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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Meet Adam


This past weekend we went to Bellingham to go shopping. Much to Molly's delight the mall we went to contained a Build-a-Bear workshop. For those of you not in the know, Build-a-Bear is heaven for any girl (or boy) who would like to pick, stuff, then dress their own personal bear. You get a little heart, which you warm with your own love, then place it in your bear before you stuff it. Then you shop for outfits and accesssories. Needless to say, Molly loves Build-a-Bear. I have lost count how many bears she has.

Once you 'build' your bear you get to shop for outfits and accessories, then register you new bear in the computer, where a birth certificate is created. To off-set the perceived unfairness of Anneke getting a new suit, and me some new clothes, I permitted Molly to go a bit crazy with new outfits for her bears.

At the checkout we learned that the clothes would be 20% off if we purchased a new bear. Not my plan, but ok. Molly picked a "boy" bear and named him Adam.
As we were waiting in the couch area for Anneke to pick up her suit she began to admire her new outfits and dress her new bear.

"Look mommy, does this look nice?" she showed me the above bikini clad bear.
"That's a bikini. It looks pretty, but I thought you wanted Adam to be a boy bear?"
"He is a boy, mom, he's trans-gendered. He likes to wear girls clothes. Does he look pretty? Do you like it?"
"Looks great sweetie, can I take a picture?" Secretly tickeled by how gender-bending my youngest child has become.
"Sure, why?"
"I don't know, I just think its cute you have a transgendered bear."
"Ok" she shrugged, and proceeded to try on all her new outfits on Adam, likely "Build-a-bear"'s first transgendered bear.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

More of our journey...


I know the key to a 'good' blog is to post regularly. My apologies for not posting of late. Interestingly there has been much to report in the life of Anneke, and I will endeavor to update in stages. As always, I check with Anneke first before I share.

Let's see - on May 6th we went to see Dr. Metzger Anneke's pediatric endocrinologist to check her hormone levels (to ensure the blockers are working) and chat about where s/he is at. At this visit Anneke wanted to talk about starting testosterone.
You'll have to tune into a future post for then details of that discussion. Suspense!

Last Friday we met with Dr. Melady Preece a renowned physiologist specializing in gender identity issues. We had been meeting with a psychiatrist off and on but Anneke didn't 'click' with him and his office was a bit hard for us to access. Dr. Preece and Anneke had met several times at the Gender Spectrum Families conference and instantly got along well. It was helpful that she had an office dog - Anneke loves animals.

Well that appointment too, deserves a post all to itself. Melady was wonderful at cutting to the chase and asking Anneke some pretty challenging quesitons about her gender identity. The not so suprising discovery is that it is really hard to be gender-fluid in our world with very binary views of gender. Anneke has asked repeatedly, why can't I be a girl and take testosterone. Melady's answer was basically, you can, but it will be very hard for the rest of the world to understand - and it would end your girls hockey career. Needless to say, we will not be starting testosterone any time soon. Anneke is disappointed - but hockey is far too important to her to sacrifice.

On another note, today is my 42nd birthday. I am normally quite melancholy around my birthday, but this year is much better. Birthdays often remind me of things I had hoped to achieve by my 30's, now 40's and have not yet achieved. I can be very hard on myself. This year has been one of the most difficult years of my life for many reasons and this birthday is a celebration of enduring that with myself and my kids intact. I like myself in my 40's more that I ever did in my 30's. I used to focus on more superficial accomplishments like number of friends, money in the bank, body changes etc.. but those no longer resonate as the key to a happy life. I have found my path as a mom, a friend and a midwife. As corny as it sounds, I have come to realized a happy life is really not about getting to the destination, it is about truly enjoying the journey. The picture above is one of our favourite places. The girls and I go regularly to Trout Lake near our house and walk the dog. We sit on log, watch the dogs play and watch the sunset. Today I celebrate my journey.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

10 Random things about Anneke

1. Anneke reports to me s/he is always picked first for gym and sports - a completely foreign concept to me.

2. Anneke wears a size 10.5 men's shoe - good thing s/he doesn't like heels.

3. S/he loves animals and babies.

4. S/he got kicked out of the YMCA swimming pool at age 5 for not wearing a shirt with her swim trunks.

5. S/he got highlights yesterday, and officially looks cool.

6. In most public spaces s/he uses the men's washroom.

7. Her favourite teacher ever was a M-F transwoman - Miss Wesley.

8. S/he gets extremely homesick when away from her mommy - even now.

9. Her first words were "Hup, Holland" as she was home with Ben watching the world cup in 1998.

10. S/he is happiest when playing hockey.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Love and marriage

Last weekend Molly, Anneke and I went to Bellingham, Washington to visit friends and pick up my doppler that our dog Zoe chewed to pieces. It was a fun trip. With the dollar at par, and me 25 pounds lighter than the last time we visited, we took the opportunity to do some shopping.

