Updated: Jul 16, 2019
In the early days, I used to I feel like I had fallen down the rabbit hole.
In many ways, that is exactly what happened to us all.
Each one of us began a journey that centred around one very important member of our family. And their journey was to be completely different from our own.
But, we would need to be united if we were to survive the journey and thrive.
I'm your average harried mother. Most days something surprises me on my calendar of life; juggling two jobs, extracurriculars and our over-scheduled lives.
We've three awesome kids.
No, really, they really are inspiring.
Lucky for me, I've a way-beyond-average husband who helps me keep it all running..
It's a collective chaos of love and challenges and finding the laughter.
And, I love to write.
If you're reading this, I hope it's within the spirit it was written and without judgment. There's no judgment in this rabbit hole.
I can remember two times that my world was radically transformed and I saw things in a whole new light. I remember exactly where I was standing, like how my mother recalls where she was when JFK was shot.
My first transformation was on 9/11.
Ironically, this past week marked the anniversary of that life changing day.
But, I'm referring to the first one.
Me on 9/11:
Working in a hair salon on outskirts of Dublin;
A tidy 3 months pregnant with my first child on the way. I was laid off from my career and buying time until our baby would arrive;
My ankles, sadly my best feature, were now squishy and bloated from being vertical all day;
My boss Martin knew I was bored with the job, but it was close to home and he was funny and fair. He was happy I could fill the gap while he looked for someone full time.
I was sweeping hair and felt a long way from home when Sky News began looping images of explosive airplanes, smashing glass and twin towers falling from the pasty blue sky.
I had a full day's work ahead of me, yet I longed to be back in our crumbling, red bricked semi, where I would sit on my futon couch, and like almost everyone else in the world, I would fixate upon the horrific images that seemed unreal and impossible.
The world changed.
I changed. I rubbed my stomach and the itchy black overall maternity dress and began to feel nauseous.
Over the hours and days it threw humanity together in fear, sacrifice, comfort, support, grief, healing and togetherness.
I'm not sure exactly what happened to humanity along the way but the world seems angrier these days. Disconnected. Impatient.
My second reality smash happened one day while I sat in my home office finishing up before the kids arrived home from school.
It was one of those moments that made me rethink my reality and the way I saw the world; just like 9/11.
It was June, 8th, 2017 and a Thursday. It was the day before my birthday.
I had birthday plans with my sister the next day for dinner and a movie -- Wonder Woman.. A flashback to my absolute favourite childhood show, but on the big screen.
At 3:15 p.m. my youngest burst in the front door, fresh off the school bus just like every other day. But today her eyes were wide, and she was breathless.
Her short hair, that'd been getting shorter and shorter the past couple of months, was as wild and unkempt as usual. Her eyes pleaded for a conversation that couldn't wait. Not even the swarming welcome of our two whippets would distract her.
She's always been our theatrical child and today I just needed a few more minutes to wrap up my work.
"Sure, one sec." I remember mumbling, half staring at my screen and distracted by a file of nothing...paper.
But there was something about her 10-year-old voice that made me pause and slowly turn to face her. This was serious.
She climbed on my knee and I knew whatever it was, it was heavy.
She had been struggling more this school year than previous ones.
Since we'd moved to the Maritimes five years ago things had been harder. Her grades were slipping even though she's incredibly smart and intuitive. Friendships were getting complicated. She'd been feeling most of the year like 'she just didn't fit anywhere'.
I'd be lying if I didn't say I was quietly worrying about what was going on beneath the surface - but hopeful it would work itself out with time. She's always been resilient.
She spent most recesses with a couple of friends, or off sketching dragons alone in her favourite camo-pants and black tank top. For Grade 5 she looked a bit of a rebel. She was well liked, but becoming a loner and hadn't been invited to many birthday parties in a long time. We hoped it was simply a phase that would pass.
I remember feeling the hurt for her when one friend stopped coming around because of her fixation for playing dragons.
Friendships change and so do interests. But, I it left me feeling sad, because a gaping space seemed to be growing around her.
Her closest friend sat with her on the bus this day.
She told her first. A quiet whisper so nobody else could hear.
Her friend (thankfully) replied; '
You should talk to your mom'.
And so she did.
"I have something to tell you Mum."
"Alright, ...." I said.
"No. You have to really listen. And you have to believe me and I don't know what to do. You have to listen Mum. But, you have to believe me."
It was a jumble of words. She was terrified. Not just scared. Petrified.
She kept telling me I had to really listen. I thought, why would she think I wouldn't believe her?
And then she asked me if I remembered the book Ms. Phillips was reading in class.
A book called George.
That's what I felt. I'm being honest and I'm not proud.
I remembered the book and I remembered not understanding WHY the teacher was reading the Grade 5 class a book about a boy who identified as a girl and wants to play Charlotte in the play, Charlotte's Web.
My daughter had been asking a lot about this book the past few weeks.
It's a book about a transgender child. I remember thinking, this couldn't possibly be relevant to 10-year-olds?
"Mum, stop I'm serious." The room began to sway slightly because she was different. Her voice was strong and at the same time it was scared.
And then she dropped it.
"I am a boy, Mum. I know it and I don't know what to do. I was born in the wrong body. Please Mum...please.
You HAVE to believe me...I don't know what to do."
She told me she is a word called 'transgender'. She used those words exactly and I remember in later weeks people would respond to this suspiciously, as thouogh she'd researched it online and it was some kind of act.
Her eyes were wide. And then she began to cry as I was saying things like, "You've always liked boys things. You know... the trains... the dragons. You're our 'tomboy'."
And then there was anger. "No Mum!"
"That's not it. I'm not a tomboy. I'm a boy."
This was the second day my life changed.
I am not the same.
I see the world differently.
On this day though, the world did not change with me. It went on and I was alone.
I would wait three long days before I shared any of this with my husband.
It was a non-sharing first between us because in those early days, I had no words.
For once, I did not know how to solve this situation.
As a parent, I have always been problem solver.
Was this a problem? If so, what was it?
What did it mean?
As I collected my thoughts, I reassured her it was all going to be ok.
But in my head I was already mentally dialling the schools phone number to try to make sense of this with her teacher. To see if they could guide me on where this was all coming from.
I told my daughter, I am here and I will figure this out, whatever this means.
And I promised her she could trust me. It would be OK.
But on this day of transformation for me, mother of 3 daughters for more than 10 years, there was no one to call. I was completely alone.
My world was crumbling down around me and I didn't know who to call for help.
Not as alone as my child.
But alone in that I had no idea what to do, how to help, what to say.
There was fear. There would be grief.
But there wouldn't be any gathering of humanity for support and healing.
I was 100% alone in figuring my way through my own fog of ignorance.
It is difficult to describe, but as the knot in my chest began to grow, I felt my body beginning to shrink. Smaller and smaller.
I was becoming a member of the Invisible Parents Club.
This is our journey, but it's a shared journey amongst thousands of parents; very few truly understand.
Many of us live in fear.
But we don't need to live it alone.
I'm not an expert on gender. Or gender diversity.
But I know we all deserve a place in this world. And to be accepted.
This includes my son.
It includes all gender diverse and transgender children.
Binary. Non-binary. Young. Teen. Everyone.
And the brave people who came before them who didn't have anyone to fight for them.
This is the beginning of my family's journey.
Thank you for being here.