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Trixiewithlove

To Trixie With Love – An Open Letter To My Child’s First Best Friend

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“Your friend is your needs answered.”

— Kahlil Gibran

In this life, not all friends are created equal. Friends come and go, based on the time of life, your environment, based on silly phases, fun phases and not-so-fun phases. They all do serve their purpose.

But, then, there are those special friends. Friends that can last a lifetime.

This is a story about the latter. It’s a true love story. If you met my daughter, you would not doubt her love for Trixie.
Trixiewithlove

Trixie is my daughter’s doll. She was Adelaide’s first birthday gift. As Adelaide grew up, Trixie had many of the same experiences as my daughter. When Adelaide tried peanut butter for the first time, so did Trixie.  When Adelaide got in the bath, she did her darnedest to bring Trixie in with her.

Trixie had birthday parties, Christmas mornings, got new clothes, and Adelaide was once absolutely petrified to find Trixie in the washing machine. She knew that wasn’t safe.  What kind of monster’s are her parents? To put her best friend in the WASHING MACHINE!!!

Each year, Trixie lost a bit of stuffing here, stitches added there, and after a few years, Trixie’s rips could no longer be patched. Her seams could no longer be mended.

We received many well-intentioned ideas of how to wean Adelaide away from her friend.

But it all seemed so cruel. Trixie was part of our family.

Now, she is a tattered mess. She is still used just as much as when Adelaide first got her. As a true member of our family, I wanted to write this letter to Trixie, to show my appreciation for a wonderful friend:

 

Dear Trixie,

You have been the favorite companion of my daughter for over 5 years now. Adelaide has not slept without you in that time. Not once. You have been on many adventures, and the truth is, you’ve seen better days – in fact, let’s just be honest: You have very little time left. Trixie7

There was the one time, 3 years ago, we tried to replace you with another cleaner, more sterile Trixie. You see, you were ALWAYS getting lost, and we were NOT allowed to clean you – so, in all honesty, you grossed us out and gave us headaches. But what you have done for our daughter is something spectacular. But Adelaide was suspicious from the get-go. It wasn’t long before Adelaide spotted your leg popping out of a box in the top of a closet.

My wife and I still have nightmares about the vacation when we left you in a restaurant and Santa Fe. We were 2 hours removed before we noticed. It was a really tough decision, but before Adelaide even knew you were gone, we spelled our way to a conclusion – We have to go back for T-R-I-X-I-E!

 

On a very memorable night, our third child was born. Adelaide immediately

trixie4 decided that Uma needed her own Trixie, so she sweetly gave the replacement Trixie to Uma, to comfort her, as you had always comforted Adelaide.

 

So, thank you, you have helped my daughter work through fears, anxiety and other complex emotions. You were that stable force that she needed when we moved to a new home. When we paid $40 for you at blablakids.com – we had no idea what we were really getting. So, I ask of you now Trixie, as your end looms near, in the immortal words of Dylan Thomas: 

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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Insufficient Glandular Tissue - When Breastfeeding Doesn't Go As Planned

When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Go As Planned

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This is the first of I don’t know how many posts to tell my breastfeeding story. I don’t know if it’s that long or if it is going to take me that long to get it all out and emotionally relive it all again.

Insufficient Glandular Tissue - When Breastfeeding Doesn't Go As Planned

When my first was born, I had no idea of the learning curve that comes with breastfeeding. Babies can cry a lot when rooting and trying to latch. The latch. The frustrating, seemingly never ending, unbelievably rewarding latch. I thought he would swim to my boob and lay there happily. Um no. He was MOST irritated and he didn’t even have the chapped nipples to prove it. A friend of mine (who is also a doula) said to me “this is normal” after observing me giving two day old babe a breakfast meal. Or at least I thought I was giving two day old babe a breakfast meal. It was more like a 100 calorie snack. As far as everything looked, though, I was right on track to exclusively breastfeeding.