With Anneke's elementary school graduation ceremony and party coming up we were also on a quest for a nice suit. Anneke has wanted a suit since she was about two and a half years old. She has several nice shirts and ties but no suit. By contrast, Ben Anneke's dad does not own a suit (or a nice shirt or tie) nor will he ever. He is a T-shirt and jeans kind of guy, and had been since the day we met over 17 years ago. He even had to borrow a suit for my mom's funeral.

I will be sure to post pictures soon of her new tailored suit. We got two. It was the cutest thing watching her get fitted and admiring herself in the mirror. "I look good." s/he said, with her fathers' lack of modesty. "You look great," I affirmed.

Needless to say, the suit buying procedure tried Miss Molly's patience. As she sat in the suit store, she parked herself near the tuxedo rental area. This started a familiar discussion in our household.

"Why aren't you and daddy married? You really should get married."
"Maybe we will one day." I reply.
I gave up long ago trying to explain why I do not feel the need for my relationship to be affirmed by either the church or the state. Nor do I go into my feelings about how marriage has turned into a mega-consumerist industry, that no longer resembles any ceremony I imagine for myself.

"You should get married now," she insists "you could wear a pretty dress, and daddy can rent one of these tuxedos."
"It costs a lot of money to get married." I say, trying a different approach.
"But you have kids!" she adds "you really should get married.
I no more understand my youngest daughters' "traditional family values" any more than I understand my oldest daughters' desire for a tailored suit.

As I look into her pleading green eyes, I start to contemplate the idea of getting married, to please my children. For years I knew it couldn't happen since my own divorced parents could not be in the same room together without potentially causing a scene. Since my mom passed away 7 years ago, this is no longer a valid deterrent.

Anneke decides to weigh in on this discussion. "I don't think you should get married. You should find a new man, someone better, maybe younger, with a good job." At this point s/he sounds like my mother, which by and large is not a good thing.

"I have thought of trading him in for a younger model" I joke, as Ben is 11 years older than me, and only lately starting to show his age.

What I have realized over the years is, while I am a hopeless romantic and foolish optimist with regard to most things, this is not true of relationships, love and marriage. I would love to think a fairy tale love exists and lasts forever, but sadly I don't. I actually think one should look at relationships like a renewable contract that you evaluate, say, every 5 years. Would I have "renewed" my relationship with Ben over the years? - yes. Will I continue to? - we shall see.
Do I have a little girls' dream of picking out a wedding dress? - yes, it pains my feminist heart to admit. Will I ever get married? - not likely.

I do know, however, if I ever do - Anneke will look great in her suit.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Feeling sad and blessed

Despite my wish to write more this week isn't working out to be a prolific week to write. It has, so far, been a very sad time for me at work. As many of you who follow this blog know, I am a midwife in Canada. Most of my job involves guiding families through the journey of pregnancy and the wonder of birth, and the joys of their newborn baby. Yesterday in my office I tragically diagnosed an 'intra-uterine demise." Often called a stillbirth. They were due in just a few days. I have been at the hosptial tonight, helping to induce labour for a baby that has died. It is one of the most sad and awful parts of my job, I hope no one is ever touched by such sadness.

Each time this happens (sadly this is not the first time.) I come home and squeeze my kids until they hurt. Many people comment that Anneke is lucky to have parents like Ben and I. While that may be true, we are lucky to have kids like Anneke and Molly. They light up my life in a way that defies explanation.

I occasionally encounter parents who do not understand and unconditionally love their trans-gendered child. On days like today, I have no patience for parents who do not appreciate the healthy loving child before them. "Do you know how lucky you are?" I want to scream. "Who cares what they want to wear, of what they want you to call them? This is your child!" They see their child as imperfect and in need of "fixing." If you truly knew how fragile life can be, and how sad you are making your child by not fully accepting and loving them, you would never want to change a thing.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Molly







We interrupt the regular serious content of this blog to adore the irrepressible Molly. Anneke's sparkly sister. Anyone who know her will agree, these pictures capture some of her spark. She now refers to A. as her brother in most public spaces.

Molly is living proof that kids 'get it' far more than adults.
"What do you think of girls like Anneke wanting to be like boys?"
Molly "People should be whatever they want."
"What about boys that want to be girls?"
"I like them too! They wear nice dresses, make-up and high heeled shoes. Why don't you wear make-up high heels mommy, then I could wear it too."
Nuf said.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Decisions, decisions

If you watched the footage from the Dr. Oz show in the previous post there is a theme you will notice. It is a theme I notice in my life when I tell people about Anneke's journey, blockers and the many other choices we make on behalf of our kids. "Are you sure you are doing the right thing?" or "Don't you think giving your child a drug to stop puberty is extreme?"

There are two things I know for sure.
1. As a parent, you never know with certainty you are making the right choice for your child. You have to trust your instincts and listen to your child.

2. Doing nothing, when it comes to big decisions like blockers and surgery is making a decision for your child.

Since the age of 6 Anneke had suffered from migraines and extreme stomach pains. S/he has had head CT's, ultrasounds, X-rays and countless days of missed school. When signs of female development began, all of these things got worse and a deepening depression ensued.

