People say when you get married there will be three things that will cause fights throughout the life of your marriage, and they are money, sex, and children. For the first, the fight will be that there is never enough. For the second, one person will say there is never enough and the other will say there is too much or just the right amount. However, when it comes to children the issues become far more complicated. Marriage, partnerships, etc. bring two people into a relationship that were raised by different parents, have different personalities, and may have different ideas on how to raise their children. Raising children can be hard enough under the best of circumstances for a husband and wife (my reality, my blog). Now throw into the mix a child who not only challenges you in normal ways, but challenges your knowledge of what it is to be male or female, or that threatens to take away a son or daughter only to be replaced with a seemingly new child. This will cause new issues for not only the individual parent, but for the couple as well.
Most blogs seem to paint a bright and vibrant picture filled with humor and happy thoughts, but that isn’t reality, is it? Certainly those exist, and I will share those moments as well. You may be thinking, I thought you were going to write about extended families. That’s what you said in your last blog. Indeed I did, but something happened yesterday, and while part of the aim here is to help others, it is also for me to work out what is going on for me. Besides, I think this topic is just as important as the other, and in some ways more so, because it comes before you deal with extended families.
My wife and I have been married for almost 18 years, and we still love each other very much. While we have many of the same likes and some similar interests, we also have some significant differences and that works for us. I’m the extrovert in the relationship. I’m the planner, the fixer, the talker. We both work full-time, and juggle parenting duties with those at work. In a world where the mom sets up play dates, and dictates social calendars, etc…in our family that task falls to me and I readily embrace it. She handles most of your traditional mom duties when it comes to the kids and does a wonderful job, but she is a far more private person. Shy and reserved until she knows someone, she grew up in a household where things were kept in the family and rarely shared or discussed with outsiders. I, on the other hand, was raised in a family where there really weren’t any secrets. As a result, I am an open book, ready to share with the world.
In the case of Fabulous, these differences came to a head last night. While we’ve talked over the past year, last night was the most we’ve talked about what is happening, at one time. Earlier in the day we had the realization that maybe we hadn’t been entirely on board with him transitioning, and that we just had to suck it up and make it happen if that is what he wants. As usual, my mind started running and I thought of reaching out to another parent who I know would be willing to help. This person is awesome and has already been where we are about to go (Be willing to accept help where offered, even if it is just an ear to vent, or a shoulder to cry on from someone who gets it). She immediately offered to get together, with or without kids, to talk and answer questions. I thought it was a great idea. My wife and I could ask questions, and it would allow her to feel like she isn’t alone. The problem with my plan was that it was a plan that was perfect for my personality, and not her’s.
At dinner she said she was good with getting together, but I failed to see the growing anxiety in her as the night went on, and this culminated just before bedtime. I can stand in front of hundreds (and have) to speak and share. My wife tenses up to share with just one or two people she doesn’t really know.
The crux of the heated discussion last night has to do with Fabulous starting therapy next week. MomFab doesn’t want to do anything until after he visits the therapist and we can game plan with her. She’s worried about his safety, his school, his friends, and how a social transition will affect all of them. In fact, she has been so worried that she told me last night she had yet to fully process what has been going on.
My wife is the worrier of the family, especially when it comes to the kids. I tend not to worry until the issue arises, but I will have contingency plans in place whenever possible. In my haste to get plans in place for name changes, possible school change, etc. I’ve also come to terms/processed what is going on from an intellectual perspective. Intellectually, I have accepted it and support what Fabulous wants, but I also know that the first time I have to call him “her”, or send him off to school as my daughter…I will have issues because the emotional doesn’t give a fuck about the intellectual. I’ll manage and it will get easier, but firsts are never easy. My wife, on the other hand, hasn’t processed the full situation yet, either intellectually or emotionally, but I also know on the day we send him off as our daughter she will be ready in both ways.
As parents, we worry about screwing up our kids, and for Fabulous this takes on a whole other level of screwing him up. You worry about the following:
Am I pushing him to transition?
Will the school keep him safe?
Do I need to switch his school?
Will he lose his friends and how will that affect him?
Will he get bullied?
Will he try to hurt himself as a result of any of the above?
I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. The worries are potentially never-ending, but they are also a variation on worries parents have for their cis-gendered children. You only need to change the circumstances of the situation to see that.
My wife worries that questions I ask Fabulous may cause him to move forward with something, or to gain a revelation. I try to explain to her that nothing I say or do is going to change who he is. If he is a girl, my words aren’t going to change that, and if he isn’t then my words aren’t going to make him one. She knows this truth, but her fear is that he chooses to move forward before we have the safety net in place. I told her last night that he may choose to move forward without us, and that I’m only trying to get as much in place as possible before that happens.
The beauty of being a couple is that you can each play to your strengths. I can talk to other parents, gain an understanding of what they did. I can get the do’s and dont’s, the “if I had it to do over agains,” and I can bring them home to share. MomFab doesn’t have to meet with others until she is ready, because I am equipped and willing to do so. Instead, she can focus on building a plan with the therapist, and worrying about many of the little things that I simply do not worry about. In the end, this makes the plan better and more complete.
As parents, we can focus on our differences, or we can embrace them and use them to our family’s advantage. In the end, we both want Fabulous to grow up to be as happy and safe as possible. We don’t have to be on the same page every step of the way, as long as we are on the same page when those big decisions need to be made. As parents we need to be able to lean on each other, to talk it out, and even when we don’t agree to be able to see the other person’s point of view.
It’s OK if your spouse isn’t on the same page right now, and it’s ok to see the situation differently, just keep communicating. If the love is there, it will get you where you want to go. You don’t have to be open with others, as long as you are open with each other. I don’t know how much this helped others, but this was a ramble that I needed to write as I processed what happened last night, so at the very least…I feel better.
Next time: I’m thinking of writing about the whole “being ready for a child’s transition”, and the excuses we make to put it off. I think we all do this, and it might be valid to write about it and really look at how I’ve really been feeling about the whole thing. I promise I will get to the extended family issue.
(Finally, feel free to hit like at the bottom of these posts for the posts you like. It helps me to know what resonates with people, and it can get the blog shared with others who are out there looking to connect.)