If I had a dozen babies I believe that every single one would be inflicted with jaundice. On day three we had to turn around and rush baby boy back to the NICU after a follow-up blood test proved his levels were elevated. Our new family bubble of bliss had been popped. Nothing and no one would get us back to that warm feeling we had felt just hours before.

Breastfeeding

A huge blessing for us was being allowed to room in for our son’s brief stay. Every 3 hours I was allowed to offer him my breast for 10 minutes followed by a long cycle at the breast pump. I was feeling really terrible with a cough and I hadn’t slept since I first went into labor. I initially attributed my low milk supply to lack of sleep, feeling under the weather, and our new “home.” Anything, but my broken breasts.

Lactation consultants would say to me “sometimes it just doesn’t happen…” with lingering looks toward the door. One “sweet” lady in particular said something that hit a nerve and has stuck with me since my first child, but only clicked with my second. “You don’t have the right breasts for breastfeeding,” she said. Immediately my loyal sister piped up “she has similar breasts as mine and I was able to breastfeed all three of my babies.” Her quip gave me a little bit of hope but I was also internally digesting this statement, comparing her breasts to mine, sixth grade thoughts all over again. Although our breasts are similar, they aren’t identical. And what I’ve learned is; even if our breasts appeared identical that wouldn’t necessarily mean we would both be able to exclusively breastfeed our babies. Some breasts just don’t produce (enough) milk but I didn’t learn this until years later.

After our return from the NICU I was supplementing with formula because otherwise he would have been a very hungry hippo.

(There is photographic evidence of this, that I was THIS CLOSE to posting, of me naked from the waist up, my head wrapped up in a towel with the supplemental feeding system clipped to it and the baby boy trying like heck to get a decent meal. My husband ran interference with this and rightfully so, by asking me if I was OK with the “POSSIBILITY OF BECOMING A MEME?”)

I was told by people and the internet that THIS (formula feeding) was the reason I wasn’t producing more milk, even though I was pumping after every feeding, sometimes for 30 minutes.
To make matters worse, when I was five weeks into life with our first I was diagnosed with pneumonia. The pneumonia would be my latest excuse for my low supply. The toll it took on me was devastating. I ended up spending a number of days in the hospital, all the while continuously pumping on a regular schedule. I was pumping around the clock and for such long times I’m surprised my nipples even survived. Because of very heavy drugs, I had to pump and dump.

Breast Feeding Blues
Photo Credit: www.someecards.com

I was a complete mess. A woman crying while pumping both breasts to the rhythmic beat of the Medela “Pump in Style” has got to be one of the saddest sights ever. My dear husband was there all the while with all the right things to say and even then I COULD NOT GET OVER THE SADNESS. I had a healthy baby boy (that I couldn’t breastfeed.) I had a beautiful baby boy (that I couldn’t breastfeed.) I had to give him formula?

During my pregnancy the idea of feeding my baby formula was so far from my mind. I would have turned up my nose if you told me it would become our lives. He needed that Enfamil to thrive and survive. HE COULDN’T get what he needed from me. This was a big, scratchy, debilitating pill to swallow.

To be continued…

 

Struggling with family rules for media and social media? Check out these ideas!

Parenting Perspectives: Family Media Rules

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This month in our Parenting Perspectives series, we are tackling family media rules. Hopefully, you’ll find a variety of perspectives. Everyone has wisdom to share with other parents and each family’s situation is different, so please join in the conversation in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Struggling with family rules for media and social media? Check out these ideas!

