Life Lessons, Parenting, Ranting, Social Media

The Bullies Have Arrived. And I’m Ready To Use My Words.

My daughter was bullied for the first time two weeks ago.

Unfortunately , I’m not surprised. But that doesn’t mean it hurts any less as a mom.

When you’re a little girl that appears to be a boy, when you don’t fit into a perfect little societal norm box in this hateful world, bullies will find you.

She was on a play date in a different neighborhood. Her and her friends went to the community’s playground and met two boys around the ages of 10-12.

All started out well and fine, they all played together, until they didn’t.

The two boys began picking on my daughter, before even knowing she was a girl, making fun of her clothes, her shoes, her hair. When she corrected one of them for calling her an “ugly boy”, telling them she was a girl, they then called her a “tranny”, a freak, a fag, and gay. None of such terms were even understood by my child. Because she’s 8 and ignorant to such slurs and hatred.

She handled it well enough. She talked it out with me when I picked her up. She asked a lot of questions about the words they used and just seemed overall confused, but not overly sad.

She is the type to stuff emotions a little bit so I’m not sure the validity to her dismissive attitude but I was proud of her strength. We keep open communication about the incident and I made sure to tell her that these boys were just mean because they didn’t understand her and that they must have felt bad and ugly inside to do that to someone else, to which she responded well.

As for me? I didn’t handle it quite as gracefully.

I was so sad. I am so sad.

This is a tough pill to swallow for a parent. This bullying epidemic is some scary shit, especially when you bring the notion of social media into the conversation. It’s fucking terrifying.

I analyzed the incident for days. And by analyzed , I mean obsessed over it. And by obsessed over it, I mean I lost sleep, I cried and I thought about running away with my child somewhere it feels safer than this. Anywhere that posed promise for more open mindedness.

Because I know this won’t be the last bullying incident. I knew this was coming and it was the day I dreaded for years.

When my daughter’s gender identity adventures began at a very young age, of course I was hoping it was a phase. Of course I was.

Who would want their child to have a more difficult life? Who would want their child to be different, to stand out, to struggle? No one. Absolutely not one parent on the face of the earth.

But alas, she continued to express herself in the same patterns: “boy” toys, “boy” clothes, “boy” haircut, all with a bit of a masculine nuance to her mannerisms since age 4.

I’ve never labeled her transgender, as I’ve written and talked about publicly. Let me be clear here and interject- I would label her transgender, and let her socially transition, if she asserted herself that way, if she affirmed that in her heart she feels like a boy, if she ever went into depression or anxiety over it, or if she attempted suicide over it as many young children do when they’re trans. Because I now know that being trans a science based fact, because I’ve done my research, because I know families that have had a suicidal 7 year old because their brain doesn’t match their genitalia.

But thus far, that hasn’t been the case. We keep an open dialogue and yes, she sees someone that specializes in gender issues. Because it’s confusing as fuck, for her and more so for me. This is not a made up thing.

So, for now, she’s a girl with a very feminine name who looks like a boy and confuses so many strangers.

Which is where the bullies will continue to dive in. Because they’re afraid. Because whether you’re a child, a teen, a young adult, or full grown, fear breeds ignorance and ignorance breeds terrible behavior, as we have all been privileged to witnessing.

People are afraid of things and issues and other people that they don’t understand. They’re afraid and they react out of that fear. And the bullies aren’t taught to filter that out by their parents. Ignorance is perpetuated in their homes, it’s learned behavior. And that behavior translates into hatefulness. Just look around social media. Adults are the absolute worst offenders.

People ask me all of the time. “why do you write about this? Why do you put this information out to the universe to get scrutinized?”.

And all of this analysis of this first bullying incident solidified my answer- to preach the word of kindness. To maybe, just maybe, educate one person on what it is that makes my child different. To advocate for all differences.

I posted a little blurb about this incident on my personal Facebook page, trying to spread a message of kindness and teaching children to not say anything if they don’t have anything nice to say.

I received a private message from a person I knew from high school who stated that I set my child up for this bullying, that this is my fault, because I “let her dress like a boy”. To which I replied, I simply will not shove my child’s wants and needs aside, force her into a box, for the comfort of everyone else. No way. That would certainly make it better for everyone else wouldn’t it? But that is not allowing my child room to be who she is. That is not setting her up on a solid foundation.

