends? All me. And I do remember making comments to friends like, “Man, sometimes I feel like a single parent!”, because I had no clue what that actually meant.

Now I do.

I am divorced. I have my daughter 5 nights every week, including every weekend. I run two businesses, so I put in about 50-55 hours of work a week, and I provide about 90% of my child’s financial well being.

I certainly could have it more difficult. Obviously, there are moms (and dads) who have their children 100% of the time without any help, some working more than one job. The real single parents. The toughest of the tough shit. I’m sure some reading might be in this category and believe that even I shouldn’t be using the term single mom, and I can respect that to some degree. I will happily accept an alternative title of “bitter asshole, divorced mom”.

But what we both don’t have is a person.

That person that promised me for better or for worse, the one that said “I do” in that thing called marriage? He’s no longer here with me because life had other plans. No more confidant, no more equal contributor to finances, no one to fight over the remote with, no more 30 minute timeouts so I can walk the dogs if I’ve had enough of being a mom in a given moment on a weekend. Because I am single. And a mom. And I’m on my own.

I know we all live in our reality. And all of our realities are hard. That’s the truth. I don’t think any of us as parents believe our lives to be easy. We can all find solidarity in the struggles of raising small humans. This shit is difficult no matter how perfect it looks on paper. All of it is hard. Marriage certainly isn’t a romance novel and raising children isn’t puppies and rainbows like we dreamed these things to be before we had them.

We know mom life is hard. We know.

But, please. Please reserve the title of “Single Mom” to those who actually live it.

Parenting, Uncategorized

When Are We Going to Hold Fathers to Higher Standards?

You know that Clorox commercial that shows the mom coming home from the grocery store or the gym, walking into a chaotic scene, with the dad unable to handle the simple task of watching his own son while mom is simply out for what appears to be a short amount of time? The one where the dad has managed to completely fail, with the kitchen disheveled and the baby is sitting bare-assed on the counter, while the dad proclaims, “everything is fine!”, when everything clearly isn’t? Where mom has to come in and clean up?

After seeing that commercial dozens of times, today, it struck a nerve.

Just curious, why is the father portrayed as entirely incompetent of watching his own child?

Why is this a thing in 2017?

I know I’m picking apart fiction here but it truly annoys me that we don’t hold fathers to higher standards. Still.

Before I dive in here, I will admit- I’m guilty of holding far lower standards for fathers than I do for mothers.

It’s true.

I see a dad alone in Panera with his well behaved children, eating their mac&cheese and talking about the grocery shopping they’re about to do and my nonexistent ovaries jump while my brain simultaneously goes into some ridiculous narrative of, “Awwww. What a good dad he must be!”.

Whaaaaattt? Why does this happen?

He’s eating lunch and going food shopping with the children that he actively agreed to raise into decent humans. There’s no big fucking deal, no bravery, nothing terribly challenging, there’s literally nothing to see here.

When I see a mom with her children in the same scenario, my brain registers very little emotion, except perhaps a little empathy.

Both examples are that of parenting. Both are capable. Both are competent. But perhaps because one birthed the children and carries a label of “nurturing by nature” more than the other, the scene plays differently in my head? I’m not sure.

So many of us do this. Why are our standards so different for each parental role?

And this literally starts happening in pregnancy.

A father accompanies his wife or girlfriend to prenatal doctor appointments and he’s praised as if he’s done some magnificent thing. When the truth is, he is just sitting there, scrolling Instagram and texting his buddies about how awesome it must be to be elbow deep in vag all day long as a gynecologist. Meanwhile, mama has a fist in her birth canal, checking to see if he cervix has started opening yet so she can push a watermelon out of the opening of a straw. You know, the actual work that goes into birthing a human.

But he’s the one everyone oooohs and ahhhs over. She’s just…the mom. The expectations are just beginning for her.

When the baby is new and everything is so fresh, forget it. The second the father does something we as mom’s do on an daily basis, the red carpet is rolled out.