Screen Time

When our kids were younger, we were very strict about screen time, but in recent history we have loosened up a bit. Our limits are based on a few things. Did you do anything else today? Especially now that summer is here. Is it changing your behavior? If our kids are asked to turn off electronics and that results in meltdowns etc. then we modify usage. Or are certain show contributing to poor choices in other aspects of their lives. If so then we help our kids pick different things to watch. Our kids rarely watch tv, they use Netflix, because of the steady stream of commercials we can then avoid. – E.M. (children’s ages – 5 & 6)

We have a Friday Night Family movie night. No more than 30 minutes screen time – this may include a family video game, or a show (like Daniel Tiger). We have not always been disciplined with this, when our oldest was an only child, Dora ran rampant – we can’t even believe that now. We have seen the negative effect too much TV time has, so we are much better about that this summer, and we have noticed the difference in their patience, and overall satisfaction with their day. – E.S. (children’s ages – 5, 3, & newborn)

We let them watch about 1-2 hrs of TV a day – usually in the evening after pick up when I need to get stuff done (ie dinner etc). This includes all screen time. If we think they’ve watched too much then we’ll have a no screen time day. – C.H. (children’s ages – 2.5 & 4)

With my oldest child, we really didn’t let him have hardly any screen time until he was 3 years old. I started letting him watch an hour of tv a day while my younger son was taking his afternoon nap. It was the easiest way to keep him quiet. Now, both our kids can have an hour of screen time a day. – A.J. (children’s ages – 4 & 6)

We mainly let our kids manage their own media consumption. They know our rules about violence and our expectations about maintaining balance in their activities and taking care of their responsibilities (like homework and chores). Sometimes they need gentle reminders about balance or encouragement to try something else if a video game gets a little heated. We also have a no media policy on family vacations – it’s good for everyone to take a break and spend time together. – M.M. (children’s ages – 10 & 11)

Our limit is 40 min/day – basically 2 shows without commercials. This gives the kids time to decompress after a long day at school/daycare & me time to make dinner. Our rules tend to vary when we’re on vacation or some weekends based on what else we’re doing. – E.W. (children’s ages – 5 & 2.5)

During the school year, our kids get screen time during breakfast and one hour of screen time after school. We occasionally allow additional screen time if they complete homework quickly. As a family, we watch a few sitcoms weekly and do not count this against screen time. We don’t have set limits for weekends but do try to keep the kids off their devices/away from the TV as much as seems reasonable for the mood of that particular day. – A.C. (children’s ages – 8 & 11)

Movie Ratings

As they are young we rarely watch anything that is not G rated. – E.M. (children’s ages – 5 & 6)

We typically screen the movie first. But we have seen some at the theater for the first time together. I recently took them to A Night At The Museum (the first one on a re-screen), and though there were parts they really enjoyed, it was too much for them. At one point, my daughter put her head inside her camera bag and hid, and my son held up his hand and yelled “stop”, as if there was oncoming traffic. It was a learning experience for me, and I liked how sensitive and empathetic they were to what was going on. – E.S. (children’s ages – 5, 3, & newborn)

As for movies, I check common sense media to judge whether or not the kids can watch the movie. We try to stay away from violent television or cartoons. However, when my oldest child turned 6, we let him watch Star Wars. He had been obsessed with Star Wars ever since he was 4. Someone was having a Star Wars birthday party at the park. – A.J. (children’s ages – 4 & 6)

We’ve always used Common Sense Media to get good information about a movie’s content. At this age, we care less about the rating and more about the presence of violence or misogyny. – M.M. (children’s ages – 10 & 11)

The subject matter of PG movies is usually just a bit over our oldest’s head. The biggest thing I look for in a movie is emotional intensity – we’re very much into silly movies right now. Too much “real” emotion can be difficult for our oldest. – E.W. (children’s ages – 5 & 2.5)

For movies, I find ratings not that helpful at this point. He self selects somewhat with movies. For instance, finding nemo was too much. He really loves the cars movies. I refuse to let him watch bambi, fox and the hound, dumbo, etc because I can’t handle them. One of the movies I really regret letting him see is the lego movie. One of the things he struggles with is inappropriate modeling of fighting behavior in places where it’s discouraged (school), so we try to minimize that content as much as possible. – V. J. (child’s age – 6)

