Friday, April 24, 2015

Courageous Parenting

In my 20’s I moved from the east coast to the west coast. There were many reasons for that move, but it was at least partly fueled by the need to create physical space away from my family of origin, so that I could figure out who I was. I’m 47 and I’m still growing up to be who I really am. Why? Why don’t I have a stronger sense of self? Why do I flounder about while trying to figure out what my passions are and what I want to do with my life as my kids leave the nest? My family of origin started telling me who I was from the day I was born: a girl, a good girl, a Godly girl, an obedient girl, a girl who ate what was put on her plate even if it tasted awful to her, a girl who liked dolls, played the piano, and had a pink bedroom. My parents did support some of my interests full stop. I raised chickens in my suburban yard in Dallas, Texas, decades before it was the in thing. I had a flock of pigeons as well. But who I was, fundamentally, that was something that I had to figure out away from my family. While it’s not uncommon for young adults to need space to explore the world, it’s also possible for families to stay connected and close through those years as well. Parents can raise their children, from the day they are born, or before, in ways that support that baby in being who it is, without boxing it in and telling it what it likes and doesn’t like, who it is and isn’t. As I wrote in a Post a year ago:

If I had to list three concepts that create a solid parenting foundation they would be:
Focus on your relationship Let go of your expectations Stop trying to control your child

It can take courage to support your children in being who they are from the day they are born, but if parents manage that then their kids will never have to grow up to become who they *really* are. Even if the doctor tells you “It’s a boy!” the truth is, it’s a baby. And that baby may grow up to be a boy, but it may grow up to be a girl, or agender, or gender fluid. The most helpful advice that is given, often, in the Parents of Transgender Children facebook group is this: Follow your child’s lead. This applies not just to gender but also to the foods your child eats, the amount of activity or down time your child needs, your child’s interests, and, well, pretty much everything else. 

As Jennifer McGrail wrote in her awesome response to the post “6 Things My Kids Aren’t Allowed to Say to Adults”:

“I’m not interested in raising robots. My kids are not mine to control, or to train. They are human beings. Lovely, perfectly imperfect, unique human beings with their own personalities, their own thoughts, and their own opinions. I want to recognize and embrace and honor who they are, not who I want them to be. I want my kids to feel free to say anything to me, to express any emotion to me….. and I want them to trust that I’ll always provide a safe space for them to do so.” Read the rest of her post, “Six Things My Kids Are Allowed to Say to Adults” Here, it’s worthy of your time.

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