He straps the kid into the car seat, heads to the mall for some new onesies and every passer-by is commenting about how “you just don’t see that often!”. And some women even look on in envy that someone else’s husband is so involved.

Meanwhile, mom is probably home doing one of the 50 loads of laundry that has piled up, trying desperately to get the shit stains out of the few onesies that have survived the body fluid explosion, or perhaps she’s actually taking her first shower in three days.

Is that really a break? And even if it is, doesn’t she deserve it?

When my (now ex) husband and I had our daughter, I cannot tell you how many people praised her dad. Because he fed her in the middle of the night. Because he took her to the grocery store. Because he changed her diaper. Oh, how he was held in such a high regard.

Well. Yeah. That’s kind of what he signed up for, isn’t it? We kind of both expected to raise this child. I sure as hell didn’t sign up to do it all alone.

Why do men get free passes in parenting, held to little expectation of actually participating in everyday tasks and responsibilities? Why does the double standard still exist?

Women have been equal financial contributors to many households for decades. We aren’t in Leave it to Beaver land anymore, yet, women are still expected to carry all of the weight.

I get it, some families have traditional roles, and that’s fantastic if that’s the agreement and that’s the expectation within the family, but as a whole, why are we still so shocked when that isn’t the case?

As a mom who traveled for work when my daughter was an infant and a toddler, I was time and again questioned, and almost ridiculed, for being away from my child while on business trips.

“How can you possibly stand that?!”, was said more times than I can count.

And now, as a single mom, when I get into a conversation with someone who asks if “the father is involved”, and I respond with “yes, he has her two nights a week”, I am met with, “oh, that’s great! At least he sees her!”

Um. Well. Yes? I suppose that’s great that he is a parent…some of the time?

But let’s switch that up for a moment. What if that was me that saw her two nights a week and her dad had her for five? Would that be acceptable? I am quite certain that I would be side-eyed and deemed a questionable mother. I’m sure people would speculate that I must be unfit.

Not to mention, single moms are often viewed as having “baggage” or deemed “complicated, while single dads are “such a good catch!”.

Why?

Just the other day, I was listening to this talk radio show with two male hosts and one was planning a Disney World trip with just him and his two children. The second host was losing his mind over this, praising him, telling him how lucky his wife is and how single moms will be hitting on him, swooning over him left and right. Like, literally making a hero out of him for taking his own children away for a 3 day getaway.

Why? Why is this hero status?

I’m full of questions about all of this.

Men put in mediocre effort into fatherhood and that’s sufficient. Women attempt to self care and we are guilted, mostly by our own conscience, into thinking this isn’t ok.

We have to work to change this narrative. We have to make it equal in our brains.

When we continually praise fathers for putting in equal, or often times less than, towards parenthood, we are suggesting that women should, and will, do it all.

And listen: we can’t do it all. Nor should we be expected to when there are two capable parents.

Perhaps some of you already have the proper equality in mind, and if so, kudos. But for the rest of us, let’s practice the thoughts in our minds that yes, dads are just as capable and competent in parenthood as moms. They are equal. They are able.

And, Clorox, please make a commercial reversing the roles because guess what? Parenthood can be difficult for moms, too. I know we appear to be superheroes, as we often are, but sometimes our kitchen is disheveled with our bare-assed kids on the counter and ain’t no one coming in to clean up after us!

Let’s continue to work towards changing the narrative and perception of what expectations we should put on fathers. Let’s reprogram our brains.

If moms can do it, so can dads.

Life Lessons, Parenting, Ranting, Uncategorized

Thickening of the Skin, Strengthening of the Spine

I had the first real heartbreaking conversation with my 8 year old daughter. The kind where she was sad and confused. The kind that began her story with friendships, fitting in, and feeling left out. The kind that makes me want to take her away to some island where her and I can just be together and safe and happy and free of hurt.

I knew it wouldn’t be long. I’ve predicted this conversation for at least 3 years. Most parents have to have these conversations in some variation, of course, but I knew ours would come a bit prematurely because my child doesn’t fit those traditional molds specific to her gender.