We do not allow the kids to watch an R rated movies. We watch PG-13 movies with them and will stop the movie if it becomes too violent or too sexually explicit. – A.C. (children’s ages – 8 & 11)

I periodically check his Netflix. When it comes to movies, we are more flexible with language and sexual content, but inflexible with violent treatment of women, etc. He really has little desire to push the envelope and see movies that are R rated. – D.M. (children’s ages – 14 & adults)

Internet

Research. We want them to understand that the internet can be used to gather information. An example would be finding a butterfly or bug outside and then trying to match in online with google images. We’ve done some nonfiction books on Bookflix through the library. –  E.S. (children’s ages – 5, 3, & newborn)

We haven’t established any online rules yet. – A.J. (children’s ages – 4 & 6)

Our son is 11, so our rules on this will soon have to evolve. But, for now, the kids are not allowed to participate in social media or join any site where they can communicate with other users. We do allow YouTube, as the site’s standards are decently strict. Nevertheless, we do spot-check monitoring of what they are watching. – A.C. (children’s ages – 8 & 11)

Video Games

Our kids play some educational games and have since preschool. We will use TV or iPad when our child’s anxiety is amped.- E.M. (children’s ages – 5 & 6)

I guess both kids first played a game at 2. This is partly because I enjoy games, and I sold my wife on the idea that there’s more strategizing, more communication in games than in TV.  The games we have tried so far were: The Beatles Rock Band and The Lego Movie video game. We’ve also tried Wii Sports. The best games allow opportunities for strategy. – E.S.  (children’s ages – 5, 3, & newborn)

We have a few apps for kids on my ipad, but my kids haven’t started playing video games yet. I actually used an app to potty train my kids. The other apps we have are lego apps and learn to read apps. As for more typical video games, I figure once we let the genie out of the bottle, it will be hard to get it back inside.  -A.J. (children’s ages – 4 & 6)

We don’t have strict regulations – but definitely check out any games before buying and after buying – with adults we trust who are gamers. We live on almost 5 acres – he is kicked outside periodically. I don’t have strict times because he has friends who homeschool, public school, etc and they all have different schedules. I’m more flexible when he’s playing online with kids I know. – D.M. (children’s ages – 14 & adults)

We’ll use the ipad for car/ travel over about 45 minutes. Sometimes we’ll take it in with us, but not often. When sitting still at a restaurant seems like it will be a challenge, we will use the ipad. We’re really interested in building basic coding literacy, so we are encouraging apps and board games (robot turtle, etc) that teach him how to build sequences of steps to accomplish an entire task. – V. J. (child’s age – 6)

Social Media

We have not crossed that bridge yet. Maybe at 15, with friends approved by us- mostly consisting of family that lives out of town? I would prefer a program like Ello, which is ad free and focuses more on creativity. We’ll probably make our kids “friend” us until they are 17. – E.S.  (children’s ages – 5, 3, & newborn)

Our boys are going into 6th grade and are itching for social media accounts. We decided to start with Instagram. Before they got their accounts, we asked them to spend a month curating the pictures (and captions) they would use on an Instagram account. It was like a trial run, where we could give them feedback before they actually got their accounts. They have to let us follow them and can’t block us, plus we know all their passwords. – M.M. (children’s ages – 10 & 11)

No social media at this point. I’m hoping I have at least another 6 years before I need to think about it. And who knows what options we’ll have, then! – E.W. (children’s ages – 5 & 2.5)

Our kids only have email at the moment and we know their user names and passwords. We haven’t determined [social media rules] yet. Our generation of parents are on the vanguard in terms of allowing/monitoring social media use and, as such, there are no proven standards to follow. We’ll have to make it up as we go along. – A.C. (children’s ages – 8 & 11)

Experienced parents talk about their family rules for guns (real and play) and gun safety

Parenting Perspectives: Kids, Guns & Family Rules

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We’re starting a new series at Up Parenting Creek: Parenting Perspectives. We’ll pick a new topic each month and solicit opinions and advice from parents with differing takes and perspectives. Everyone has wisdom to share with other parents and each family’s situation is different, so please join in the conversation in the comments below or on our Facebook page.