She is who she is.

And that’s why I write.

For her.

To create a better world for her the only way I know how.

And to those that believe writing about this topic is over exposing her- that’s a fair concern but listen, she will grow up knowing her mother is a fighter for equality. And I hope that makes her proud. I will absolutely stop writing about this the moment she asks me to.

But in the meantime, I will fight for a better place for her to exist just how she is. Her authentic self. I will use my writing as a super power of education and plea for kindness.

And hope for a day where acceptance is commonplace and bullies have no place in the world.

A mama can hope. A mama will fight.

Life Lessons, Parenting, Summer, Uncategorized

Dear Neighbors, Thank You For Being A Part of My Village

I live in the retirement capitol of the world. Literally.

The median age of my town is 67. It’s been referred to as “Heaven’s Waiting Room” and all of the other “near death” jokes you can think of. Bunko, golf, and pickle ball are the focus of most conversations and no one eats dinner after 5:30pm, (which, I’ve somehow comfortably melded into this). The speed limit here is 45 but you must drive at least 15mph under that in the left lane. And, if you’re looking for any establishment to be open after 8pm, you’re out of luck. Our Walmart is open 24 hours, though. That was giant news when it opened.

I have been here the majority of my life and it wasn’t always the most exciting place for children. When I was school-aged, most communities were strictly 55 and over (and still are), meaning, yes, that they discriminate against anyone younger living in them. That said, young families were just dispersed throughout our town since there was not one community that was geared towards that demographic. We were lucky to have one or two kids within a 3 mile radius.

I now have an 8 year old who happens to be an only child. And truth be told, I am one of those moms that hates playing with their kids. Sorry, but it’s true. I am not that kind of fun mom. I will do dance parties, watch movies, go on hikes, go to the beach, go to the pool, but if the play involves my child telling me what to say during imaginary play….nope. Sorry. I suck at it. So, she does rely on her friends, as I believe she should.

About 4-5 years ago, a home builder of those cookie-cutter type housing communities acknowledged the need for a community that appealed to younger families, noticing that this population is growing here.

Low and behold, he was building a monster community where he put in a….water slide.

:::Cue opening gates of heaven music::::

A water slide. Fucking genius. Build it and they will come.

And so all of us young families marched in like zombies to purchase a new home and asked, “Where do we sign?”, declaring, “Take my money!!”. I don’t even think any of us cared what the house necessarily looked like, what the quality was like, or how much it even cost.

There was a water slide. And playgrounds. And walking trails. And kayaks. And even promotional pictures posted of….children playing. It was a Christmas miracle.

So, I’ve painted the picture. My neighborhood houses approximately 75% of the young families of our town here. Slight exaggeration but not really.

The amazing result here is that my child now has built in friends. A plethora of young kids her age. So many that I cannot count. She’s so fortunate to have this. I’m actually envious of her childhood, at the risk of patting myself on the back.

But she’s not the only fortunate one. I am, too.

My neighbors are a huge part of my village. The village it takes to raise a kid. And I’m so thankful.

I’m able to have her put on her handy little GPS watch-phone thing and off she goes, sometimes for hours. Maybe playing video games, maybe playing and outside game of kickball, maybe playing Legos somewhere.

So, yes, my kid is the one that’s always at your house.

But it works both ways.

As I type, I’m listening to fort building and nerf gun wars upstairs after a sleepover, that was complete with popcorn, donuts, and massive amounts of YouTube viewing. Sometimes I have as many as 7 children playing at my house, recording videos, destroying my daughter’s room. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I hope I’m able to give other moms and dads the same breaks, breaks that they certainly deserve, that they give to me.

It might not always be an even amount of time spent between houses. I don’t keep score. My guess is that no, it isn’t. My child probably spends far more time at others’ houses than they spend here because it’s always more fun at someone else’s house.

And if that’s an issue, I would hope someone would speak up and tell me, but I’m assuming we are all in this together. We’re all here for one another, watching our kids grow up together, helping raise them together. (I do expect you to say no to her, as I’ve had to say to your kids, and I expect you to discipline her as you would your own. Again, in this together.)