She does well with the one-on-one play. She has school friends, she has her neighborhood friends, but activities like recess and any type of party scenario, she tends to be a bit…awkward. Kids aren’t mean to her, they’re not bullying, and I certainly hope it stays that way, but, she struggles, internally.

A few nights ago, our community had their fall block party. There were probably 30 children there and I noticed that my child had been adopted by an older girl, an 11 year old, that just so happens to be on the autism spectrum. Their friendship seemed to happen quick and easy, despite their age difference. I observed them and it seemed to just make sense to both of them that they’re natural friends. I couldn’t help but feel and think that this was the coming together of two unique spirits, of sorts.

After this sweet girl left, my daughter wanted to leave, too. But I wasn’t quite ready, since I only socialize twice a year, and so I said to her, “why don’t you go play with one of the 30 other kids here? I’m sure you can find something to do with one or a few of them”.

She reluctantly took my advice and I continued to observe, noticing it wasn’t going so well. The boys tossed the football to her a couple times but then quickly divert to boys that could sustain more of an aggressive game. One thing my child is not is physically aggressive in sports. She’s not a tomboy.

The girls really don’t have anything in common with my daughter, being that they were in a group doing gymnastics and braiding one another’s hair, nothing my child would have any interest in, so that just left…my daughter.

As I put her to bed that evening, she said, “Mom, I wanted to leave the party tonight because I don’t fit in with anyone. The same reason why I hardly ever play with anyone at recess. No one is like me. I feel different than everyone”.

Ouch. Stab.

Open, gaping wound.

Blood spilled out of my heart.

Now. I don’t believe my child is immune to being dramatic, and she’s certainly bossy at times so I recognize that some of this falls on her because she wants to play what she wants to play, when she wants to play it. And I realize that many children feel like they don’t fit in for many reasons. But. That doesn’t negate the feelings of being different, feeling left out,…because she is, indeed, different.

It’s an awful feeling, at any age, to feel like you don’t belong. I’ve struggled with it more in my adult life than I did in my school years. We all just want to feel accepted and loved.

I could certainly go into the amazing wisdom I feel like I imparted on my child, how I told her that’s she’s incredible and unique and that because of that, she’s going to have to work a little bit harder to find her tribe. I could go on about how I told her that when someone dares to be different, and someone dares to live outside of “normalcy”, you should never compromise and your people will find you, like the sweet 11 year old found her. I could rehash how I stressed the importance of having that one really good soul that “gets” you rather than 25 fake friends that don’t really get you at all, won’t be there for you in the long run and highlighted all of the amazing friends she does have.

But here’s where I want to swing this into a selfish story:

Yes. I cheer-leaded for her last night. The first time of many, I’m assuming. I told her all of those amazing things about herself and how it makes her who she is, etc. but after I shut her door behind me, after our good, long talk, I cried. A lot.

Because this shit is hard.

We can say all day long that every child struggles, every child goes through the proverbial growing pains, and that’s very true, but I cannot ignore, for my daughter, that this is about her gender identity struggles.

30% of kids that struggle with gender identity attempt suicide and 42% engage in self harm and the stats for depression and anxiety are even more staggering. And between 5-10% of all LBGTQ youth attempt suicide. This is scary. Like, fucking terrifying, knowing this is the reason why she’s different. It is and there’s no reason to sugarcoat that fact.

She’s realizing she’s different, she’s realizing she’s not like anyone else. It’s getting harder for her. The confusion is just beginning.

And this shit is hard as a parent.

I feel it, as a mom. I feel the struggle. My friendships have changed since it’s been apparent who my child is and especially since I have written about this topic. Not all friendships, but some. I feel the distance. I feel the chatter behind my back. It’s palpable. Its like a thick cloud sometimes. It’s tangible.

I don’t have many local friends anymore, in this small, conservative area. I notice the lack of Facebook friend engagements. I notice the lack of invites to social events. It’s not in my head. It’s real. The distance is there.

