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Parenting: The Power and the Pain

My heart hurts all the time, and I'm told that's normal when you're a parent. I worry, I fear, I struggle, I put everything I have into it and it feels like too much and never enough.

This past few years have not stopped slicing into that juicy heart meat. I couldn't prevent the pandemic and give my kids normalcy, safety, or assurance. I couldn't prevent our job and business losses and the stress and instability that came with them. I guess I could have prevented our change of homes and transcontinental move, but by our calculous, it was the next right choice.

That's all I tell my kids they have to do as humans: "Make the next right choice, be kind, maintain your peace." The move was an effort to do all of that, but God, there are so many doubts. It's so hard to reach forward into the future and determine if you've made the right choice, or if you'll have regrets- and when you're dragging little people along for your ride, the doubts and worries are excessive. Will this ever feel like normal, like home, like truth?

So I'm walking next to the kids through the grief and transition while also trying to work it out myself. Also the self discovery and digging through past versions of myself and trying to figure out what to keep and what to lose with this newest incarnation has been necessary but so fucking stressful. I want to be stable for my kids, but I want to be evolving, and I want to encourage them to go through their own evolutions, but it means we're all in this terrifying and confusing place inside our own heads and together in our home.

During this time of transition and discovery, our youngest has learned that they are non-binary. They are a "neither" and a "both" or a "they/them." Over the past 1.5 years it's just become a matter of fact for them and is one of the more concrete and processed aspect of who they are. From their perspective, they are into crafting, animals, and soccer, they're non-binary and pretty tall, they have thirteen different colors of hair naturally growing from their goofy head and they find the MOST cunning ways out of eating their vegetables. It's just one of their characteristics.

But for everyone else? It's a whole thing. It's inconvenient, it's annoying, it's not a 'choice' they should be allowed to make yet. They've been accused (either directly to them or in side convos to me) of being a hassle, being a problem, being too young for this, being attention-seeking, being dramatic, being stubborn, etc, etc.

The whole experience has made me see society's rigid expectations and rules. It's forced me to identify the ways that I've played polite and obedient and I'm finding the courage to stand by what's right, not what's typical. If my kid is breaking the mold, the mold is too confining to include them. I never want my kid to think that they're the problem. It's the mold, baby. So many people defend the mold and are terrified of the mold changing, or maybe being destroyed altogether. Anything outside the binary is sort of looked at as faddish or newfangled or troublemaking (or worse, against the natural order/God and a BIG problem that requires violent/horrifying solutions). The message is- you're meant to show up on this earth with certain parts and live by the gender trappings we've assigned to that sex. Asking questions, attempting to bend the strict rules, or simply knowing you don't live within them and need an alternative, is a threat. People feel compelled to debate whether you have the right to be who you know yourself to be- AND THAT SUCKS. People act like without the mold society will crumble. I don't want all that nonsense to fall on my kid's small head.

I worry they'll be hurt by others, I worry they'll feel left out or wrong, or not understood. The sense of belonging and being KNOWN is so critical, I don't want them to be paddling up stream for that....but I absolutely won't have them try to squeeze themself back into a mold that doesn't fit, because we know that that's where self-loathing lives. They need to be able to be themself and be safe and seen as them. It's the only way to truly live.

So in this new place, in this scary world, I'm feeling especially like I have to create this safe, sacred space, maybe from scratch. It feels like there are boogeymen everywhere, but I'm learning to fight them off, using my big girl voice. It's taught me a lot about standing up against the restricting voices in the name of defending the tender one....(and sometimes I'm the tender one).

Also, this last year or so, we've been discovering what it takes to keep them mentally healthy. They've been diagnosed with anxiety, like me, and are now receiving treatment, like me. For a kid this age, that has required a hell of a lot of advocacy and a ton of testing both in and outside of school. Sometimes I wish this kid just had an easy, peaceful mind that didn't require all of this care, but then would they be less creative? Sensitive? Interesting? Funny? Weird? I wouldn't change a thing about who they are, I just want them to feel safe and be able to encounter life with a sense of confidence and calm. With treatment- it's getting easier to be them- as they describe, and as we witness through their behavior- and I'm so fucking grateful and relieved. It feels like we've run a marathon. I'm not putting my tennis shoes away. I expect there will be a lot more and I have to be in optimal shape to keep up, but for a moment, we can rest and breathe.

I'm writing all of this to share and in part because I've been absent from my writing work. My goal was to have a FINISHED (underlined, italicized) novel that was ready to go out to agents by this fall, and I don't. I have a draft. It's been read by a handful of trusted advisors and now I have the (horrible, terrible, why me, please no) responsibility of making it into something that tastes like truth. I'm trusting that, like parenting, putting in the specific, unrushed, attention and care this book needs will pay off and it will thrive....eventually.

Mercy, grace, patience, peace is how I'm trying to parent myself and those short folks in my house, and how I want to do art, as well. It's all part of the same, this flow of life- learning, pausing, tending to the wounds, growing, resting, running, and spinning gold. Faith in the flow is what I'm aiming for.

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