I love the independence that this neighborhood gives my daughter. I love the freedom it affords her. I’m a huge advocate of breeding healthy independence and freedom because if it can’t start in early childhood, when does it start? When do we stop hovering? When they’re teens and then they go insane with their new freedoms, not knowing exactly how to channel it? I know these are controversial questions, so I’ll answer that for myself…

I’ve realized that having wonderful neighbors allows me to feel safe about letting my child experience things on her own. It has allowed her to make some of her own choices, which aren’t always going to be the right ones, and that’s ok. I trust her. And no, I don’t trust everyone else. Yes, strangers can be dangerous, and I hope I’m doing a decent job of teaching her that. I feel comfortable allowing her to find her way, within reason, because I’m surrounded by a great support system.

I understand that my style of parenting isn’t everyone’s style. We establish that day in and day out with one another, based on the online parenting wars. But I do understand that not everyone agrees with giving their children as much freedom as I give mine. And I definitely respect that. No two parenting styles are alike, which makes the world go round, and ultimately will help my child become more well-rounded, having been exposed to so many different families.

Having all of these amazing people surrounding us, allowing my child to come in and out of their homes, eating their food, playing with their children, even sleeping over at times? I can’t say it enough: I’m so thankful. It’s an amazing advantage and it’s so comforting to know you’re all here. (And special kudos to those parents that imaginary play with my kid. You’re fucking rockstars.)

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being a part of my village. I’m forever thankful. And I hope you feel the same.

 

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Uncategorized

Another Post on Gender Identity Issues.

Yep. Another one. I want to talk about it some more. Don’t roll your eyes at me. This one is deep.

The interwebs are swarming with discussions about gender identity issues, aren’t they? Gender fluid, transgender, gender confusion, gender identity disorder, gender non-comforming…any other common phrases I missed? Thanks largely to big-name celebrities transitioning their gender, or gender-fluid models that are making some of us question our own sexuality, we are all talking about it, sharing our approval or our dismay.

And then there are the kids, even the young children, whose parents have decided to come forward and discuss their stories, to talk about the struggles of raising children with gender identity issues, to talk about being supportive, to help normalize this for the masses. There are now television series dedicated to the subject of children struggling with gender identity.

Ok, so, we get it. It’s a hot debate point. And we also get that every.single.living.person. on the internet has an opinion. Rightfully so. It is, overall, a weird concept to most of us.

But not to me.

I am living it, as a parent. I am parenting a child who does not conform to gender roles. I am one of those parents trying to normalize it for our hate-filled society, but I’m also not here to blow smoke up your ass about it, so here’s my story so far:

When I was pregnant, I knew I was having a girl before the “big” ultrasound. I just knew. Some of us had that intuition as expecting moms. But, as weird as this is going to sound, I also knew she wasn’t going to be a typical girl. So much so that I requested nothing pink at her baby shower. It really wasn’t because I didn’t care for pink, it was just…a feeling. I went with purples and greens. It just made more sense to me, for her. I never chose a lot of pink things for her as an infant or toddler, but certainly I dressed her as a girl and bought her toys and such that were marketed for females.

I can pinpoint her rejection of girl related anything to the age of two. She hated dolls. As in, would not even touch them. She gravitated towards cars and trucks. She started rebelling against dresses around the same age. I would have to bribe her to wear them on holidays and after a few pictures were snapped, off they came.

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“Ok”, I told myself, “lots of little girls don’t like dresses and dolls. No worries here. She will be a typical girl soon”.

Now let me clarify at this point: I NEVER have taken issue with transgender individuals, homosexuality, or anything of the like. I see no difference between them and me. None. However, when you’re facing it as a parent, it’s scary as shit. It’s scary because, in a nutshell, people suck. Hard. People are mean, hateful, judgmental, and for the love of God, it would just be easier to have a child who conformed to society’s expectations, wouldn’t it? Easier for the child, easier for the parent. It’s a fact.

As my daughter was then approaching the ages of 3-4, we were still dressing her in girlish clothes, but things were really starting to change as she was wanting to make decisions of what to wear. Blue. Always choosing blue. Blue everything. She started to discuss her dislike for her purple colored walls, she never once graced the girl toy aisles of Target, she would always pick the boy character of any given show or movie as her favorites, princesses were not even close to her realm of likes. It was becoming more and more clear that she was, indeed, different. Different from society’s version of a girl.

