Adventures In Parenting

Boy am I glad my kids are small. Right now my biggest problem is a whiny, lazy 4-year old and a teething 1-year old. As much as I love being a mom, I'm not exactly in a space where I'm ready for TEENAGERS and the problems that come along with PUBERTY. I have a friend whose teenage son likes to dress in more feminine clothing and has since he was a toddler. We will call him L. Currently, she is struggling with his bullies at school and a lack of a support system. She told me about it a bit yesterday and here was my response:

This would be my reaction if it was my son. I'm not saying it is right or wrong but here goes.
- I would not count on the principal. I think that it's good you had the conversation because I'm sure it informed her of something she would otherwise be oblivious to, but I'm not sure how much action she will take.
- If shaving L's legs would make L feel more confident, I say what's the harm?
A) Hair grows back
B) Maybe once he does he'll be so annoyed by the time it takes, it will not be something he does again.
C) My mom didn't want me to shave my legs, I went behind her back and did it anyway
- Which leads me to the dressing thing. You can tell L he can only dress like himself on certain days but eventually he'll just toss his change of clothes in his backpack and change at school. This is why I thank Catholic school - uniforms. Never had this problem.
- Which leads to SNEAKINESS! If you are open and honest with him, he doesn't have to feel like he has to be sneaky and lie to you because you know that is what will happen eventually. Every time my mom tried to put limits on me, it made me do naughty shit. He's not doing cocaine, he just wants to dress pretty. This seems harmless to me.
- Bullies - if that bully tells L his legs are hairy, L can tell that kid that his mom's back is hairy and to fuck off. Honestly, kids are mean. He can either be mean back or ignore the kid. Either way, if dressing feminine is what L wants, L better be ready for what will inevitably come to him. This is where you come in. Teach him how to fight back? Teach him how to ignore? Teach him to defend himself? Teach him to be proud of who he is? Tell him that you were bullied because of xyz? There are a bajillion websites based on this. Google transgender on Buzzfeed. It gets better. That kind of stuff. He may not be a woman trapped in a man's body or what have you, but the issues seem the same:
The reality is, this is all new. The boys dressing like girls and girls dressing like boys and bi and pan and gay... this all used to be secret. He's part of a trailblazing new generation and I think that honesty about the brutal things that CAN and MAY happen is where you will find success. Life is not pretty. We cannot protect our children from the ugly world we live in. We can teach them how to cope and warn them of the dangers. That's it.
In other words, I think you are doing it right. I wish you had a better support system.

My coworker recently went through something similar when his daughter transitioned into a son. He was very supportive whereas his wife was very against the transition. Listening to his journey informed the opinions above. I guess sometimes I lean toward tough love and expletives, but I think that we can only do so much for our kids. Pick our battles, so to speak. Education and honesty are key. What do you guys think? Would your advice be different? I'd love to hear your feedback.

EDIT: This article.


Sassy said...

I think the best things we can do for our kids is love them and support them. It seems so obvious but it becomes so important when/if they are experiencing something like this/transgender/gay/bi...etc etc. I'd agree with what you about education and honesty too. We have to teach our kids to be true to themselves, whatever that is. It may not easy, but when is life??

I've been following a blog of a mom with 3 kids: one who recently identified as girl. I respect her for her courage and her mother for the same. She shares the struggles and the emotions...and so much more. It's interesting insight.


Erin Aylsworth said...

I do not have kids, but your suggestions/reactions resonate with me, Randy.

Another vote for the love, support, and openness in conversation. We value transparency in our government, right? Why not at home, in what is probably a much more accepting environment than any a child or young adult will find in their peers? Keep the conversation going.

At my high school, all the guys on the swim team shaved their legs the night before a meet so they could glide through the water with less friction and subsequently shave some time off their race. No one teased them about the tactic. I suspect triathletes do the same?

Christine said...

I agree with all that you say. The only other thing I would add is find more people like L - support groups, etc. Sometimes the best thing for mental health is to know that you are not alone. Also, reach out to the families and parents of L's friends. Explain the situation in the hopes of creating a loving environment around L. The rate of suicide among LGBT kids is enormously high (and terrifying). Please tell your friend that there are lots of moms out there rooting for her and her kids. xoxo