Tuesday, February 26, 2013

boy-girl parties & tea-party parents.

i honestly didn't expect it,
but middle-age is hitting me kind of hard.

since turning 45yo last summer,
i've begun both peri-menopause & antidepressants,
i'm preparing for my oldest to begin high school [whaaaaaaaaaaaaa???],
& now, my youngest is ending his single-digit years.

yep. big boy's turning ten.

it's bringing me down, man. bumming me out, dude.
making me nostalgic, somewhat melancholy & a little weepy.
& i don't think it's the hormones. this time.

i am sad about the looming finiteness of our four-family togetherness.
i am sad about the loss of actual children around our house.
i'm worried about what the tween/teen years hold for both of our kids.

& i am sad about the growing gap between me & my parents.

how are these things related, as it were?

well, our boy is special. every child is special, of course,
but our boy likes girl stuff. always has. & always will, i reckon.

he prefers imaginative play over physical play.
he befriends mostly girls, & all of his very best friends have been girls.
he prefers girl characters, girl names, & toys & books marketed for girls.
& all of this has been true since he was a toddler.

at this point, we don't know what this means for his identity.
it might mean he's gay. it might mean he's transgender.
it might mean he's a straight boy who likes girl stuff.

but in our current culture, one thing it will surely mean is
he's going to get shit because of it. maybe a little, maybe a whole goddamn lot,
but he will be questioned & mocked & probably humiliated
& hurt emotionally & maybe even physically because of it.

so, as his mama, my mantra is: this house, this family must always be
where he can come & be utterly himself & be wholly accepted
& completely loved. period. no qualifications. no ifs, ands, buts, etc.

so, we threw him a dora-themed birthday party
when he turned three & again when he turned four.
we bought him the ariel nightgown he loved so much at disney world.
we sent him to fashion camp the past two summers.

we also get him plenty of building toys & puzzles &
animal-themed things, because he likes them, too.
we facilitate playdates with his close friends, boys & girls alike.
we talk about how different people like different things,
& how that's ok, because everybody's different.

last year, we threw him a monster high-themed birthday
party, & we're doing it again this year.
but in our family, ten is the magical age at which
you're permitted to have a slumber party.
so naturally, he wants to have one.

with five of his very best friends. who all happen to be girls.

he has been talking about it excitedly since october.
& i've been fretting about it slightly since october.

i fretted about the appropriateness of a 9-10yo boy-girl sleepover.
but then i realized that was my conservative upbringing talking,
that i knew there was exactly 0% inappropriate about our boy
& his girl friends & their feelings/intentions toward each other.

so then i fretted nobody would show, no other parents would
permit their girls to come for fear of inappropriateness.
& i fretted about the heartbreaking disappointment our boy
would experience if that happened.

but i can't control how other people parent their children,
only how i choose to parent mine.

so i sent an invitation via email to the moms
of the five girls. & toward the bottom, i noted
that ours will be the only boy at the party,
that the kids will be sleeping in an open playroom
next to our master bedroom, & that parental eyes & ears
will be alert to them at all times.

& all five moms have rsvp'd with an enthusiastic yes!
[one girl might not spend the night, as she's wary of sleeping away from home,
but she's coming to the evening portion of the party.]

no questions, no concerns, no worries.
because they know us, & more importantly, they know our son,
& their daughters love him, so they do, too.

my mother, on the other hand, was appalled
we're hosting such a mixed-company soiree.
not that i really expected a different reaction.
hoped for, maybe, but not expected.

these are the same grandparents who won't give him
the gifts he wants most for christmas or birthdays
if they're marketed for girls. i must identify
clearly gender-neutral items for them to buy.

they are the same grandparents who think
homosexuality is a choice made against god &
who actively oppose equal rights for the lgbt community.

& they are the same grandparents who believe
our children are already going to hell because
we didn't have them baptized in the church.

none of which is to imply they don't love our kids.
they act extremely lovingly toward them,
they're generous & kind & playful,
& the kids love spending time with them.

& from their perspective, i'm sure their negative judgment
of our parenting choices comes from a place of love,
of wanting what's best for teen girl & big boy . . .
& of not feeling what we're doing is that.

hence, the growing gap between us.

when you're making choices as a mom, & you had good parents yourself,
it's only natural to go to them for their thoughts,
to talk situations through with them, & gather their
experience & wisdom as you weigh your options.

more & more, i feel like i can't do that with my parents.

likewise, it's only natural to want their thumbs-up,
their good-parenting seal of approval
on the choices you make as a mom, especially the hard ones,
to let you know they're behind you & believe in you as a good mom.

more & more, i feel like i won't get that from them.

what they don't understand is that their disapproval won't deter me
from doing what i know in my mama-heart is right for my children.
all it does is make me not want to share it with them.

& that makes me sad.

the last thing i want during their final years [dad's 80yo; mom's 79yo]
is for us to grow further apart, rather than closer together.

i've got a friend who wonders why i tell them about stuff
they're sure to react negatively to? just don't say anything, she advises.

but if i can't be who i am & my son can't be who he is
in order to keep the peace, as it were,
then that makes me sad, too. & inauthentic, which is
the exact opposite of what i want to model for my son.

& there's the aha moment, the lesson i'm learning from my sweet boy daily:

how to keep giving him unconditional love, acceptance & support
as i struggle with not getting the same from my parents
now that i've been brave enough to show them who i really am.

an open-hearted, open-minded, unapologetic yellow-dog-liberal feminist,
working to become my best self, to choose love over fear, to nurture connection,
who believes we are all children of god & should treat each other as such.

& who will do whatever's necessary to make sure my children have
whatever they need from me to realize their potential & fulfill their purpose,
as that is definitely part of mine.

period. no qualifications. end of story.

image source: me & big boy, ca. 2003.


Susan K. Morrow said...

As I started to read this, I thought, "Wow, Will chose the perfect parents! Hank and Kristen are the best parents there could be for this particular child!" And then I read on and I thought, "Wow, Will chose the perfect grandparents!" Because you all learn from one another.

I love your parenting choices, but of course, it's none of my business, right? As for me, I keep things from a certain family member all the time, and unfortunately, unlike you, I taught my children to do the same. So I'm learning from your family too!

And finally, I'd like to comment on Will's being "different" in any way--better now than at any other time in history. Your natural and justified worries will probably be (mostly) unfounded, simply because of the progress that has been made.

Keep up the great work all the way around, my friend!

Scotty anderson said...

You're such an awesome mom, you know that?

And if you run out of people to stand up for him, which you won't, you can get me to stand with him, anywhere, anytimeany place, with no questions asked.

kriscard said...

sa + skm . . . thank you both so much for your wonderfully kind words about my mom-ing & my boy. you're both dear friends, & i deeply appreciate the fact that you read, you comment, you care & you support. with all my heart . . . xoxo, kc :)