The universe takes care of us, I beleive. When I confided in my student at the time she had told me she had just recently attended a trans-health conference and heard a talk by Dr. Metzger, a pediatric endocrinologist who helped gender-variant kids stop puberty. When I told Anneke about this s/he jumped at the chance without hesitation. Dr. Metzger has been a gift to us. Since starting blockers Anneke has not had any more migraines, stomach pains or missed school.

I hesitated to get in touch with him at first. When I reached out to medical professionals, when Anneke was about 4 or 5 we met Dr. Zucker. He is a world renowned specialist in 'Gender Identity Disorder', especially with respect to children and adolescence. When he realized Anneke indeed fit the diagnostic criteria for GID, he wanted to enrol her in a study

The following is a summary I found on line
Dr. Kenneth Zucker, a psychologist and head of the gender-identity service at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, disagrees with the “free to be” approach with young children and cross-dressing in public. Over the past 30 years, Dr. Zucker has treated about 500 preadolescent gender-variant children. In his studies, 80 percent grow out of the behavior, but 15 percent to 20 percent continue to be distressed about their gender and may ultimately change their sex.
Dr. Zucker tries to “help these kids be more content in their biological gender” until they are older and can determine their sexual identity — accomplished, he said, by encouraging same-sex friendships and activities like board games that move beyond
Zucker thinks that an important goal of treatment is to help the children accept their birth sex and to avoid becoming transsexual. His experience has convinced him that if a boy with GID becomes an adolescent with GID, the chances that he will become an adult with GID and seek a sex change are much higher. And he thinks that the kind of therapy he practices helps reduce this risk. Zucker emphasizes a three-pronged treatment approach for boys with GID. First, he thinks that family dynamics play a large role in childhood GID—not necessarily in the origins of cross-gendered behavior, but in their persistence. It is the disordered and chaotic family, according to Zucker, that can’t get its act together to present a consistent and sensible reaction to the child, which would be something like the following: “We love you, but you are a boy, not a girl. Wishing to be a girl will only make you unhappy in the long run, and pretending to be a girl will only make your life around others harder.” So the first prong of Zucker’s approach is family therapy. Whatever conflicts or issues that parents have that prevent them from uniting to help their child must be addressed.

Once we realized this was Dr. Zuckers' approach we ran for the hills. He basically wanted to enrol Anneke (and our whole family) in behavioural modifcation therapy. When I confided in my friend Christine that I didn't know what to do about Anneke's kindergarden depression, and the interaction with Dr. Zucker, she asked simply "What do you want to do?"
"I want to take her out of this school that she hates, and surround her with people that love and support her, no matter what - not people that want to change her."
"Then that is what we will do." she said with a certainty that I yearned for. As we walked up to the school Anneke attended at the time.
I took Anneke out of that school that week. I begged the YMCA where s/he went to preschool to accept her in their kindergarden program, which they did. And I never returned Dr. Zucker's phone calls. As you can imagine, these were obviously big decisions. I had no idea if they were the right ones.

I now know they were some of the best decisions I have ever made.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dr. Oz

I am normally quite wary of talk-shows and their sensationalist approach to these subjects. I was pleasantly suprised watching this. Check out Josie's face when the psychologist refers to her as a little girl - how wonderful!



Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Parenting a Transgender Child: Tips for Parents of Children With Gender Dysphoria

Parenting a Transgender Child: Tips for Parents of Children With Gender Dysphoria

So, in case you need any translation or summary;

1. Don't try to change your child.
2. Love and embrace your childs' gender identity and expression.
3. Protect your child those who will not do 1 and 2
4. If you can do 1 through 3 you are a great parent.

Bumper stickers and God

I saw a bumper sticker this week and laughed aloud in my car.

"Sorry I haven't been to church lately, but I've been too busy practicing witchcraft and becoming a lesbian." Ok, sorry if you are offended, but I find it hilarious. I am accused of being a witch and a lesbian on a daily basis, and consider it to be a point of pride.

With regard to being a witch, midwives have often been accused of being witches - and burned at the stake as a result - we knew about herbs, nature and women's bodies. While I don't claim to know much about the Wicca ways, I know about herbs, birth and women's bodies. Most days I know which phase of the moon we are in. I do not find being 'accused' of being a witch a terrible thing.

So, when Molly asked one day. "Why don't we go to church?" Ben and I looked at each other and struggled for an answer. Anneke jumped in and said, "I don't think we'd fit in in church. I went to church once with Opa, and it was really boring."

Phew - off the hook - or so I thought.

"But if we don't go to church, God won't like us and we won't go to heaven."
Anneke "I don't think God would like us anyway. Mom and dad aren't married and I am ... well ... trans."

Molly "But God loves us all."

I don't know what I was shocked about about more. My youngest daughters' apparent religious furvor, or my oldest referring to her/himself as trans. No question the religiousness. This all led to a rather awkward conversation about religion and why we aren't huge fans of organized religion, but have no particular problem with God. Molly seemed to process this in her 8 year old brain.