Experienced parents talk about their family rules for guns (real and play) and gun safety

What’s your take on kids playing with fake/toy/finger/stick guns?

I’ve never liked it, but I came to understand it may symbolize power more than an actual gun, death and all that entails. – D. M.

We have no problem allowing our kids to have toy guns, even cap guns. I was not allowed toy guns as a child and so I used sticks/ Legos/friends’ toy guns/anything-you-can-point as a gun. My wife and I see only an aesthetic difference between those stand-ins for guns and an actual toy gun. The main difference is: toy guns are more fun. We don’t believe their presence in our home will in any way lead our children down a path of violence or desensitize them to violence. Those behaviors and attitudes don’t come from toys. – A.C.

My husband and I are pacifists. We are firm anti-gun proponents. However, we let our kids play pretend gun fights with their fingers, sticks, chewed up pieces of bread, etc. We talk to our kids about our feelings about real guns, and the difference between real guns and pretend play. – A.J.

Our girls aren’t super interested in playing gun related things, but we allow it. They prefer bows and arrows ala Katniss. – J.E.

We’ve discouraged playing with guns for our boys. It’s not something we could outright ban, because really – how would we enforce that?  – M.M

As a mom and a teacher, my personal toy gun rule is that guns are never pointed at people or animals you don’t intend to eat. Ever. If/when guns are imagined or played with, they may be pointed at targets that aren’t people or animals. – A.G.

What are the rules about shoot-em-up video games in your house?

No games that allow players to shoot humans, or animals in a non hunting environment, will be/are allowed in our home. – A.G.

My kids are only 4 and 6 years old. At this point, we really don’t allow them to play a lot of video games. I would like to limit their exposure to the violent video games. However, if they go to a birthday party at an arcade, I’m not going to forbid my sons to play the Star Wars video games. I’ll probably also not worry about them playing video games at other people’s houses. However, in our home, I’m planning on restricting their access to violent video games. – A.J.

We don’t do video games or own a gaming system. They do play games on the iPad from time to time, but haven’t played anything gun related on it. – J.E.

We allow first-person shooters as long as “humans” aren’t being killed. We also restrict based on how graphic the violence is, how bad the language is and whether there are negative representations of women. We don’t allow the shooting of humans because we know video games can be immersive. Shooting a weird looking alien is more akin to playing with a toy gun. We acknowledge that the we’ve drawn may be arbitrary, so we monitor first-person shooter game play. – A.C.

We didn’t allow any first person shooter games until the boys were 10. Now they can have them, as long as there is no realism to them – like Plants v Zombies. – M.M.

We have them now, just within the past year or so. My boy is almost 13. I’m not fond of them and limit his time with them. Honestly, he plays more basketball games right now. I try playing his shooting games and have more fun stopping in the kitchens and blowing up watermelons – is that so different than watching blood splatter from a CGI? I don’t know. – D.M.

How would you want your child’s school to handle stick/finger guns on the playground?

I am totally against kids getting suspended for playing pretend guns with their fingers at school. In my son’s old school, he got into trouble for playing attack of the Zombies with pretend blasters on the playground. I think this is ridiculous. – A.J.

As a former teacher, it was really easier to prohibit all “guns” because I didn’t feel like it was my job to say if they were ok or not. However, I totally disagree with a black and white ‘no tolerance’ pretend-gun-rule in schools. Redirection and conversation about why it might be ok at home but it’s not ok at school is just so much more beneficial. – A.G.

I’d be upset if the school made a big deal about kids using finger guns. I think bullying is a much more harmful issue on elementary school playgrounds. – M.M.