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By the age of 5, she was making all of her clothing choices which only included boy’s clothing, including underwear. Her favorite shows were Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers. Her friends at school were all boys, with the exception of one girl who really thought she was cool for liking boy stuff.

Now, we’re at the age of 6. Now, she is being called a boy by people in public. Now, she asks if she can change her name to Kai or Jace. Now, she carries herself like a boy, her mannerisms are more masculine. Now she asks, “Mom, can I turn into a boy?”, and says she “feels like she’s a boy”. Yes, indeed, she is different.

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Last night, a store cashier called her “buddy” and asked me if “he” wanted the chocolate milk that I had just purchased. You know what my child did? She smiled and said “it doesn’t hurt my feelings when people call me a boy. I like it”. She likes it. It feels right to her.

So, to those of you saying this is a choice and no one is born this way, tell me, do you think my six year old is choosing this? Do you think she likes being different and outcasted from her classmates at the tender age of six? I am educating you right now, in this moment. She is not choosing this, this has chosen her.

I had no hand in this, her dad had no hand in this. She was born this way. I am here to tell you that firsthand. This is not made up. I do not want my child to struggle with identity. I do not want her to be so different that she’s already struggling to fit in. But here’s something else I want people to know: this is not a phase and she is not a tomboy, so please stop saying these well-intentioned things. You’re not softening any blow with either of those sentiments. She hates sports, including riding a bike, she doesn’t like to be dirty, she isn’t rough and tough and adventurous. And if this is a phase, whew, there’s sure no end in sight.

I am not saying she is transgender. I am not labeling my child. She is 6. I am firmly planted in the  “no way is she transitioning until she goes through puberty” camp, if this is even still a topic of discussion then. At best, she might just be a masculine lesbian and we will call it a day.

Is that harsh to say, “at best she’s a lesbian”? Probably, to the trans community it is, but again, this is scary shit and I am being real here. Parents do not want their children to struggle and the biggest struggle when you’re young is simply being different, right? I’m sure we can all agree on that. Kids are dicks. Period. The suicide rate for young trans individuals is astronomical. I am fucking terrified if she is transgender. Terrified.

A lot of my friends and family say I’m looking too far ahead, things could change, she’s only six, etc., etc. But listen, I am her mom and I just know. She’s different, sans any additional label, she is just different. And what I’m preparing myself for right now is these next couple of years when she will learn more and more everyday just how different she is. As it is, she plays alone frequently at summer camp, unaccepted by the boys because she’s not rough and tough, and strange to the girls for not liking princesses and Barbies. It’s heartbreaking to see my child already struggling. Life shouldn’t be so tough at the age of six.

I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss more about how I feel on the subject.

I’m sad about it quite a bit. I am.

I’m sad that I didn’t get to play dress up with my daughter with princess dresses, I’m sad dolls never were coddled by her, I’m sad that she doesn’t like glitter and cute tutus. I’m sad that I probably will never have a girl who will want to go make-up shopping with me or wear a prom dress or a wedding dress. I’m sad that she doesn’t, and won’t, want her hair braided or collect Barbies. Yes, I admit, I’m sad that a stereotypical girl is not what I was given. This makes me a hypocrite to admit this because I’m constantly trying to advocate for a society filled with less gender specific roles and more equality, but you know what? I like make-up and I wish my girl did, too.

That’s the hard part for me, in combination with my fear of society not accepting my daughter, but you know what isn’t difficult at all?

Loving her and accepting who she is.

Loving how unique she is and loving how she’s proud of what makes her different. She is proud of herself, and I am oh so proud of her. My child gravitates to kids with special needs and my theory is that she knows she is different and she knows they are different and she wants to be a nurturer and she wants to be different together. I couldn’t be more proud of that.

We have an amazing support system that all celebrate my daughter. Her very best friend in the world is a five year old boy and he has never once questioned why she likes “boy stuff” or why she isn’t a typical girl. Isn’t that amazing? If only we can teach the rest of society to have the exact same mind set as a five year old. If only it were that simple.

My plea to all of you: practice acceptance, practice tolerance of differences, practice an open mind, teach your children these practices. My daughter will thank you, as will millions of other kids struggling with this very same issue. My daughter isn’t weird, there isn’t anything wrong with her. She is my daughter and I’m here to advocate for her but I am also advocating for all of those different children because yes, there are so many.

Practice love and be kind. It’s that simple.