Anneke jumped in, by saying "I heard that God and religious people don't like gay people." Ok, I think this is why we don't have family dinners - this is a challenging conversation.
"I'm not sure I believe in God, sweetie, but if I did it would be God that loved everyone, no matter who they loved, or who they were.'
Ben "I think God is a lesbian anyway." Nobody but me sees the humour in this.

Suddenly I feel like watching Monty Pythons' the Life of Brian...and becoming a lesbian.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Zoe


Parents of younger gender variant children often ask me about many issues related to raising a gender non-conforming child. I have no greater wisdom than any other parent, but I do offer wisdom learned from the trial and error parenting we have stumbled through over the past 13 years.

One of the best decisions we ever made was to get Anneke a puppy for her 9th birthday. Her name is Zoe. She is a labradoodle - an yes that is an actual breed of dog. Animals don't care what you wear, or how you express you gender. They love...unconditionally. When Anneke got Zoe s/he needed that love more than ever. As you can see from this picture, her dog makes her happy even on the darkest loneliest days.

Matt and Dr. Metzger

Every 6 months or so we see our hero, Dr. Metzger - Anneke's pediatric endocrinologist at BC Children's Hospital. At every visit he asks Anneke which pronoun s/he would like to be referred to as and which name s/he is going by these days. To date, is has been 'she' and Anneke. Recently, however, while A. was searching for Cannucks tickets on Craigslist, s/he was using the male name s/he likes - Matt. When Ben came home from work, s/he told him "Someone might phone for Matt, that's me." Without skipping a beat, he said, I know. Good answer. We now use the name Matt occasionally when we are out. Molly is routinely referring to A. as her brother in public spaces. A. insists it is simply to save others from the confusion and embarassement of mixing up and/or figuring out her gender. I'm not sure its as simple as that.

Every time we see Dr. Metzger s/he also goes for blood tests to ensure her hormone levels are stable ie: the blockers are working. When I asked if there is anything special s/he wanted to talk to Dr. M about this time, s/he said without hesitation - I want to ask him about 'T' - this is trans-speak for testosterone.
"Does that mean you want to talk to him about transtioning to male?" I asked.
"No, I want to still be a girl, I just want to start 'T'.
Anneke dreams of having muscles, height and a deeper voice. S/he is (for the moment) quite content to have these things and still be considered female.
I have learned that even many in the trans community don't quite understand this. Different thoughts flood through my head - what about gym class in high school, what about your reproductive organs? What about how male you will look?
The thing that strikes me however is how comfortable and confident A. is with this idea. This is truly the expression of her gender-fluidity. "Why do I have to decide?" s/he often says. "Why can't I just be the person I want to be?"

Why indeed.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Anneke and Opa



Five facts about Opa (my dad)

1. He is one of the most patient men I have ever met in my life.
2. He plays golf, this picture was taken after he and A. played a round of golf.
3. He has funded A's hockey career from the beginning and is one of her biggest fans.
4. He is a Habs fan - a true French Canadian.
5. He loves A. unconditionally. I learned to be a great parent from him.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Date night

So Anneke asked me the other day how old s/he had to be to go on a date. "Twenty", I say without skipping a beat. “Seriously mom,” s/he responds clearly not pleased with my answer. “Well,” I think, scrambling for a response, “I think it depends a bit on whether you date girls or boys.”
“Why?”
“Um, well, teenage boys are different that teenage girls.”
Anneke laughs, “All the boys in my class are retarded.”
“Those are not the exact words I would use but, yes I think you should wait a few more years to start dating.”
This is one of those parenting moments where I must seem like I know what I am talking about, but actually don’t have a clue. I am wracking my brain to remember if I was even attracted to people at age 13. Yes, I suppose, but generally too terrified to talk to anyone I was remotely attracted to. I seem to recall more feeling towards pop icons than boys my age.

It is truly a wonder I have actually mated and had children.

“Do you think you have the courage ask someone out?” I ask secretly hoping this ends the whole is discussion.
“Yeah, sure, why not?”
Ok, so s/he is attracted to people and confident about asking them out. Definitely unfamiliar territory for me. “Maybe you should talk to your dad he has a lot more dating experience than I do.”
“No, dad is too old.”
“Just because he is older doesn’t mean he doesn’t know anything.”
A dismissive shrug says it all. A. is going through a phase (at least I hope it is a phase) where s/he doesn’t think much of her dad.

I decide to opt for honesty. “I can’t really give you advice, sweetie, I didn’t really date much until I got to university. I went to see Star Wars with a boy who asked me when I was nine but I don’t think that counts. I don’t know if there is a right age.”

