I’m in a funk and I can’t get out of it. As much as Heather starting college is a new beginning for her, it’s a new beginning for me too, only I don’t know how to begin again. I’ve been Mom to Heather & Abby for the past 18 years. While my job as their mom will never end, it has certainly become less labor intensive. I’ve had new beginnings before in my life, but this one has me stymied. Looking in the mirror this morning, I realized this journey has taken a personal toll on me, physically and mentally. I no longer recognize the person staring back at me in the mirror.
Fear has ruled my life for the past two years. Fear of rejection. Fear of making the wrong decisions. Fear for Heather’s safety and well-being. I imagine myself following Heather with my arms encircling her, creating a perimeter to deflect harm. I am a soldier on guard, anticipating the next threat, but I can no longer guard or protect her, because she is not with me. This is causing me great angst. Fear has me paralyzed.
I have a confession. I have texted Heather so much these past few weeks since she left, she has stopped responding to my texts! When we visited her over Labor Day weekend, she asked if I realized I was texting her, on average, once every three hours. I was only slightly embarrassed. I mean, how else am I supposed to communicate with her?? She should apologize to ME. Had she responded right away, I certainly wouldn’t have felt the need to send more texts! At any rate, my family is now comparing me to Beverly Goldberg from the television show “The Goldbergs.” Heather replaced my picture in her phone with Beverly’s, so now her face pops up whenever I text or call. Eye roll. I promised to do less texting between now and Parents Weekend. Can someone please come and take my phone??
I’ve read that many parents struggle with grief after their child comes out and transitions. I’ve never used grief to describe my feelings because fear has gripped me since the day she came out. I’ve always related the word grief with death. My child certainly has not died. In many ways, she has just begun to live. Since the very beginning of this journey, my husband has repeated something that resonated with me. He said, “whatever you’re going through, someone always has it worse.” I remember the first time he said it, I was sobbing, and I replied, “what could possibly be worse than this?” He rattled off a few things. Of course, he was right. There are so many worse scenarios we could be experiencing. We are fortunate to have a new beginning, not an ending.
When my babies were born, I created an idyllic image in my head of what each of their lives was going to be like. When your child struggles with their gender identity and changes their gender, all the dreams you have for your child change, and are complicated by the fact that society is not accepting of who your child has become. I no longer see an idyllic life for Heather. And, what I do see frightens me. The political climate right now is downright scary for people who are transgender. Over the next two years, things will change dramatically. Sure, right now she is at a great university that is accepting and affirming of all people. In four years, she will graduate. The world will be her oyster, in theory. She will need to find a job and a place to live. Right now, I am questioning if she will be able to do these two seemingly simple things without being discriminated against?
I no longer recognize the person I see when I look in the mirror. She is weary and tattered, but if I look closely, I can see she’s still got some fight in her. This journey has left me emboldened to advocate on behalf of Heather, and all transgender people. I’m not entirely certain what this will look like in my new beginning, but I’m ready to champion for her rights. Is it through this blog? Maybe. Is it by giving more free mom hugs? Maybe. Is it something else? Perhaps.
For now, I’m going to sit back, breathe deeply, work to overcome my fear, stop texting Heather every three hours, and, most importantly, listen to my heart as it points me in the direction of my new beginning.