Wednesday, November 26, 2014

My Imaginary Conversation With Me As a New Mom

20 years old. 38 weeks pregnant.
It's almost adorable that I had no idea what was waiting for me.

Intrepid turns 18 in a few days. I've been getting all nostalgic and remembering my life as a new mom. I decided that, if I had the ability, I would love to sit down and have a coffee with her to tell her a few things. This is how I imagine it would go:

"Hey, New Mom Me! What's happening? It's me, Maven from the fuUUuuuUutUuuUuure!"

"Hey. Could you be a little quieter? The baby's finally sleeping. I've been up all night breastfeeding and watching Law & Order reruns. Did you know I can watch the same episode over and over again and still not know how it ends? That's the magic of sleep deprivation. Anyway, and you are?"

"Didn't you hear me? I'm you! From the fuUUuuuUtuuUUuure!"

"Again with the loud. I will literally snap your neck if you wake this child up. What's with the weird hand gestures, too? Calm down."

"Sorry. Lots of coffee drinking still going on in my time. Don't you want to know why I'm here?"

"To wake up my baby?"

"No. Definitely not. I know what an Olympic sport it is to get that kid to sleep. Don't you love how he'll only calm down if you sing 'Everyday is a Winding Road' by Sheryl Crow to him? What newborn has such strong musical preferences?"

"What? He does what when you when?!

"Oh. You haven't figured that out yet. I hope I didn't alter the entire course of history. Don't worry, Doctor Who will fix it."

"Doctor Who? That old creepy man British show with the trash can aliens? Is that still on?"

"Oh, New Mom Me. You're going to love the future. It's full of sleeping in and evenings out and Doctor Who on a real budget."

"Thanks for coming by just to show off. So why are you here, anyway?"

"Well, I'm glad you asked! I just want to tell y--"

"Oh, dammit. He's up. If it's because of your hand gestures I'm going cut off your arms and make you carry this screaming child in your mouth like a cat."

"Wow. We are really psychotic with no sleep, aren't we?"

"Here, hold this wailing butterball of fury, Future Me. You deserve it."

"... Oh, wow. I... I didn't remember how beautiful and little he was."

"Little? He was 10 pounds and 6 ounces at birth. That's not little, as my newly broken vajayjay can attest to."

"It is compared to 6 foot 2. I have to look up now to give him my patented scary mom stare."

"...Wow.  He's tall. He gets that tall?"

"And handsome. Really handsome. Best of all, he's a great human being. Smart, funny, caring and responsible. We did a good job, New Mom Me."

"Is that what you're here to tell me?"

"Sort of.  See, you and your husband--"


"Yeah, he's going to propose in four months."


"And you're going to buy your rings at a pawn shop because you can't afford new ones."

"... Slightly less awesome."

"You'll grow to love the backstory of those rings, I promise. But anyway, you'll go on to raise this little guy and his siblings, and--"

"Whoa, whoa. Slow down. I am never having another baby. That's not happening. I can't imagine loving someone as much as I love this one and as much as I love sleep."

"Awww, I remember when we felt that way! But you will. And you'll love those ones just as much. Listen, you're going to go through some really hard shit as a parent. It's going to test you in ways that you never saw coming. It will bring you to your knees."

"Thanks, Captain Killjoy of the Unicorn Slaughter Brigade."

"Sorry, but that's the truth. You think colic is the worst of it? It's not. There are bigger things coming that will push you to your limits."

"It sounds so wonderful. I can't wait."

"See? All you needed was for someone to hold the baby for a minute and you head straight into sarcastic bitch mode again! We totally rock. That's the type of bouncing back you're going to need later on. But here's the most important thing. Are you paying attention?"


"No, you're checking out my rack to see if our boobs sag in the future. Spoiler alert: they do. Invest in good bras. Now eyes up here and listen to what I'm saying."

"Sigh. Ok."

"All this stupid shit you're going to worry about, like what kind of diaper to use and when they should potty train and what preschools they should go to and what their grade 3 math scores are? Those mean nothing. Parenting is about the bigger picture."

"But if I don't schedule nap time just perfectly it will mean--"

"It will mean something to you in the short term and absolutely nothing in the longer term, New Mom Me. Trust me. Parenting is not about the tiny little things everyone seems to obsess over. Every parenting expert and every other parent on the internet (yes, that's becoming a big thing) will try to tell you that if you don't do it the way they're doing it, you're failing. You're screwing up your child for life and you suck at this mom thing. You'll question yourself a lot and you'll waste a ton of energy that way."