People think this is my doing, that this my choice. That I want this for my child. That being out of the ordinary is my thing and I thrive on it. I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating: no one wants their child to struggle, ever. For any reason. Being deemed “normal” or more “mainstreamed” would be much easier, yes? A parent would not choose this.

And even if these people know that this is who my child is, they want my silence. They don’t want me to make a deal out of this. They don’t want me to talk about it. They say it’s because they worry how my daughter will feel about these writings someday when she’s older, but I call bullshit. It makes them uncomfortable. They don’t say these things to my face, but they don’t have to.

And sometimes it’s painful. I’m slowing giving away my fucks, little by little, one by one. But sometimes it stings.

Then, little things happen. Just a nudge to remind me that my voice matters.

Just yesterday, my daughter and her dad went to get her hair cut. One of my friends from high school, whose son goes to my daughter’s school was there, too. I received this text from my friend:

Hi there. Just wanted to let you know that my son and I were waiting to get his hair cut here at the Great Clips. Your daughter was getting her haircut. First of all I have to tell you, she is the most beautiful little girl or handsome boy- whichever she prefers. Well, when she and her dad left, the older gentleman next to me said to the stylist- ‘was that a girl or a boy, I sure hope with that haircut it wasn’t a little girl!’ The stylist QUICKLY said. ‘Her name is in our system as a female name and she is a just a kid being who she wants to and obviously has supportive parents’. He just looked like he’d been hit in the face with a bag of bricks. I just looked over and said, ‘yes, she is my friend’s daughter and likes to associate as a boy, but I don’t believe that makes or breaks who she is as a child’. He just gave me a blank look. It was very eye opening to see what you and Lily have to deal with first hand probably on a day to day basis. It really opened my eyes to how cruel some people can be and especially regarding a child! So I truly admire you and all that you do for your daughter!”

Validation. It exists.

This text validated that, yes, people do spew their unsolicited, hateful opinions behind my back, whether they’re strangers, friends, or even family, but more importantly, someone else was able to see how hard this can be. And also? How incredible was that stylist that shut that man right up?

I was so thankful for this text, for this moment. I cried happy tears that people can open their minds if they so choose.

We see the pendulum swinging a bit in terms of LBGTQ acceptance, for sure. Just yesterday, the first openly trans political officials were elected (way to go, Virginia and Minnesota!!). And amazing as that is, the absolute HATE I read spewing online today because of those election results was so fucking depressing and made me realize how much work we still have to put in.

We’re are headed in the right direction, but it’s just awful to see so much hate, so much division over this topic, still. All because people want to live within their ignorance. They want to deny the science behind this discussion, they want to pretend it isn’t real…because it makes them uncomfortable. It’s much easier to call people “freaks” than to open their minds to other possibilities.

The take away here is: there is far more hope right now than hate.

And at the end of the day, my spine is stronger, my skin is thicker, because of raising this child of mine, thereby allowing me to teach her that she is a badass.

My child will only know how to stand tall and take no shit, letting no one talk her out of who she is. She will rise above the hate, she will look down on the ignorance. She will only know self confidence and never apologize for who she is. Her skin will be so thick that she will feel sorry for the idiots that believe that her lifestyle is a choice, whatever that ends up to be. She will be firmly planted in her truth and have no problem telling someone to “fuck off”.

We’re getting somewhere, one political office, one high school friend, and one hair stylist at a time. So, my child and I stand tall, and sometimes we will stand alone, and that’s totally ok by me. I’m more than up to the challenge and, more so, the privilege of being her mom.

Life Lessons, Parenting, Ranting, Uncategorized

The Great Bathroom Debate is Bullshit. Here’s Proof.

A few weeks ago, my non-gender conforming daughter (who is 8), and I were in a public restroom. As we were washing our hands, an older lady standing next to me looked at my daughter, (who was out of earshot at the hand dryer at the moment), then turned to me and said, “So, what’s the rule these days? When do parents allow their kids to go to the correct bathroom without a parent?”.

