Currently viewing the tag: "Family"

I stumbled across my kid’s Tumblr.

In 2012, that’s the equivalent of accidentally reading your kid’s journal, which he carefully stashed away in his sock drawer for you not to see.

I scrolled down the page slowly, examining what it looks like inside my kid’s brain. I got to see which parts of pop-culture are relevant to him, which people he crushes on, and which jokes he finds humourous. His proclivity for curating Grade A absurdity is, in my eyes, somewhat of a gift. There’s a method to his madness, I’m sure of it.

Then, after a few pages of .gifs, pugs, and Avengers, I ran across a few lines of text.

They were about me.

[Cue screaming .gif.]

This is the moment when the parent holding the journal has the choice to either slam the book shut and walk away, or bear witness to a truth that they may not be ready for.

I did not shut the MacBook.

I sat with those seven sentences on my screen, and let them sink in. 

This is what we look like to him, I thought.

There wasn’t much there to read, but I read into it quite a lot.

You see, the past year and a half has been really hard on my family. We underwent a lot of changes, some of which felt more forced upon us than chosen. Last year we had to sell our house, a house we loved, and move into a more affordable rental (which we’ve also come to love). We scaled back in a number of ways, and doing so allowed for us to keep paying the bills and putting food on the table.

These are the choices that adults make, I thought. He can’t know that, really.

What I read in his Tumblr post was a general concern that we might not have enough, that we might not be in a position to live out our dreams. He wasn’t expressing worry for himself, the sweetheart; he was worried about his dad and me, and our dreams.

He just wants us to have our “happily ever after,” he wrote.

[Cue tears.]

At first, I felt a little embarrassed. We don’t get our kid but for a couple of days a week, and I hated that during the little time we have with him he picks up on our money worries.

But that feeling didn’t last. I’m actually proud of how we handled the challenges of the last few years. Things were good, then things went south, and we responded quickly and with a keen awareness of the needs of our family. We were flexible, resourceful, and we held it all together pretty well.

There was nothing to be embarrassed about. I just needed to explain what things looked like from my side of the screen.

So I wrote my kid an e-mail, and I told him that he didn’t need to worry about us. I clarified the realities of our financial situation, both for the purposes of educating him on that kind of thing, and also to reassure him. I told him that we have some money in the bank, and food on the table, and we’re fine. Both his dad and I are working to line up projects that will provide a good income for us, so he needn’t worry about money anymore.

I told him, in what I must have been a very grownup tone, that life is a series of peaks and valleys. Sometimes things are grand, and other times not so much. You have to remember in times like this, moments when things look up, that even the greatest successes are temporary. Everything is always shifting and changing, and it’s never all good or all bad. It’s best to just celebrate what you’ve got, and remember that things will change.

It was a little cliché, but it was true.

I also told him that his dad and I already have a really good hold on “happily every after.” We love each other, we take care of each other, and we wake up every day — no matter how many curve balls life throws us — and we make the choice to continue loving each other and our family.

That’s what “happily ever after” looks like, I assured him.

And then I clicked *send*.

It’s a humbling thing to see yourself through your kids eyes. It’s easy to forget that they have a perspective about the life you’ve provided for them. They have a take on everything, even if they’re not always up front about it.

I was lucky, I guess, that my kid’s perspective was what it was.

I think I’m lucky in a lot of ways.

So parents, if you run across your kid’s Tumblr, tread carefully. Scroll down if you will, and be prepared to meet your kids — and possibly yourself — for the first time.

It snowed last night. First of the season. There wasn’t quite enough to break the branches like last year, but it was enough to remind us that the season of fall, as much as I’d prefer it last forever, is simply a transition. What we’re witnessing in the seasonal display of colors is the letting go of something we’ve grown accustomed to.

Transitions, periods when something is neither one thing nor the other, boggle the mind. It would be so much simpler if the world was binary, which I think is why so many people continue to hustle that fallacy. Convince the world that things are either/or, and you can eliminate the need to deal with the grey-area transition periods, some of which can last for weeks, months, lifetimes even.

My kid has been engaged with transition for a while now.

It began with pronouns. She preferred he, and so we began to give that a go. It can be harder than you might think. I’d slip sometimes, especially in private, because I’ve grown accustomed to having a stepdaughter for seven years. I’ve gotten used to thinking of her in a number of ways, and adjusting those perceptions takes time.

Then, there was the period when, with the aid of some ace bandages, the chest of a she looked much more like the chest of a he. This made him incredibly happy, and he seemed to come out of his shell even more when presenting as a boy.

I saw him with binded chest and I remembered being seventeen, sneaking out of the house in a mini-skirt, a baby-doll shirt and motorcycle boots, with full makeup. I kept my sideburns, though. It wasn’t show-girl drag, it was gender-play.

Playing with gender felt so natural to me, and so liberating. Rather than perform masculinity in the way that I’d struggled to do for most of my young life, I gave myself permission to be something in-between.

It would be unfair of me to lacquer my memories and understandings onto my kid, thinking that what was, for me, a period of radical exploration and expression, must be the same for him. It might have similarities, but it is certainly different.

My kid is trans.