A., a bit frustrated with this decides to cut to the chase.
“Well if I ask (insert name here) to the Canucks game will you drive us?”
“Sure.” I respond
“Can I have money?” s/he sheepishly asks.
“Yeah, how much?”
“Enough to buy us both food. The man usually pays.”
I bite my tongue. The feminist in me is cringing, but the mom of my baby butch is tickled.
“Yes I will drive you and give you money.”
So tonight as I type this my 13 year old is at GM place, wearing too much cologne, buying dinner for her date. I am not sure if her companion is aware they are on a date, but it hardly matters.
To top it off, Vancouver beat Ottawa soundly at tonights game.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Pity party

I have a pity party for myself about once every 3 months or so. It usually doesn’t last long, and is often precipitated by a major event. In this case it was an unbelievable amount of work, with little sleep, food, or family contact; followed by the onset of the flu. It is in these moment where I like to feel sorry for myself. Needless to say, I have a good life. I have wonderful kids, a warm and secure home, a job I love and a partner who loves me.

One thing I realized, however, is that I spend a lot of time and energy caring for others. My partner, my kids, my clients, even my dog. Today at the drug store Anneke and I were filling a prescription for her strep throat. While shopping s/he was trying to encourage me to buy things for me. “You never treat yourself.” s/he pointed out. Today I treated myself to the mega bottle of Advil cold and sinus – my drug of choice. Yesterday I was feeling sorry for myself, because I felt there was no one around to take care of me. Today I realized I was wrong – I have raised one of the most nurturing kids on the planet.

As we were waiting for the prescription to be filled I was looking for make-up that might make me look more human and less sick. Anneke picked up a nail polish she thought her sister would like. As she did this the sales associate came by, “Hello ladies, can I help you find anything?” We both froze. It was probably the first time in years that anyone assumed Anneke was female. I also don’t find myself in the make-up department too often so I felt oddly uncomfortable. “No thanks.” We said, then giggled like school-girls when she left.
In that fun moment my pity party ended.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Bad news

So last Wednesday after a long day, I picked up messages to learn that Anneke had not been accepted to the Hockey Academy High School s/he had applied to. My heart sank. She had all the pieces: a good report card, a glowing letter from her coach, a long career of dedicated hockey experience...it didn't make sense. I knew s/he would be disappointed, possibly crushed at this news.

By the time I picked up the message s/he was in bed. The next day, was to be our Olympic day together, going to the Women's Bronze medal game of the Olympic Games...a day to inspire hockey dreams, not crush them. I couldn't bear to tell her that day. Friday I worked late and s/he babysat until midnight. The reality is, there is no good time. I finally told her Saturday, while we were out alone together in the car.

She was desperately disappointed, but tried not to show it. As much as I have tried to encourage her to express her feelings, s/he is stoic and stubborn to a fault...too much like her mother, I'm afraid. I tried to talk up the virtues of the other High School s/he is interested in. They have a hockey team, they have an out lesbian as president of their student council, and by far, she would have better academic success. We agreed that the Hockey Academy was losing out not accepting her, and that the other high school was the best choice. Phew.

Before bed however, a quiet scared voice cuddled in bed with me and said
"I don't really want to go to High School mom. I'm really nervous about it."
I wanted to crumble next to her and cry, "Me too, I'm terrified. I am scared of the suicide rate amongst trans-gendered youth, I'm scared of bullies. I'm scared you won't find love or acceptance! I am scared you will be hurt." Of course, I couldn't say all that.

"It's going to be great. You're going to make great new friends and play on their hockey team. If you don't like it, we will find a school you like." Her body relaxed hearing that.
"You're a great mom, you know that mom?" s/he said.
"I try."
"You succeed." s/he said.

The reality is - I am terrified.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Bobsledding underdogs



This picture was taken in the airport in Jamaica where the Jamaican bobsled now resides. What fun.

Ever since our trip to Jamaica four years ago, we have been die-hard fans of the Jamaican bobsledding team. There is something to be said for the ultimate of underdogs. Poverty and tropical climes make for huge barriers to surmount, and yet they do. How great is that. As soon as we got home from that trip we rented Cool Runnings and have cheered on all Jamaican winter Olympians ever since.

It just goes to shore, with determination and guts you can do anything. This year, sadly, they did not qualify but one skier did. Go Jamaica! One Love!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cool stuff

Here are 5 seriously cool things Anneke gets to do....

1. Go see the Women's Bronze medal game of the 2010 Olympics.
2. Watch the Swedish Mens hockey team practice today.
3. Meet the entire Canadian Women's hockey team at the airport and get their autographs.
4. Appear in a 'We Believe' Olympics commercial aired on CTV.
5. Dream about being in the Olympics one day.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Shaken

Ghandi once said “In a gentle way you can shake the world.”
I believe this to be true

I am a veteran activist and protester – mostly from my student union days. I have protested Cruise missile testing, tuition increases, welfare cuts, homelessness and lack of affordable housing, the Gulf War(s), George Bush Sr/Jr., the Oka crisis, and the destruction of our old growth forests. Well, those are the ones I can remember. Have I made a difference in the world? I like to think so. At least I had my voice heard, and tried to affect change instead of just complaining about things. Some of my local activism in Regent Park as a community organizer, has directly improved the lives of those living there. These are some of the moments of my life I am most proud of.