Let me say that I am a teacher, and I am constantly hearing “no guns at school.” What you’re doing is limiting the kid’s imagination, and making something very innocent into something fear-based. – E.S.

Hunting: Is this part of your family culture? If so, when do your kids get started?

My husband grew up on a ranch and his family hunted frequently. You don’t want to know the ritual when they killed their first buck. But, he hasn’t been interested in hunting as an adult. Neither of the girls have expressed an interest. – J.E.

My father hunts. I’m not sure if I’ll let my boys hunt….maybe when they’re teenagers.  – A.J.

Hunting is a big part of our family culture. We start young, with discussions about WHY we hunt, the differences between hunting for food and hunting for sport (and the overlap that can occur). We include game/herd/species management in the basic hunting curriculum. Kids in our family are introduced to hunting at a very early age because they’re not excluded from the activities. – A.G.

I’ve hunted once in my life. My Dad used to but hasn’t in decades. My in-laws do not hunt. So, no. We don’t hunt. But we have no problem with hunting. – A.C.

It is part of my extended family’s culture. My 13 year old niece in PA shot her first buck last fall – clean kill with a bow and arrow – she also cleaned it and ate it. It’s not my cup of tea, or my kids’ cup of tea. My dad and brother hunted. I got my hunting license at 16 because i wanted to go with my dad, he never allowed me. (I think he knew the actual killing would leave me in pieces). – D.M.

Guns in the home: Yes, No, Maybe so?

One shotgun and two BB guns that grandpa gave the boys. The gun is in a combination lock case in the attic and the BB guns are up high in the garage gathering dust. – S.B.

No guns in the home. We’re not against gun ownership, we simply don’t see the need to have one ourselves. – A.C.

We do not allow any guns in our house. I actually ask people if they have guns in their house before we allow our kids to go over to someone else’s house on a play date. If the person has a gun, I ask if the gun is in a safe. – A.J.

We have guns in our home. They are locked in a gun safe and the ammunition is secured separately. – A.G.

My husband’s rifle is in my parent’s safe, 9 hours away. – J.E.

How have you approached gun safety with your kids? At what age did you start?

We started gun safety conversations as soon as the kids started being interested in playing with toy guns. The early talks were about staying away from guns or letting and adult know immediately if they encountered a gun. When they were 9, they learned how to handle a rifle at camp (target practice). Now we talk more about the social justice issues with gun violence and about the differences between hunting guns and guns that are more likely to be used against people. We also talk about the role that hunting plays in wildlife management. – M.M.

We’ve talked very little about it, mainly just that real guns are different from fake ones and that you should never point one at yourself or others. – J.E.

Gun safety is non-negotiable. I knew at a really young age that guns are not pointed at people, how to check to see if a gun was loaded or not, how to check if the safety was on and put it on, and how to pick up and put a gun down safely. When those skills are ingrained, it becomes easier to teach gun handling. Just to be clear, in our house we’re only have hunting shotguns and rifles. We do not own or have hand guns but are all familiar with them and the same rules apply. Unknown guns and guns that are’t ours/yours are not to be touched without permission. Black and white rule.- A.G.

I don’t plan on teaching my kids to use a gun. However, as of this time, I told my older son that if he ever sees a gun, he should move away from it and get an adult. – A.J.

We’ve shown the kids the real guns at Academy and pointed out how similar they are to toys. We have also told them a thousand times to run to a grownup if a friend ever pulls out a gun that’s not obviously a Nerf gun. But we worry. Culturally, we should become more comfortable with disclosing to visitors whether or not we own guns. It should be like dogs. “We have two dogs, do you mind them in the house?” – A.C.

We’ve talked about general gun safety, no specifics. -D.M.

Do you ask about guns in the houses of friends, before your kids go over?

No. It seems accusatory and so I’m not comfortable asking. No one has ever asked us either. – A.C.

