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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sibling love



This is a picture of Anneke expressing her love towards her sister – the photographer in this case. While, as a good mother, I should find this picture mortifying, frankly I think it's hilarious. Perhaps it is because I know deep down they love each other very much.

I don’t pretend to understand the dynamics of sibling relationships. I am an only child and was pathologically shy as a child. I spent most of my time playing alone, reading and adopting neighbourhood pets as my own. While I was never deeply unhappy I was often lonely, so I knew if I had kids, I would definitely plan to have more than one.

I have certainly revisited that plan on more than one occasion after I actually had a child. I did not enjoy being pregnant, having every discomfort in the book. I also quickly realized that they do not make plus sized maternity clothes. Apparently chubby women are not expected to breed. Giving birth, was, and continues to be the hardest thing I have ever done…so to sign up to do it twice seems like an exercise in madness.

Four and a half years after A. was born I had Molly. We had given A. the very special job of telling us if we had, had a boy or a girl. You see, I had planned to have a homebirth with A. present, but Molly had other plans, preferring to stay put almost two weeks past her due date. When A. arrived at the hospital we pretended as though we had been waiting expectantly for her to execute her ‘special job.’ When s/he announced the baby was a girl, she was beyond disappointed….she was pissed! S/he had desperately wanted me to have a boy. It took her weeks to get over her disappointment. She would frequently walk up to me and ask “when is the baby going home?” or “can we bring her back to the hospital and trade her for another baby?” Friends and family assured me this was normal.

While they are as different from one another as night and day in many ways, and they bicker like old ladies, they are virtually inseparable. When we moved to Vancouver and could finally afford a three-bedroom home, they were thrilled that they would each get their own room. Pink with Hannah Montana posters for Miss Molly, orange walls, NHL bedding and Luongo and Sidney Crosby posters for Anneke respectively. This separate bedroom arrangement lasted about two nights. Soon after bedtime, mattresses were dragged down hallways, and in the morning we found them snuggled together in the same bed. To this day they insist on sharing the same 9 by 12 bedroom - hockey posters on one wall, Hannah Montana on the other.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Christmas Party

The other event that stands out in my mind, from when A. was young was my first large Christmas party at the hospital where I worked at the time. All staff were asked to submit the names, ages and gender of their children. Gifts were bought for them and Santa was planning to make an appearance to distribute gifts by name to all the children. The hospital where I worked at the time was a large Catholic hospital in Toronto. Needless to say, I didn't feel terribly comfortable calling one of the nuns and explaining the ins and outs of my gender fluid child. My brilliant plan at the time was simply not to attend. A. was about 6 years old.

When asked that week if I was going, I explained to my co-workers at the time, that I was likely to go. Several women suggested I should go anyway, as it was a nice networking opportunity at a hospital that was still trying to understand and integrate midwifery. They also suggested I prepare A. for the inevitable girly present and offer a trade at the toy store. One of the midwives I worked with, a gender-fluid woman herself, also pointing out that hiding my kid at home, was not much of a solution. This convinced me to go.

We spent several days preparing A. for a fake Santa that didn't know her (like the mall Santa did), and the likelihood she would get a gift that she didn't like. The fact there would be cake, cookies and carols guaranteed her attendance however.

Sure enough, as predicted, s/he was presented with one of those large Barbie heads that you apply make-up to, and style their hair. A hideous toy, no matter who you are. Despite our preparation, her disappointment was palpable. Luckily, kids seem to bounce back from these disappointments quite quickly. Most of the party, she played with the boys and their new toys.

As luck, or fate, would have it one of the girls at the party coveted her new Barbie head. Being a surprisingly generous child, s/he offered it to the little girl. The little girl sheepishly offered her brother's toy in return pointing out that he already had one. Her face lit up! "What did he get?" she asked enthusiastically.
"A Hot Wheels set," she replied. A. looked like she had just won the lottery.

"Look mom!" she squealed as she bounded over "It has cars and everything, and it loops upside down...I always wanted one! This is a great party!"

