78: How My Son Helped Me Stand in My Truth

78: How My Son Helped Me Stand in My Truth

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Possible

How My Son Helped Me Stand in My Truth

The greatest enemy of any one of our truths may be the rest of our truths.

~William James

I thought I was a good mom. I made sure my kids were growing and learning. I made sure they had everything they needed for sustenance and for development. I was focused on their education. I had them involved in all kinds of sports and activities. I made sure they had their vaccines and went to the doctor when necessary. I fed them well.

I really thought I had the mom gig nailed.

And then my oldest child had the nerve to upend all of that and make me not only a better mom, but a better human being—a better me.

From the time he was born, he was what I lovingly referred to as persistent. As he got older, though, that persistence turned into what I not so lovingly thought of as downright stubbornness. I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t listen to me. He demanded things be his way and never seemed to have any issue telling anyone in authority exactly what he thought. I’ve always admired that. He was “distracted” at school, and was labeled with having several learning disabilities, although his IQ testing was off the charts.

That should have been my first clue. You see, my son was born as a female. And he has had the strength and courage to stand in his own truth and be willing to transform into who he really is — a male. At two years old, he declared no more dresses. I didn’t think too much of it, and still didn’t when several years later we were shopping for school clothes and he complained that the girls’ clothing was too “tight.” He’s always been irritated by things like tags in shirts, so I figured, no biggie—we can buy boys’ jeans and pants. We continued to buy some girls’ clothing that was looser fitting, but that, too, came to a stop.

He was also determined to have a short haircut. I mean really short. You know, boy short. I resisted at first, but then figured, it’s his head — and he deserves to be comfortable.

I let him know that some people might wonder whether he was a boy or a girl, and we chatted about how he could handle it gracefully. He never seemed to mind that the questioning might happen and always handled it like a champ — respectfully, but firmly.

I’d get the occasional, “Oh, your son is so great!” and I’d quickly and politely correct the commentator, who, of course, would feel bad, and whom I would reassure: “Actually, she’s quite the tomboy (I had no idea what else to call it at the time), and she likes it!”

After a few years, he asked me to stop correcting people. That was a tough one. But I did my best to comply and he was (mostly) gracious when I’d slip up and call him my daughter or use the feminine pronoun.

While I believe I’ve tried to nurture his independent spirit, there have been many times when getting him to do the things that society says are the norm—and therefore what I bought into for far too long—was torture… for both of us. About a year and a half ago, I decided enough was enough. I decided that what matters most is the relationship we have, not what society dictates is the right prescribed course for his life. One of the changes we made is I started un-schooling him.

It took years of back and forth frustration, therapists, different behavioral programs (aimed at changing him, of course, not me), issues with the schools, and finally desperation for me to realize it wasn’t my son who needed changing. It was me. And my thought process. And my approach.

This child of mine has always displayed the most breathtaking charisma, determined sense of self, and old-soul type of knowing. I’ve noticed, and often been told, he’s wise beyond his years. About seven months ago, after doing research on his own, he sat me down and explained that he’s never been comfortable in his body and he is transgender. He was ready to begin the FTM (female to male) transition. Tears immediately sprang to my eyes.

You know why?

Because this kid — at fourteen — has more bravery, more true-to-himself guts than most adults I’ve ever met. He’s ready to face the world as who he is, no matter what. I’m just so damn proud of him I could jump out of my skin.

He’s been seeing a gender identity therapist for the past six months, and will soon be heading into Boston to work with endocrinologists so he can begin to live even more on the outside as he feels on the inside.

When I decided that my relationship with my child was more important than anything society said I should or shouldn’t be doing, our world began to change. It was then, too, that I realized it was my dysfunctional relationship with myself that had been holding me back. For far more years than I’d like to admit, I allowed fear to control my decision-making: fear of what would happen, fear of what wouldn’t happen, fear of making a wrong move and ending up in the wrong place. I never allowed myself to just flow. To just be who I was and allow my life to unfold. I didn’t trust myself enough, didn’t love myself enough, and certainly didn’t feel I was worthy enough. When things didn’t work out as I planned, I would try to control everyone and everything around me. Which, of course, didn’t work. I ended up frustrated, scared, and wondering how I could truly live the life I wanted to be living. I wanted to stop living by default, but had no idea what that even meant.

That is, until my son made me realize I could only truly control my actions and reactions or responses. I can’t — and couldn’t ever, really — control my child. And knowing what I know now, I don’t want to. Ever. I want to allow my child to stand in his own truth, just the way he is. And honestly, it could be no other way. He is truer to himself than almost anyone I’ve ever met.

He has shown me how to exercise the freedom to stand in my own truth, too. I am becoming more of who I truly am because of his example. I have found a way to live honestly and unapologetically as me. I am pursuing avenues I would never have had the insight or the courage to traverse. Most importantly, because I have followed my child’s example, I am able to help others stand in their truth as well.

Children are more than gifts and blessings… they are teachers. If we have the presence of mind to look for the lessons, our lives will become more fulfilled than we ever imagined possible.

~Melissa C. Harrison

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