I fell silent for a second, completely confused as to what she was asking me. She took notice of my confusion and filled the silence with “You know what I mean. When will you allow him to go to the boy’s bathroom alone?”.

It took my brain a second to process that she was certain that my daughter was a boy and she was judging me, inferring he should be in his gender assigned bathroom.

“Oh, um. She’s a girl. She’s in the correct bathroom.”

The look on this lady’s face was somewhat indescribable. She could not have been more shocked, stammering and befuddled in that moment. I then saw the look of confusion take over her face, trying to make sense of my child’s gender and what I was saying.

She tried to backpedal and muddled something along the lines of, “Oh, well, well, I, um, just meant that she looks older and, um, I didn’t know…”.

My emotions were somewhere between annoyed, angry, and still confused by the whole conversation. The only thing I could choke out was, “Can’t judge a book by it’s cover, right?”, and she couldn’t manage any words.

First and foremost, stop judging parents, period, lady. Because that’s where she wanted to go with it, I’m certain. She wanted to get on her pedestal about how her generation allowed children to go to the bathroom alone at the age of 2 or whatever higher horse conversation she was encroaching on. I could hear it coming.

But secondly? This is exactly why the transgender bathroom debate makes no sense at all and is utter bullshit. Here it is. A prime example.

Here’s a person that assumed my child was a boy by mere esthetics. Boy clothes, plus boy hair, plus boy mannerisms must equal boy. She certainly could not see her genitalia. And because we were all in the bathroom to do what people do in the bathroom, take a piss, we were not bothering anyone. Why this woman felt the need to say anything at all is beyond me but by doing so, she proved a much larger point.

She proved that had my daughter been in the men’s bathroom, no one would have questioned her at all because she looks like a boy. If my daughter was/is trans, she’s visually acceptable and it would go without notice that she is in the stall next to another little boy. No one would know that she actually has a vagina.

The fact of the matter is, you have taken a squat in the very next stall to a trans person. You absolutely have. You just don’t know it. Because, as my daughter proved to this woman, looks can be very, very deceiving. Guys look like girls, girls look like guys, and trans people look like who they are. But more so- who cares?

Straight, gay, trans, bi- when we go into a bathroom, we all just need to go to the bathroom. That’s it. Pee, or take a shit, wash our hands, and move on. Why everyone is so goddamned concerned with our genitalia is bizarre. There are plenty of hard facts documenting that straight men are usually the perpetrators in any kind of bathroom assault or perversion so what’s with this preoccupation with transgender people or gender in general?

Since this whole bathroom debate began a couple of years ago, it caused me so much confusion about what it is everyone is so afraid of. I know the big bathroom debate is tired. I know it’s been written, it’s been discussed ad-nauseam. So, this is me half venting, half {hopefully} educating in a spill of emotion.

The truth seems to be, people just don’t want to be wrong about this marginalized community and this is why this is even still a topic of discussion. They don’t want to try to understand the biology and how it’s different from their own, or even if it’s different at all. They don’t want to realize that they’re just like everyone else.

Regardless of what your bible might tell you or what “morals and ethics” you hold true, or if you’re just one of those that believe those that challenge gender norms are “freaks”, try to put that all aside for one second. They’re people. Just living. That’s it. They’re just human beings. That’s it. Normal, breathing, thriving humans that need to go to the bathroom. If you don’t want to try to understand anything else about gender issues, fine. But just recognize the simple fact that they need to go to the fucking bathroom, just like you.

It hurts so many people when we move backwards, back towards exclusivity, opposed to inclusiveness. The us-versus-them mentality. The you’re-different-so-you-must-be-wrong mentality. And we are, indeed, slipping backward.

I hope we can do better as a whole with this entire topic. I’m not overly optimistic lately.

But also? Don’t give unsolicited parenting advice. Ever.

And, Stop judging books by their covers. Let my daughter pee and mind your own business.

 

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