Guest Post: What you aren’t told when you have a baby

This is a guest post written by my wife Haley.

I think all parents upon holding their baby are overcome with the incredible potential that is inherent in a new life. I’ve seen a number of “pro-life” ads in my area recounting how “your baby might cure cancer.” Now I am not interested in debating the abortion issue, but it does name a very common outlook at the birth of a new baby. Yes, maybe your child will grow up and become a Nobel Prize winner in Medicine. Each person has a set of hopes for their child. This hope gives parents motivations to ensure their child receives the best education they can. A parent’s hopes for their child can serve as a valuable motivation to parents to build a quality of life which they hope will be the tools of success for their children. As my own children grow up I want them to observe those character traits and habits which have played a role in my own personal success.

We are all familiar with the dreams and excitement that comes with a new baby. We are aware of the huge responsibility having a child involves to be our best selves. We hope the sacrifices involved in raising a child find positive expression in the lives of our children. What we are less willing to talk about (and I understand why) is when children live lives radically off the script envisioned by their parents. I have thought about this considerably in the wake of coming out as transgender. My personal disclosure after years of hiding in the closet shocked my parents. They find it hard to process all of their hopes for their child suddenly radically shifted. I feel for them. It can’t be easy to have your child’s name change. It can’t be easy reconciling your experience of your child with discovering their underlying mental anguish of lifelong gender dysphoria. If you haven’t lived a life accepting of LGBT people, you have many fears about your child being wrong, making a “bad” choice, or being deviant.

I wish I knew how to comfort my parents. Coming out certainly wasn’t designed to crush them. It was a personal disclosure based in the truth about myself that I had been too afraid to tell before. And see that’s what isn’t told about having a baby. What truths about your child and their experience are the parents going to discover as life goes forward? Parents can have hopes of their baby curing cancer; but the truth might be that their child is going to have no math and science savvy, their child is going to be the hands on type. Or maybe instead of curing cancer, their child will be the one who dies of cancer. Or perhaps their child will someday take the life of another person.

 

Life has a huge who knew dimension to it. Hopes and dreams for children always have a contingency to them. Don’t all hopes and dreams have these contingencies? And while we are thinking about hopes and dreams for children, really those hopes had a drawback to them all along.  Our child may have different dreams than we do. My children are not an extension of me, and I shouldn’t expect them to find what I find to be fun, fun. Children from birth on have their own personalities and interests. I might love swimming, I might share my excitement about the sport, but what my kid does with my interest in swimming really needs to be in their court.

I cannot base how I interact with my child on how closely they meet my dreams for them. I cannot choose my children’s religious, political, or philosophical outlook. I can’t control their attitudes or interests. My child will encounter situations I never foresaw for them. They might develop an addiction or get into legal trouble. My child might develop friendships or romances with people that I don’t particularly understand or enjoy being around. And all of these things which are outside of my control highlight how my love for my child needs to be truly unconditional.

As I encounter the difficulty my parents are having with my transition; I really wish I could better explain all of the amazing things in my life which they played a part in. They couldn’t control whether or not I turned out transgender; but their efforts on my behalf have given me many good things. I knew my parents cared deeply about me growing up. They had a stability to their home which made it a good place to live on many levels. They invested in my education. Someday I’m sure I am set for a round of Jeopardy. They encouraged me to pursue higher education; even though I am currently in school to be a hairstylist (a line of work that doesn’t require a masters degree) I am glad at the critical thinking skills and personal growth which occurred during my higher education. I know they played a big part in giving me that gift. And who knows, perhaps someday that education will be re-purposed?

The character my parents modeled remains a part of my life. I might not share their religious perspective, but I retain a strong sense caring for others, personal ethics, and vision. The hard work I saw from both my parents remains a value I apply to my everyday life. Their punctuality has proven an asset to me over and over again. Their love of children is something I too have. I enjoy being a parent very much.

While being transgender was certainly not on my parent’s dream list, and really they never had any control over that. (A consistant proportion of people are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender.) Their investments and hopes have paid off in my life. Their love that nurtured me when I was a child, has played a part in shaping the vibrant compassionate woman I am today. I want to give my children the best quality of life that I can for them. But my own story underlines how I can’t fall in love with any script surrounding my children’s lives. There is so much I have no control over. But no matter how my children’s lives unfold, I am always in control of how I interact with them and show them my love. No matter what happens, I want to love my kids, not the hopes and dreams I might have for them.

  • http://ladyheathersdomain.blogspot.com/ Lady Heather

    What a wonderfully written post. I cried because it hit home. My husband is transsexual and I have seen letters on how his family struggled. I did not turn out how my mother envisioned my life either.
    But what really connected with me is that I have just been coming to terms with my daughter. I adopted her just before she turned 5. Sadly the abuse she suffered before I got her, damaged her more than my love could heal. I love my daughter and had to grieve for the dreams I had for her. She got kicked out of the highest level group home they have in our state and will now be moved out of state. My heart hurts for her, but I realize that my dreams were just that – MY DREAMS. But thank you so much for pointing out what your parents did that helped you and supported you even if you turned out differently than they had hoped, you did gain from that. It helps me feel that everything I have done to help my daughter does help.

    Thank you for writing this. It means a great deal to me and helps this hurting mom accept her daughter for who she is not MY DREAMS of who she is.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    Very nice post. It’s so important that parents keep themselves from getting enmeshed with their kids, that they let them live their own life.