"Even though you're telling me this?"

"Yes, because we're a stubborn idiot.  But parenting is not a sprint; it's a marathon. This little guy is turning 18 in a few days. And you know what matters most to him? That we talked every day. That he could come to me with anything and I would listen and support him. That I was there to watch movies on many Friday nights. That we laughed and cried together - mostly laughed. That I continue to show him with all of my being that I love him and his siblings - even if it takes lots of coffee to do it. Love matters. Presence matters. Support matters. That's it. The rest is just garnish."

"That's it?"

"Yeah, that's really it."

"So, you keep saying 'siblings'...."

"I'm not telling you how many."

"Oh, come on! How about you at least tell me if they're all boys, or if I get a daughter in there somewhere?"

"Heh. That's even more of a surprise, believe me."

"Fine. Thanks for visiting, I guess."

"No problem. Glad I could be super smart and invent this time machine out of things I found at the dollar store. Here's our baby back. Take good care of him. Let me tuck you guys in before I head out. You look exhausted."

"Thanks. And if you could put Law & Order on before you leave, that would be great."

"What episode?"

"It doesn't matter."

"Peace out, me. You're going to do just fine."

Thursday, November 20, 2014

I Hope I Never Have To Remember My Child

Sometimes I paint things.

I finished this painting on September 1st, 2013.

I remember because it was my birthday, and I made sure my minions family members took care of other things - like fetching me all the coffee - while I touched up the colourful roots (which is the complete opposite of what happens when I dye my hair these days. I am so terribly middle aged. Sigh.)

It's a symbolic family tree. I was trying to be all artsy. Each one of us is represented by a different colour. I immediately began jokingly referring to it as "The Pride Tree" because of how colourful it is. At the time, LGBT issues were far more peripheral for us than they are now.

That's what is known as "cosmic foreshadowing," kids.

Today is the International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). It's a day to memorialize trans men and women whose lives have been lost due to hate crimes and prejudice. I can't find statistics for Canada right now, but I know that, in the U.S, 1 in 12 trans women are murdered. And if you're a trans woman of colour, that already frightening statistic jumps to 1 in 8.

Then we need to consider physical assault, rape and harassment. We need to figure in the nearly 50% attempted suicide rate, and the abysmal statistics surrounding unemployment, poverty, addiction and homelessness.

Last year, I had no idea this day even existed. In fact, I knew next to nothing about the nuts and bolts of transgender issues, only that I supported individuals in their rights to be, well, individuals. Do your outsides not match your insides? I'm sure that feels awful. Go ahead and change them; I've got your back. Always.

I'm glad I've always felt that way and shared it openly with my kids. When I did so, I figured it would help them become more openminded. But I had no idea it would apply directly to one of them.

This time last year, I didn't know what I know now. I wasn't a mother faced with a lot of scary statistics. I feel like I was handed an enormous responsibility, and I don't always feel equipped to deal with it.

I could choose to be terrified. And admittedly, for a little while, I was terrified. Who wouldn't be, when faced with the prospect of losing your child simply because they're trying to be who they really are?

But I've mostly moved beyond that - at least for now. I'm choosing to be empowered by these stats rather than scared by them. I'm going to do my absolute best to make sure my daughter doesn't become a statistic; that she's surrounded by accepting, caring and educated people who will protect her from those who aren't.

I'm going to instil as much confidence, assertiveness, street smarts (and some self-defence classes!) into that kid as I can before I have to let her go out into the big, scary world.

And then I'll freak out a little. For sure.

Today, on our first TDOR, instead of being afraid, I sat in silence for a few minutes and honoured all the people who came before Gutsy and fought so bravely for their rights and hers.

I thought of all the laws that have been passed and the laws that still need to pass.

I thought about the astounding support we've received, and the ignorance that's still very much alive and waiting in the wings.

I thought about the strength it takes to be yourself in a world that tries its best to make us all conform.

I thought about the many transgender people who've reached out to tell me they wish their parents had been as supportive as we are, and how much of a difference that would have made for them.

I thought about how sad it is that we live in a world in which I'm considered a "good parent" because I accept my child for who she is. Shouldn't that be always be the case? We're only doing what unconditional love tells us we should do. It's not rocket science.

I've thought about those I've spoken with in the trans community who are fed up, suicidal, and feeling unbelievably alone.

And then I thought of her. 

And how she's having a sleepover tonight with her best friend, who is also trans.

And how they're laughing in my basement right now and watching YouTube videos and just being silly, wonderful kids.

