The Mama Bear Story Project is a collection of portraits and autobiographical essays from members of Serendipitydodah for Moms – a private Facebook group for open minded Christian moms of LGBTQ kids.
MY LIFE PREPARED ME FOR MY CHILD
Or will it be the other way around?
I never thought I wanted children. I was fortunate enough to have a father that never questioned my ability to do anything I set my mind to do, a mother who had her own degree in a science field atypical of women in her generation and I had just enough hutzpah to believe I could do anything. Growing up in the 70s and 80s, it seemed ridiculous to consider having a family when I was determined to be a career woman. I took the hardest classes in high school that I could despite the times and found myself working through a chemical engineering curriculum in college. There wasn’t going to be any MRS degree for me. Life was black and white, based on data and right or wrong.
A difficult breakup after college brought to light some things that had been hidden from me and taught me that the world isn’t black and white but that there are shades of gray. Some self-reflection taught me that I always had the decision to view the world in a positive light or a negative one. I worked on myself over the next two years reading books like How to Win Friends and Influence People andThe Power of Positive Thinking as well as The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
My views on the possibility of becoming a mother changed when I met my future husband, at work no less in a large chemical company. I could see a long-term future with him and it included one with children. By that point in my life, I was ready. I learned that it’s okay to change your mind. Changing your mind can be a new path on your evolution as a person.
We were blessed that getting pregnant wasn’t difficult and by the time I was 32, we were expecting our first child. From the time we were engaged, we worked on our genealogy, combing through old records prior to the ease of computers and traveled to countries to see dusty old books filled with generations of history. We looked over common names, discovering lineage and blended our two trees together. We learned that family is shared history and love for one another.
Our child arrived with a head full of dark hair, a fiery personality and I was consumed with a determination to be the best mother that I could. Circumstances prevented me from returning to the work I was doing and after careful consideration, we decided to have one parent at home and I set about my new role as mother and head of household operations with the same rigor that I had my education and work career. I pinched pennies, kept schedules, and along the way, determined the type of mother I wanted to be. I wanted to be one that didn’t yell or lose my patience. I wanted to be one that educated (even if I didn’t enjoy arts and crafts) and I wanted to be one that encouraged my child to be whoever they wanted to be and the best they could be with no strings attached. Perfection not requested or required even though I demanded it from myself. When my second child came long 23 months later, I battled postpartum depression and wondered whether I had failed. I sought treatment and realized that I could do this and do it well. I learned that children are loving and forgiving and that I had the strength to do the same. I also learned that “Perfection is the enemy of Good Enough.”
In third grade, my child came to me and said, “Mom, I want to cut my hair and wear boys clothes”. By this point in my life as a mother, something inside of me started whispering, “Go with this.” I said yes and saw how happy my child was. Everything about this child screamed “out of the box”. Every costume was a boy/male character. My child was rough and tough and lived life ferociously. Pokemon Cards, anime characters and more were the norm. That didn’t mean we didn’t have American Girl dolls and the few random princess toys at the house for both children. My child was just a happy child. Traveling to China, we struggled with our translator to find the words to describe why my “daughter” looked like a boy but not once were we met with disdain. I learned that I could live in the shades of gray even when I preferred the black and white.
The middle school years were rougher. Schools with dress codes for special events, comparisons of fashion among pre-teens and teens made life more complicated. My child continued to want to live in truth but struggled to find a comfortable place in the “norm”. Together, we pushed boundaries as much as we could. At some point along the way, the request for the first binder was made for a character cos-play costume. Again, I found myself fighting internally but supporting the endeavor. We discussed the physical effects of wearing one long term. We tried sports bras and other options. Little by little, I noticed that the binder was being worn more often and we had to replace and keep more than one for washing. I learned to live with some discomfort for myself when challenging preconceived ideas. I was growing and evolving knowing we were on a different path together and as a family.
Living in a school district that allowed for the choice of high school, we prayed and discussed and ultimately decided on our district high school with a television and radio career pathway to help our child with the best chance of success for a career in film they had known they wanted since childhood. God knew that our choice was about more than that and led us to the best possible place for our child to be, to grow and to transition. It certainly wasn’t without its significant challenges given the student body population, but God had sent us loving and caring teachers, amazing friends in that population, new parent friends and a principal that would ultimately embrace my child’s new vision of themselves. I learned to have faith and to be an advocate.
There were still stormy waters. The same depression I had seen in myself, I saw in my child. Reclusive behaviors: spending too much time alone or locked away in bedrooms, I sometimes checked just to make sure my child hadn’t done anything drastic. Those were scary moments, but I was going to fight for my child’s survival no matter what the cause. I learned that I could be a mama bear.
Just prior to graduation, in February 2015, I discovered a letter posted on Facebook declaring to the world what I had long suspected and needed him to discover for himself. I’ve been asked if I was upset that he didn’t choose to tell his parents first but when I asked him, his response made total sense, “Mom, I knew you’d be okay with it.” The love and support we received from family and friends in that moment continues to bring tears to my eyes. The one person he had feared telling was one of the first people to respond and said, “To thine own self be true”. I learned that we all have the power to change both on the inside and the outside.
The changes are more incremental but still momentous. Court documents officially declaring a new name, the first day of testosterone shots, a new driver’s license and more steps to come like a new passport and surgery. These steps overlay all the milestones in any young adult’s life: first day of college, turning 21, anticipated graduation from college and we walk alongside our son not holding him up any longer but giving him wings to fly. I have learned that all parents’ job is to work themselves out of a job regardless of the circumstances. In this, we are all the same.
Life will not always be easy but as I consult more and parent less, I see a new role for myself. One that advocates for other children who need someone in their corner. I’m not sure how that will take shape, but it has begun with educating those around me, listening when people come to me with questions and living our life as a family out and proud following the lead of my son who is open to everyone in person and on social media. I have learned that I can learn as much from my children as they can from me and parenting is the best job I never thought I wanted.
Serendipitydodah for Moms is a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ kids. The official motto is “Better Together” and the members call themselves “Mama Bears” The group is secret so that only members can find it or see what is posted in the group. It was started in June 2014 and presently has more than 3,000 members. For more info email firstname.lastname@example.org