Before a first sleepover, we have had folks ask about guns in our home and we have asked others about guns in their home. The couple times we’ve been in that conversation it was quite casual and low stress. We have limited our kids’ ability to go to a particular friend’s home because the hunting guns were taken out of the safe by the kids when my kids were at the house. I wasn’t comfortable with that family’s gun safety plan. – M.M.

Yes! I do/will/would! And I am not offended when people ask me! I’m not asking to be judgy – I want to know if they are secured, I want to talk to my child about our rules for gun engagement and what to do if those rules can’t/aren’t being followed. I want my child’s friends to know what our rules are and I want their parent’s to know that we take their child’s safety as seriously as out’s. – A.G.


Resources:

Gun Safety with Kids in the House

How to Teach Your Child Gun Safety

Gun Safety: Keeping Children Safe

Project Child Safe

Handguns in the Home

Resources for talking with your kids about transgender

Let’s Talk about Sex(uality): Transgender

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Resources for talking with your kids about transgender

Unless you’re off the grid, unplugged or under a rock, somewhere on your feed, in your paper or on your television, the news of former Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner openly living as Caitlyn Jenner appeared.

Maybe you watched the Diane Sawyer interview (I haven’t) or read the Vanity Fair cover story. (I’ve skimmed it.)

I have not bathed in the details because of my mixed feelings. To be clear, these feelings aren’t about Jenner being transgender. Parts of her 65 years of life break my heart. I don’t want to be a gawker. I’d like her and everyone else to live life authentically without judgement, discrimination and objectification. Ironically, living her life publicly, may pave the way for others to live authentically.

Talking to our kids

Maybe you’re wondering how to talk to kids about transgender. That’s why I’m writing this. But, first, I decided to go to the source. My almost-teen boy.

“So, what do you think about Bruce, now Caitlyn Jenner?”

“I don’t care. Doesn’t matter to me she’s a woman now.”

“Biologically, she’s not a woman.” Inside, I’m happy-dancing he used the feminine pronoun. We’d talked about transgender transitions a few days ago – including the anatomy details.

Boy, attempting to walk away and escape this conversation, fingers in ears, “Whatever. She feels like a woman, looks like a woman. I’m okay with that.”

Me, grabbing his arm, “What if it was your father?”

Boy, stopped in his steps as wheels turn in his brain, “Later, I’m outta here,” – as in ‘later dad, been nice knowing you.’

“Why is that so different?”

“That’s my dad, now he’d be my mom.” Enter gender roles, norms, society, etc.

“It wouldn’t change that he’d fathered you,” I explain. His fingers go for the ears.

“Relax. I’m not gonna talk about sex. Get those fingers out of your ears.

“He’d still be your biological father. Would that change? All of the things he’s been to you? Would it change your love for him?” I pelted him with questions.

transgender_quiz4.0“Well, no. What would I call him or her or …?” He’s concerned with practicalities.

“Dude, that’s simple, you’d ask, ‘Hey, what do I call you?’”

“Ok. That’s easy,” Problem solved, he turns to walk away. “I’ve got to feed horses. Later mom. I love you,” And that was as much as he offered. He was done.

Ever the persistent teacher, I add, “Really, you know, lots of things affect someone’s gender,” I follow him across the room pointing to the Genderbread Person “…biologically their anatomy:  you know penis, vagina, etc.; who they’re attracted to; who they feel……..” and with that, his 12-year-old brain hit Charlie Brown overload. The door opened and shut.

There you have it. Not the first time we broached it, and not the last. (I will finish explaining the Genderbread Person, come hell or high water.) In one way or another, we’d discussed sexuality, gender, and more, since he was born. What began with calling a penis a penis, continues with things that influence gender. To borrow from my favorite author: so it goes.

Genderbread-Person-3.3
There’s a lot of information in this one graphic. It’s nearly overload. That’s ok. Just consider it. We’ll talk about it in another post. Another day. No quiz.