    I hope your parents just need some time to adapt, because if they can’t accept who you are, the real you, they don’t deserve you.

  • Sara

    A beautiful written post Hayley. it is very tough to come out to parents and have them try to understand. Your parents suffer the pain trying to figure out what they did wrong and what they could have done better. You suffered the pain of having to hide in your closet all them years trying to deal with it. It is not their fault in anyway and neither is it yours. They raised you the best they could and only hoped the best for you and i think they did a very good job at it. Hopefully you can be a beautiful loving daughter to them as you where as a son.

  • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

    Yes, so much yes. My parents had a specific idea in mind, a specific way I was supposed to turn out, and when I turned from that path it was like all their dreams were crushed. I’m trying so hard as a parent to make sure I don’t do that to Sally and Bobby. And it sounds like Ms. Action and all the rest have two lovely mothers who are doing the same. :-)

  • Stef

    I was wondering if Haley would be doing more guest posts. I’m very glad to see that she is!

    My eldest son is very much like me. Headstrong, passionate, artistic, rebellious- because of these shared traits, I am often able to navigate tricky emotional waters with him. My younger children are less like me. My second son is quiet and serious, traditional, and very cautious. I often have no idea how he will respond to a question, or what his opinion will be on any given subject. My daughter, on the other hand, SEEMS to be a lot like me on the surface, but her motivations and her reactions are as alien to my thought processes as her serious brother’s are. They are a wonderful challenge to my parenting and my worldview just as much as they are a frustrating puzzle, at times.

    Because of my own upbringing, and experiences, I have always been very careful not to project my dreams onto my kids. I want them to be healthy and happy. I’d love for them to be successful in their chosen fields. But I know that they may not be. I know that there may be illness, or heartbreaking circumstances. I know that the economy they will be living in will be a challenging one. I DO know, without a shadow of a doubt, that they know and believe that just being themselves is enough to be secure in the love and acceptance of their parents. My husband and I have made it very clear that they are who they are and we love them exactly BECAUSE of everything that makes them themselves.

    So, when Colyer (my eldest) celebrated some professional success this year, the whole family gathered around to watch him act on a national sitcom. When Joey, my younger son, created a half dozen new vehicle designs our of Lego, we took pictures and made posters to showcase his prototypes. And when Avie wrote a story, we all took turns being her dictionary, and then we all had story time together. We try to meet the kids where they are, and to be what they need us to be.

    Haley- I’m so sorry that being your authentic self is causing so much struggling and hurt for your parents. That can be so hard on everyone. I am very glad that you are able to avoid the trap that so many LGBTIQA fall into of taking on responsibility for other people’s emotions, and that you are able to still appreciate and articulate the many good things about your family and your life. I’ve said it before, but I don’t mind repeating myself when I say that I think your children are very blessed to have you and Melissa for parents.

    All the best to all of you.

  • http://exconvert.blogspot.com Kacy

    “No matter what happens, I want to love my kids, not the hopes and dreams I might have for them.”

    This is beautiful! It is not about changing them or trying to fit them into our molds. It is not about us living vicariously through them, it is about watching them discover who they truly are and allowing them the space and freedom to make this discovery.

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  • Neurite

    What a wonderful post. I am especially touched by the compassion and understanding *you* have for your parents, Haley. It must be so difficult and painful to deal with their lack of understanding and possibly their rejection of your identity. It would be so tempting to lash out at them, denounce them for be narrow-minded or bigoted. Instead, you try to understand their perspective, acknowledge the hardship they must be going through, and cherish the good things they did for you. That is wonderful, and inspiring.

    Your post reminded me again to be grateful for having grown up with a large, framed copy of Khalil Gibran’s poem “On Children” (http://www.katsandogz.com/onchildren.html), from his wonderful book “The Prophet”, hanging on the living room wall. My parents put it there to remind themselves that my siblings and I are our own individuals, and not to let their ideas and dreams for us cloud their appreciation of who we are and what we are doing with our lives, and to love and support us in whatever we do. They may not have always succeeded 100% (being human), but they did and still do to a very large degree. And knowing that this was something my parents strive for, knowing from a very early age on, meant a lot to me all my life. And I am sure it will mean a lot to your children. They are lucky to have you.

  • http:.//thisbitchwontshutup.blogspot.com EEB

    Thank you for writing this. It made me cry.

    It’s hard, knowing I disappointed my parents, knowing I’m not the daughter they wanted. They love me, they accept me, and I know how lucky I am to have them…but that just makes it worse, in a way, because I know that by being who I am (a lesbian, an atheist), I hurt them, and that’s the last thing in the world I want to do.

  • David

    Why is it that the people most likely to treat others with compassion and caring are the ones who have questioned or rejected the Christian faith as it is generally practiced? Why do those who shout their faith from the roof-tops so rarely display it in meaningful ways?

    Haley, your feelings towards your parents as they try to understand the changes in your life are the best example of true Christian behaviour I have read of in a long time. I don’t know where you are with your faith at the present moment, and it is none of my business anyway (I think faith is a private thing between you and your God(s)), but I mean no offence and hope none is taken.

    I have been following this blog for a while now, and have read through most of the archives, if not all, and have to say that you are two of the bravest people I have heard of. To come from where you started and to have stayed so strong throughout is amazing, and I wish nothing but good things for you all in the future. May your lives be full of love and joy.

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