So when my kids lined the street this week with their entire school to cheer on the Olympic flame, I had extremely mixed emotions when they came home to report that protesters had ruined it. My kids seemed to spit nails as they uttered the word “protesters”. The anti-Olympic protesters blocked the street they had been waiting on and the flame had to be re-routed. Their disappointment was palpable. Molly had even made a ‘Go Canada” sign just for the event.

While I don’t support destructive methods like the ones downtown last week where property was damaged I also don’t universally condemn it either. There is a level of anger and frustration demonstrated there, that simply cannot be ignored. Violent vs. non-violent action is another more complicated debate.

So here I am with two kids who view protesters as fun-killers who hate the Olympics. This, I observed, was an opportunity to talk issues with my kids. We had a long talk about social justice, housing, political will (or lack thereof)and the need to gently shake the world. At the end of the conversation they no longer hated the protesters – they just wish they had not blocked the road. Phew.

Anneke told me this week her whole class has been working on letters to the editor about their experience. S/he said s/he planned to write about her disappointment, but also write about how important it is to build homes for homeless people, and help poor people. I realized in that moment one of the best ways to ‘shake the world’ is to raise kind, compassionate children.

This is my current political action.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Babies

Last night A. came along with me to visit a baby, whose birth I attended a few days ago. The baby was 3 days old. I don't normally bring my kids along, but A and M were driving each other crazy, so it was an effort at peacekeeping. Before we entered the house A. asked if s/he could hold the baby.
"We can ask." I said.
"Will you ask?"
"Sure."
From the moment we walked in the door, I handed the baby (with parents permission, of course) to Anneke. After I examined the baby, she sat quietly on the couch holding the baby. "I love babies," s/he honestly told the new parents.
"You must see a lot of babies," they responded.
"Yup, but I like it" s/he replied

I was, in this moment, struck with a pang of deep sadness. You see, if A. goes from hormone blockers to testosterone - something s/he has been talking more about doing - s/he gives up her reproductive capability. S/he would not be able to become pregnant or birth a child. Of course, I logically know that there are other ways s/he can become a parent, and I know s/he will be a wonderful one. It is certainly not the end of the world. S/he also, unfortunately, knows far too much about the birth process to volunteer for it in any way. The consequence of being the child of a midwife.

There is something, however, very powerful and transforming about giving birth. Prior to having A. in 1997, I had a relationship with my body that moved from deep ambivalence to outright hatred. Fat, scars and stretchmarks. That's pretty much all I could see. Then I gave birth to a 9lb 8 oz baby at home - sans drugs. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. My body became an instrument that performed perfectly. In that moment, I came to love my body, and the amazing things it could do - grow a baby, birth, breastfeed....

I certainly would never had imagined myself deciding on my childbearing plans at age 13. Even at age 28, it was quite a stretch. I can barely keep plants alive. It's fair to say, saying good-bye to A's reproductive abilities will be one of our biggest decisions - one we will not make lightly.

Anneke has spontaneously said, on more than one occasion. "I think my girlfriend will have kids. I'd like to be the dad."
"I think you'd make an awesome dad." I always reply.
"I think so too."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Let the Games Begin




It's fair to say, I have very mixed feeling about the Olympic Games being held in Vancouver, where I live. That said, I cannot let those feelings dampen my awe and enthusiasm for amateur sport at its finest. To have two children that can dream about playing in the Olympics is a magical thing. That dream, and these games, will inspire them for years to come. As I write this A. is glued to Women's hockey - Canada vs. Slovakia.

When I ask her if she fantasized about being on the Olympic hockey team, s/he says yes. When I asked if s/he imagines herself on the mens team or the womens, s/he says - I don't know yet.
Fair enough.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Siblings



They really do love each other. They can't sleep in different rooms. Can't go to bed at different times. And always walk to and from school together. Despite the 4.5 year age difference, they love each other very much. As an only child it warms my heart. I always wanted a sibling.

Now they're both bugging me for a brother....I really don't think so.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Hangin' with Haley


Of all the athletes to admire and aspire to be like, Haley Wickenheiser is in a class with few others. Today A & M and I headed out to the Vancouver International Airport to follow a lead that the 2010 Women's Olympic Hockey team was arriving. After a long wait, and much anticipation, it was worth the wait. The entire women's Olympic team arrived and signed a stick of A's and a smaller stick of M's.

At A's recent 13th birthday her goalie coach also gave her a stick with almost the entire 1998 Olympic Women's hockey teams' signatures. S/he was touched beyond words. It meant so much to her that another female athlete whom she admires would share such a special treasure with her. One of the only missing autographs was Haley Wickenheiser.

Today we got her to sign both sticks and pose with us for a photo!

For those who don't know who she is, I have included a brief biography. She, more than any other female athlete has broken down gender barriers in the arena of amateur and professional sport. She has proven, that your gender, simply does not matter when you have the love of the sport and the skill. What a woman to admire. I am so glad my kids got to meet her.

Bio
Three-time Olympic medalist, Hayley Wickenheiser is regarded as one of the best female hockey players in the world with an uncompromised determination and dedication to her sport. However, it’s not just her lethal slapshot that is respected by her teammates, fans and peers; Hayley is also an award winner, community leader, mentor, history-maker and an accomplished businesswoman.