More on transgender

Imagine attending a gala honoring your best friend: tux, and gowns required. No matter how long you look in your closet, there’s no tux. Not even a ball gown. (Hey, you’re flexible that way.) There are corduroy pants, an 80’s tie and a worn oxford shirt. She’s your best friend. She doesn’t care. She wants you there. Clad in corduroys you spend the evening feeling out of place. You leave, depressed about never fitting in. You feel worthless and judge yourself the way you believe everyone judged you. Imagine this feeling every day of your life. Every day for 65 years. That’s 23, 725 days. 569,400 hours. 34,164,000 minutes.

I’ll never know for sure, I imagine this is sort of what it feels like to be transgender – when you feel like a girl but your physical body screams boy! or vice versa. I’d guess the actual feelings are much worse. Like wearing corduroys to the gala – similar feelings on steroids and exponentially multiplied.

It’s accepted that most people form their gender identities by the time they’re 3 years old. If how they feel is aligned with their biological bodies – that’s cisgender.

For those who are transgender, born with one biological body and identifying as another, it’s the beginning of those “not fitting in” feelings. Society expects them to fulfill specific gender roles based on those physical bodies – regardless of how they feel inside. You get the picture. Maybe you begin to understand why 41% of transgender individuals attempt suicide and why more than 30% of LGBTQ youth reported at least one suicide attempt within the last year and more than 50% of transgender youth attempt suicide at least once by their 20th birthday. LGBTQ youth are twice, TWICE as likely to attempt suicide than their hetereosexual peers. Not to mention the increased likelihood of being victims of bullying and violence.

It’s hard to find an analogy to explain the intricacies of gender to my kids. It’s not perfect, but it’s an opening to compare it to eye color.* You’re born with the color of your eyes. You can’t change it. You can wear different clothes may bring out one color or another. You can buy colored contacts. At the end of the day, you’re still blue-eyed, but you’re so much more than just your eyes.

At the end of my day, I want my children (and the world, because I dare to dream big) to treat others with kindness, respect and compassion. I want us all to see the whole person – not only eyes, gender or sexuality. We are all so much more than a sum of our parts.

I want a world where Caitlyn Jenner doesn’t have adult children before being authentic. There is a poignancy in my son’s response to, “What if it were your dad?” The answer is different when it shouldn’t be. Suddenly, it’s real. It’s got to be challenging, maybe even painful for Jenner’s children. How much better would it have been if she could’ve been herself all along? The truth is, she’ll never know. Hopefully, her very public steps now pave the way for future walks of others. Not only for transgender individuals, but for those who love and support them.

So, this is way more than your basic sex ed. Or, is it?

Many of us talk with our kids about the physical act of sex. Some of us start young. As a former sexuality educator, I believe starting early and continuing the dialogue throughout childhood and into adulthood is where it’s at. The “act” of sex is a small part of a large ongoing dialogue. Like putting gas in a car is a small part of driving. It’s not the whole story. A solid foundation comes in handy when things like Jenner’s transformation take center stage over floods, wars, and earthquakes. (I’m looking at you fracking.)

Society, as a whole, recently started defining gender. Our understanding is new. Understanding leads to empathy and compassion. As Sam Killermann said, “Gender is something we all learn about as kids, but we learn a very limited concept of a concept that’s truly unlimited. ” When we consider about 40 years ago homosexuality was classified as an illness, we realize we’ve come a long way. I’m here to tell you, there are miles to go before we sleep.

How do you talk about these things with your children? Let me know in the comments. In the future, I hope to post more on gender, sexuality, and conversations with our children.

Here are some resources you may find helpful. Not all are perfect, but they’re all a good start:

18 Books to Teach Kids About the LGBT Experience

Great info for parents, educators, guardians, etc.

The Genderbread Person and more

Teaching Tolerance: The Gender Spectrum

Some jumping off questions for discussing gender stereotypes

Transgender

Parenting and Family: The Gender Spectrum

*Most experts believe there are many influences on our gender.