This and many other episodes like it since have reminded me that life has a way of working things out, as long as you are true to yourself, and nurture and trust your spirit.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Santa

Like most parents, our family lines up every year at the mall to sit on Santa's knee and tell him what we want for Christmas. The first time we lined up after A. got her hair cut s/he was probably about 5yrs old. As the line inched forward at the Eaton's Centre in Toronto, I soon realized that the Santa that was there introduced himself to each wonder filled child by asking their name, and asking if they had been a good little girl or boy this year. My heart sank. He was going to ask if s/he had been a good boy this year. When I mentioned this to A. - I can't remember exactly what I said - s/he calmly stated, "Don't worry mommy, Santa knows me, he knows that I am a girl, and that I don't like girl things."

My worry at this point turned into full scale panic. My sweet 5 year old was suddenly going to have her belief in Santa crushed. Even the best department store Santa was not going to evade this catastrophe. I grabbed, Ben and made him assume my place in line, while I attempted to tackle one of 'Santa's helpers'. I finally got the candy cane elf to listen to me. "You have to tell Santa, my kid is a girl. S/he will be crushed if he assumes s/he is a boy. S/he believes in Santa and thinks this is the real deal, and will be crushed if he doesn't know if s/he is a boy or a girl."
Her confusion turned into understanding once I pointed out my family. Just before we we all went up to Santa, this angel of a helper said a few words to Santa. When we approached, he said "Hello girls, how are you today?" A. glanced at me, with an 'I told you so look' that almost made me cry. I felt like I had been holding my breath for an hour.

As we left the mall and headed for the streetcar home, s/he proudly announced to us, "See mama, Santa knows me, he knew I was a girl - Santa knows me! I don't know what you were worried about."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Opa

Most parents of trans-gendered kids have 'coming out' type stories to share about when they told their parents or grandparents. Last year around Christmas was when we decided to tell my dad about Anneke's journey and being on blockers for over a year. We figured he might start noticing that s/he wasn't developing like the 'other girls' and also, I knew in my heart he would love and support her no matter what.

My dad is a gentle, mild mannered guy, who has spent all of his life driving a bus, subway or streetcar and putting up with my crazy mother - until their ultimate divorce. When he found out A. was interested in hockey he immediately became her benefactor, funding the purchase of all of her gear. He would drive for hours to Toronto to watch her play.

My own memories of hockey were of me curled up on the couch with my dad cheering for the Habs, listening to his stories about Rocket Richard and playing hockey on ponds as a boy.

This year when s/he decided to pursue being a full time goalie, a $1000 cheque quietly appeared in the mail - to help us buy her gear. He lives on a modest pension in Ontario, but he her biggest fan. (He has also become a fan of Molly's as her hockey career blooms.)

Over the years he has also stopped buying 'girly' things for her. When we told him about Dr. Metzger, blockers and her possible desire to transition to male he was unconditionally supportive. He even offered to help pay for her expensive medication.
I was a huge relief to talk to my dad about all of this and feel his support. He is the only family I have, and to know he loved us and supported A.'s journey meant more than words can express. He even said he might come to Seattle next year....
How blessed we are.

Monday, December 21, 2009

High school


Our latest pre-occupation has been thinking about high school for A. It makes my stomach flip just to write this. Firstly, how am I old enough to have a child entering high school? Where exactly did my 30's go? Secondly, and most importantly, how is this mother bear going to send her gender fluid child into the harsh land of teenagers and hormones? Anneke has applied to the the Hockey Academy, which by pure luck is our local high school. While s/he wanted to explore other options, I have to say, I encouraged this one. You see, hockey is the one thing that makes her happy and where s/he feels s/he can fit in. The fact that there is hockey every day, and all the kids there automatically have a love for the game seems like a wonderful start. We shall find out early in the New Year, if s/he is accepted....then we shall begin working with a new school on the issues of changerooms, bathrooms, etc....

I have realized through this process that I have to let go of my own of my own baggage surrounding my high school experiences. Accepted into a programme for gifted students, its fair to say, I wasn't the only geek of the bunch, but a stand-out one nonetheless. When you add shyness and being overweight to the equation, you can imagine how much I enjoyed my four years of secondary school. University was a much better experience. As Anneke reminds me, she is athletic and popular, thus a very different start than mine. S/he is also far more confident and doesn't care as much about fitting in.

2010 will a year of huge challenges and even bigger accomplishments for our family. I promise to write more regularly, to ensure you are part of our journey....