In a few weeks, the transition speeds up for him, becoming more physical. Binding will no longer be necessary, and presenting as a boy will begin to be much easier for him. Interestingly, his transition will become — in a way — fixed. His state of in-between becomes more permanent, more an extension of who he his.

For keeps.

I’m scared for him, and I still can’t completely location the reason for my fear. Perhaps it’s that transition is inherently scary, or maybe having grown up an other in this society I understand how challenging that role can be, in practical terms. To be gay has become much more fashionable, but to be trans is still very difficult. Even the people on the fringes want things to be black and white.

We want our gays and straights, our Gods and a Goddesses, our men and women, our clear, unbreakable lines between what is masculine and what is feminine. We want everything to be simple, and explainable, and assignable to whatever categories we’ve become most comfortable with. Those among us who resist the categorization, who not only accept transition but embrace it, force the rest of us to take a hard look at our assumptions. About everything.

Transition is inevitable. It just happens. The winter comes whether you’d like it to or not, so you might as well search out the beauty in the snow. Ours is not to force nature into being what we would like it to be, and neither is it mine to tell my trans kid that he really would make all of our lives easier if he could just keep being a girl.

It doesn’t work that way.

I like to think of trans people as agents of transition and transformation. They call on all of us to acknowledge that what we assume about the world is not always the case, and what we believe is fixed about humanity is often quite fluid.

To embrace trans is to embrace a truth about the world.

That’s how special my kid is.

Blogging is very much a form of community engagement for me. I look at the last few posts, and there is so much to learn from one another about spirituality, religion, semantics, and how to engage in effective dialogue on the internet. It’s a relief to read thoughtful, mindful comments, and witness the kaleidoscope of human thought and perspective casting colors all over my computer screen.

The backdrop of my blog is colorful now, too. As with my post on salvation, I’ve taken inspiration from Star Foster, who recently gave the Patheos Pagan Portal a facelift. If you’re not already following that blog, you aught’a. There’s some good dialogue going on there, too.

I take inspiration from people I know. It’s something I’ve always done. As a kid, my mom was very mindful of when I was behaving less like me and more like my friends. She would tell people that she knew who I was hanging out with by the way my talking changed. All it would take was one long, holiday break with my relatives in Texas or Tennessee for me to acquire a drawl. I was pliable like that.

Mimicry, for me, was a way of understanding other people. To talk like my friends or relatives was to become a bit like them; to approach an aspect of their personality with more intimacy than was allowed for in normal conversation. It was a way of gaining insight into their lives, and into my own as well. I learned what I was and what I was not by speaking in a voice that didn’t originate in me. It was experiential, interpersonal learning, and I continue to practice it to this day.

Sharing an accent, though, is quite different than assuming another person’s belief system. I might be able to talk like my Texan relatives, but I would have a very hard time believing what they believe about God, the Bible, and my very gay relationship to my very male husband. Sometimes imitation isn’t necessary to know a person; hearing their words is plenty enough.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and family politics are on the brain. We’ll pay a brief, mid-day visit to my grandparents house, hopefully avoiding most of the anticipated drama, before heading to dinner with a predominately queer, eclectically spiritual group of friends, where we will likely spend the rest of the evening waxing philosophic about religion, tradition, and the curious experience of being human. Basically, the stuff we talk about here.

It occurs to me that I share thoughts and ideas on Bishop In The Grove that I’ve never brought up at my larger family gatherings. In a way, as a blogger, I’m shielded by the medium, protected by the space between me and whomever is reading these words. I write, I post, and then I’m free to walk away and go on with my life. I can come back to the conversation whenever I please, and if it ever goes sour I can just shut my computer and wait to deal with it until later.

But at a dining room table, sitting next to the cousins I haven’t spoken to in years, or across from the aunt who is likely to snap at any minute, there is no shielding to be had. There’s no space between my words and their responses, no easy way to shut off the conversation, and no time to wait. The dialogue can not be drafted and re-drafted before it is shared. Real-world relationships are immediate; they happen in real-time.

We experience a unique brand of vulnerability in the presence of our family. These people, who knew us before our ideas took form, before our personalities became more fixed, before we concluded that we were a Witch, or a Druid, or a Christian, or any such other thing that we’ve become, they have the ability to hurt us in ways that no one else can. The wounds afflicted by family can be some of the deepest, and some of the hardest to heal.

But, perhaps the opposite is true, too. Maybe vulnerability is not simply an opening for us to be hurt, but also an opportunity for us to become fully known, and to be deeply loved. Making ourselves vulnerable seems like a necessary risk we take in order to be in true communion with one another, and in the case of our family, where this vulnerability exists by default, perhaps we are presented with an even greater opportunity to experience real, meaningful, human connection.

I don’t think I’m alone in feeling these apprehensions about family gatherings, and I’d love to get some of your insights about how you navigate the sometimes treacherous topography of Thanksgiving dinner. Do you see it as a disaster in the making, or a chance for reconnection. What is it about the bonds of family that can inspire so much dread, and also so much comfort?

I look forward to reading of your experiences and insights. Once you’ve written them in the comment field, feel free to share this post on your social network of choice.