And I just want to wrap them up in a little bubble and keep them safe forever.

But I can't. That's why you're reading this post. It's why I hope you'll share it, or another like it, so that people in your life can read, learn, and help make the world a safer place.

I don't ever want to have to remember my child.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

An Open Letter to My Daughter on Her 12th (and 1st) Birthday

To my one and only daughter,

The clock shows a few minutes after midnight on November 13th. It’s officially your birthday. It’s your 12th, and yet, also kind of your first, isn’t it?

Being your mom who oh-my-god-thinks-she-knows-everything, I have some wisdom to impart. (I keep it in my wrinkles like all the other old people do.) No matter what plans you have, no matter where you think you might be headed, you never know what life is going to hand you.

Let’s take me, for example. I was handed what I thought was a 10 pound, 4 ounce baby boy, and for over eleven years I raised you as such. We had eleven birthdays in which you wore short hair and a lot of blue. We sang to you using a name that doesn’t resonate with you anymore.

Each year your smile seemed to fade a little more. By last year’s family birthday party, you came downstairs just long enough to open gifts and thank everyone, and then disappeared into your room again.

It’s ok. Everybody knew you weren’t happy. We just didn’t know why.

And now we do: You never were that boy. He was who you thought you were supposed to be, but he wasn’t who you really are. He was a role you played but never related to. I can’t imagine having to live like that every day of my life. My heart feels like it’s been stabbed by something stabby whenever I think about what you went through. And believe me, I think about it a lot.

But you know what’s great about you? Other than the fact that you’re related to me, I mean. You’re remarkably introspective and insanely brave. The combination of both those things is a superpower I simply didn’t possess at your age. (Even my great hair superpower only came on in my 30’s; I’m a late bloomer. Don’t judge.) You were able to figure out why you were so sad at such a young age.

And then? Well, then you did something about it. You were able to tell your dad and I a secret so big and so scary that I still don’t know how you managed it. That took the courage of a lion.

Or a yeti.

Or, like, maybe a lion’s and yeti’s love baby.  Yes. If a lion and a yeti had a baby it would probably be very brave - and also very ugly. It would be like a gorilla with a mane. Gross. It would die in two minutes from heat stroke or strangle itself in a bur bush. So the good news is that even if it was just as brave as you are, you still come out on top, genetically speaking. That makes you better than a lion-yeti baby. Let that incredible fact sink in for a minute.

Also, yetis aren’t real.

Also, your mom probably has adult ADD. We can research the symptoms during our homeschooling time next week. I like to provide you with real life learning opportunities.

Where were we? Oh, right. Here’s the wonderful thing, my love. You don’t have to hide anymore; you made sure of that. And this year, we get to celebrate the real you for the first time.

Your dad and I get to celebrate our daughter’s birthday for the very first time.

Your brothers can say, “it’s my sister’s birthday today” for the very first time.

In some ways, it’s your first birthday on your twelfth birthday. You just managed to do the coolest. thing. ever.

And so, tomorrow we are not doing any fancy book learnin’.

I’m taking you out for breakfast. And when you ask for the breakfast that’s so big I know you can’t eat it all, I’m not going to convince you to get the more affordable, reasonably portioned one like I usually do. I’m going to surprise the crap out of you and say “sure thing. Whatever you want.” And you’re going to think I’m up to something, and you’ll be right. That thing is niceness. Even your mom can manage that once a year.

Confession: I bought you something girly in a super glittery pink package. I actually squealed a little when I did, because I never get to buy adorable stuff like that. I’d bet money you’re going to roll your eyes when you see how over-the-top estrogeny it is – and yet secretly love what’s inside.

After you don't finish your entire breakfast and I don't say "I told you so", we’re getting a streak of colour in your hair. You want teal in your bangs, so that’s what’s going to happen. I hope it brings out a touch of femininity that I know you’re looking for. I realize you don’t yet see just how beautiful you are. My job as a mom is to show you that you are the whole magnificent package, and teach you how to own it. I promise you that I will do just that.

I’m buying you a new pair of earrings, and that microphone you’ve been begging for so you can start a new YouTube channel. We want to feed your creativity and encourage your love of tech. (My other job is to show you that you are more than just a pretty face. Man, I have a lot of jobs…)

I’m going to spend the whole day with you – with my daughter. My one and only, totally amazing, always smiling, finally happy daughter.

Those are your gifts, but you’re my gift this year.

So, as I was saying, life doesn’t always go according to plan. But that’s the fun part.

I love you so much. Happy birthday.