It all started at age 15 in Shaunavon, Saskatchewan when Hayley was chosen for the Canadian Women’s National Team. She has since led the squad to six gold and one silver medals at the Women’s World Hockey Championships. As an Olympian, she earned a silver medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan and two gold medals at the Winter Olympics in 2002 and 2006. Accompanying all thathardware, Hayley was also named the tournaments' most valuable player in both victorious Olympic runs as well as in numerous Esso Women’s Hockey Championships.

Hayley Wickenheiser has proven to be an elite athlete time and time again. Sports Illustrated recently named her number 20 of the Top 25 Toughest Athletes in the World.(Read Article) She is also a two-time finalist for the Women’s Sports Foundation Team Athlete of The Year. In January 2003, Hayley made hockey history when she became the first female hockey player to notch a point in a men’s professional game with the Kirkkonummen Salamat of the Finnish second division. More recently, Wickenheiser played in Eskilstuna, Sweden with a men’s professional division-one hockey team for the 08-09 season.

Along with hockey, Wickenheiser has mastered a number of sports. An elite softball player, she participated in the 2000 Summer Olympics as a member of Team Canada and most recently worked as a Softball Analyst with CBC’s coverage of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.


As you will hopefully recognize A and M are picture above to the left of Haley. She seemed happy to greet her fans, and the entire team took time to sign A's stick and offer words of support. What a great day!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Part two


Do you ever have those out of body experiences, where you are looking down at yourself in a crap situation, and think, wow that really sucks. I wonder what they are going to do? What I really want to do is melt into a puddle and cry…what I must to is figure out a plan.

Option One ….tell the team and the coach that their star goalie does not have her equipment, and we forfeit the game. Not an appealing option.

Option two…drive back to Vancouver to get her stuff. It is at this moment that I realize that her goalie bag is on its way to Maple Ridge with M. I phone Ben and ask him to call the dad giving her a ride and break the news to M. that she will not be able to play her game either. So in addition to being physically impossible, the missing hockey bag is on its way to Maple Ridge….also a physical impossibility.

Option three… We drive to Canadian Tire and try to piece together equipment so s/he can play.

While I voice these options aloud, A keeps repeating the same three sentences…ones she had heard from me over a thousand times. “Breathe. Don’t worry. It will be ok….mummy, just breath.”

“Get the GPS. We’re going to Canadian Tire. What exactly do you need?.”
“Skates and pants I think. The rest I can get from M’s bag.”
“Let’s go.”

To my credit. I work well under pressure. Another skill developed from years of being a midwife and dealing with crazy, time sensitive, situations. We made it to and from Canadian Tire with the requisite pieces of equipment in time to dress for the game and get on the ice. Luckily, also we were playing the only team in the lower mainland with a ‘back-up’ goalie. She loaned A a jersey, blocker and glove.

With the wrong equipment, its fair to say, s/he did not play her best game….but at that point it didn’t matter. S/he was on the ice, in full gear. As I explained our, almost comical situation to the other parents and coaches, I felt like an idiot. How could I screw up something so simple, as getting the right kids’ bag? How did these other parents do it? They looked way more together than I felt, even on my good days. How did they get here looking so together, with their mugs of coffee, and their happy, fed, fully clothed kids?

At the end of the game A’s coach (a lovely guy and awesome coach) asked to speak to us. This is rarely good. He addressed his comments to A, and reminded her that it was her responsibility to organize her equipment and not rely on her mom and dad. In my fragile state I felt chastised and embarrassed. As he gently and appropriately spoke to A, and ended our conversation I proceeded to burst into tears. I retreated to the car, where I had the biggest cry I’ve had in years. It took me awhile to even be able to drive.

As we drove home, Anneke said one thing…..”I love you so much mom.”
“Thanks sweetie, I love you too.” Maybe it wasn’t such an awful day after all.

Bad day as a hockey mom.... Part 1

Life, as the mom of two kids, is by definition a challenge. Never mind their gender identity. The lives of kids today is busy and complex. This week we had a particularly hard day…or at least I did.

To start with, I had to figure out how I was going to get A. to a hockey game she was playing in Abbottsford (about an hour drive) while simultaneously getting M. to her game in Maple Ridge (about a 40 minute drive) in rush hour traffic. A last minute offer to drive M. came through to my relief, and I started my busy day.

8 am – visited a baby I helped deliver (sans coffee) then rushed to my clinic in Vancouver to see clients. 11 am, rushed to Maple Ridge, where I am also working for an important meeting. My plan was to eat along the way, but soon realized I had forgotten my wallet at my Vancouver office. I scraped together enough change for a coffee at Tim Horton’s, thank the goddesses, and rushed to my meeting. From there I rushed to Vancouver to visit a family planning a homebirth, in downtown Vancouver, during the Olympics. (Madness for all of us involved.) Now 3pm, I still have not eaten and have a stress headache. From here I navigated my way to my office to get my purse, then home to drop off M’s hockey bag.

