Just when I thought the mood swings, challenges to authority and anxiety attacks were going to get the best of me, I’ve had to sit myself down and contemplate the newest challenge…my daughter’s identity.
My daughter has consistently been fast, impulsive, loud and messy…sort of what I see when I think of most little boys. I’ve always categorized those traits as “being a kid”, ADHD and FAS. As she got older, more specifically age 5 to now (age 10), she became more and more vocal about wanting to play with boys, or get “boy” toys for Christmas, or wear boy clothes. By the age of 8, she has basically chosen to convert her wardrobe to boys clothes and refused anything that was even purchased in the girl’s department (even plain black shorts). She could tell by the cut and style that it was “girl’s clothes”.
I will admit that, as a parent, I have been feeling completely unprepared for all of these challenges. She is my only child, and I had very little experience growing up knowing how to raise kids other than what my single Mother or church taught me. But still, I try to be objective and treat her as the special and unique individual that she is. I have given in to many of her requests yet, at times, held back and tried to explain why the thing she was asking for was not appropriate. The biggest concern I have is that she will confuse her peers, which will make them less likely to want to be her friend. As she gets older, I worry more that her peers may sense that SHE is confused about her own identity and ridicule her. Maybe I’m over-thinking this, and she’s just a tom-boy, maybe not.
It may seem ironic, the timing of this post, given the world’s introduction to “Caitlyn Jenner” recently, but it’s really not planned. You see, just today, I got a call from my daughter’s camp about this situation and I thought “now I have to write about this”. As a little background to today’s event….I have been asking my daughter to talk to adults whenever something happens that is hurtful or scary so they can help solve the problem, and she has consistently not done it. This past school year, she told me she tried and her teacher just “shushed” her and sent her back to her seat.
Today, the camp staff called to tell me that my daughter had called a meeting with all of them to explain that she wanted to be called “Henry” and why. As soon as I heard this, I just busted out laughing because I picture my little 10 year “calling a meeting” and these adults accommodating her. My next emotion was pride, I was proud of her for getting the attention of these adults and communicating her needs (or wishes). Lastly, I felt that all-too-familiar heavy burden of entering this zone of no turning back, where my daughter potentially has identity or gender confusion.
This is hard for me because I was not raised to understand this type of challenge or even accept it. But I can only imagine how hard this must be for her to process and deal with given everything else going on in her brain and body. My next step will be to seek out (yet another) therapist that specializes in this and can hopefully work with her. In the meantime, I will continue to love her, help her understand boundaries and try to find answers that make sense to both of us.
If any of you have children with similar personalities, I’d love to hear from you – how you talk about this subject with your child, and what you’ve done to help them.