To feed both kids I decided to pick up sushi, the only healthy portable option I could think of. When I got home I asked M to go to the car to get her hockey bag, but along the way she tripped, hurt her knee and came home crying and bleeding. Rescue remedy, Band-aid, and serious TLC administered, I sent her dad to get her bag, while I organized the food, and left to pick up A. at her basketball game.

As many of you know, Ben (their dad) does not drive…a blessing for us all…but today I am bitter about his fact, as he waves goodbye and sits down with his sushi and the TV remote.

Still no time for food, I drive to the school gym pick up A. and get on the highway to go to Abbottsford. As I look over to my sweat covered child, I am filled with pride and wonder. How on earth did I give birth to an athletic kid? S/he loves sports of every kind, and is good at everything s/he tries…even golf! Not only is s/he athletic, but deeply confident in her abilities. The very opposite of me…thank goodness.

As I drive I realize how tired I am, having had bad sleeps all week. Sleep is for the weak, I try to convince myself. Midwives as a group often take a perverse amount of pride in their ability to function normally despite insane levels of sleep deprivation. Sadly, I am one such midwife.

We arrive at the Abbottsford arena in great time, and I breathe a sigh of relief… I can get a coffee, eat, and relax before the game. We open to trunk of the car, remove A’s goalie pads, and look squarely at M’s hockey bag…….not Anneke’s.

My exact words were….”shit, shit, fuck me…this is my fault. Oh my God…what are we going to do?”

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Happy Birthday!

Today is A's 13th birthday. We all had a wonderful day, starting with an awesome hockey game where s/he showed off her talent as a goaltender, followed by a party with her team-mates and coaches. From there we went to one of her favourite places, Maplewood Farm. We visited the goats, cows, horses and pigs, to name a few. As I learned from a young age, animals don't judge or scrutinize. Anneke has the same kinship with animals I have had for most of my life ... she would like to be the next 'Dog Whisperer' and build a Canadian rehabilitation centre for dogs. I suggested she start with our own, poorly trained dog, Zoe.

After an afternoon of Wii, and NHL hockey we made our way to English Bay to have dinner at one of our favourite restaurants and watch the Cannucks. The table next to us was filled with almost 20 gay men celebrating a pending marriage two of their friends. They helped us sing Happy Birthday to Anneke as though we were in a Broadway show. It was great!

As with any birthday, I also like to celebrate the fact that I gave birth, and haven't managed to kill or screw up my kids yet. To this end I enjoyed an amazing meal, several pomegranate martinis and a dessert to die for.

I have no illusions that next year will be full of challenges. What I know for sure, is that Anneke has the strength and maturity to take it all in stride.

This year we have all become Gleeks. The lyrics to this song are what I wish I could sing/say to Anneke each and every day of her life.

Happy Birthday Anneke. You are an amazing kid!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Your son just.....


So I am totally used to people referring to A. as my son. This is no longer a surprise, but in certain venues I am still taken off guard it seems. Years ago, I used to correct people, and let them know that A. was indeed my daughter. This led to a variety of reactions, mostly just awkward apologies, and A. looking embarrassed. It has been years since I corrected someone.

One of the places there is no confusion is A's hockey world. She has been a member of the Vancouver Angel's girls hockey team since our arrival in Vancouver 4+ years ago. All the parents, coaches and kids know her and make her feel welcomed and valued. This year she plays goal on a Pee Wee rep team. Last year she helped out as goalie for the Midget level girls team and played at the Bantam level (one level up from her age group). As a result, parents from almost all levels know A.

The new factor this year is that Molly has started to play hockey... also for the Vancouver Angels. Its fair to say, many of the parents on Molly's team, don't know A. or know that s/he is natally female. Recently at a skills building session at the Trout Lake arena, I was bringing A. to her session and picking up Molly from hers. When Molly and I emerged from the dressing room a very agitated mom was waiting outside the door eager to let me know that my son appears to have gone in the wrong dressing room.

This is what I mean by being taken off guard. "Sorry?" I said, a bit confused.
"Your son just went into the girls dressing room...I think he's in the wrong place."
Molly, a veteran of these conversations, immediately caught on.
"That's my sister...she's a girl, that's her team." she informed the well meaning mom.
Catching on, I realized that she thought me teenage son had just crashed a dressing room full of half-naked 11 and 12 year old girls...thus her distress.
"Yes," I added, "that's my older daughter Anneke, s/he is the goalie for the Pee Wee rep team."
Since its been years since I had corrected someone, it has also been years since I had witnessed the awkward reaction to this revelation. As anticipated, she repeated, "I'm so sorry," about 6 times. Molly attempted to comfort the poor mom by simply stating that "That's ok, it happens all the time. Anneke is a girl... but really is mostly a boy. Everyone gets confused. Bye!"
While this makes total sense to Molly and I, the woman watched us walk away, with a look of both embarrassment and confusion etched across her face.

I used to get irritated by these conversations, but now I view them as opportunities to share with other people how wonderful and unique my kid is... and to challenge their traditional views of gender.