I had an amazing opportunity to speak at a retreat for 150 8th graders about being yourself and acceptance. Today I'm sharing the actual speech and tomorrow I will share the reaction and what I learned from the experience.
Hi I’m Eileen. I grew up in Chicago not too far from where you guys live. I had a great childhood with amazing parents. I have two brothers that I am really close to.
When I was in college tragedy struck. My mom died after a 13 month battle with cancer. It was absolutely devastating. Then just two years later my dad died of cancer. It was a really dark time in my life.
My brothers and I became even closer because of this. We learned that life is way too short and we had to stick together no matter what. We had to choose if we were going to let the loss of our parents destroy us or if we were going to go move on and try to make our parents proud. We chose to move on.
Life is all about choices. Everyday we are forced to choose things. We have to choose how we treat other people. We have to choose if we’re going to judge other people. We have to choose if we’re going to accept other people for who they truly are. And we have to choose if we’re going to be the best person we can be. Everyday is a choice.
I believe my parents deaths happened for a reason. It made me the person I am today. It made me strong and independent. It made me not take anything for granted. And it prepared me for all of the other difficult times I would experience in my life.
I went on to get married to an awesome guy named Beau. And we knew we wanted to have kids. Two years after we got married, we started our little family.
We now have Daxon 10, Fegan 9, Gucci 8, and Rowen 7.
The day we had our first born son was so amazing. We always say he came out of my womb swinging a baseball bat. Because he did. From the moment he was able to walk and talk all he wanted to do was play baseball. And he still does. Because he was just born that way. And no one has a problem with that.
The day we had our fourth child, another son, was also an amazing day. Our little family was complete. Two sons. The bookends of the two daughters we had in between. Life was awesome.
We knew from the beginning that there was an issue with our youngest. After a year of testing, we finally got our answer. He was missing part of a chromosome. He was born with 22q Deletion Syndrome. Life changed forever that day. We just didn’t know what to expect.
We soon learned to take things one day at a time. Getting a diagnosis was tough, but we lived through it and he's doing awesome. We have good days and bad. Like every other family.
When our daughter Gucci turned three, she made it very clear she was not into feminine things. So we packed away all of her older sister’s girl clothes and pulled out all of her big brother’s boy clothes. We weren’t going to force her to wear the princess themed wardrobe of her extremely feminine older sister. She was much more comfy in her older brother’s dark-colored, sports and cars themed clothing.
A cute little girl who’s tough and considered a tomboy is totally acceptable. Most people think it’s adorable.
Around the same time, at the age of two, our son Rowen started to show an interest in girl things. By the age of three he was always wanting to wear girl clothes. He was constantly trying to wear his older sister's clothes.
Beau and I will be the first to admit that it was much easier to let our little girl be a tomboy. When it came to our son being a tomgirl, it was a tough pill to swallow. So we had to really think about why it bothered us. As it turns out, it doesn’t bother us, but it really bothers other people. The reaction we get in public is absolutely crazy.
I called Beau at work one day and told him that I was afraid we would ruin our son’s self-esteem if we didn’t let him be himself. I was really upset because I was so afraid our little guy would learn to feel bad about himself and not love himself like he should. His reaction sums up the reason I married him . He said, “well, then order him some girl clothes.” And I did just that. Because I always do what my husband tells me to do.
We had to make a choice. We could either choose to accept them the way they are or we could make their lives and our lives miserable. We CHOSE to accept them for who they are. They did not CHOOSE to be this way.
I've tried for so long to remember the exact day I chose to be a heterosexual female. For the life of me I can't remember it. Because it never happened! EVER. I was born this way.
The last ten years have brought us so much happiness. It has also brought us so much more than we feel we can handle at times.
Some days are hard to get out of bed. Some days I'm crippled with fear of the unknown. Some days I have to be medicated just to fall asleep at night. Some days I worry so much I'm not even sure what I'm worried about any more. Some days I'm depressed. Some days I cry.
When we look at our kids, we see them for who they are, not what they’re wearing. They’re so funny. They’re so loving. They’re so athletic. They’re so caring. And they’re so, so smart.
I know this because they tell me all the time that I’m the prettiest mom in the entire world. And they’re right. I am the prettiest mom in the entire world.
Each year, things get a little easier. Our neighbors, our community. They get to know us and our kids and then they realize we're just another family.
Just going along. Just doing what we do. Trying to have fun. Trying to live life. Just trying.
I understand the looks. I understand the questions. We’re different. We’re not NORMAL. Because there’s no such thing.
Our kids do not conform to society's gender roles. I get it. But what I don't get is hate.
I don't get the blame. I challenge any person to walk a day in my shoes. Just walk one day in my shoes. Anyone who questions the way we let our kids live their lives, just be thankful you haven't had to make the same decisions we have. This is not an easy life,. But it is a life we choose to accept.
Our kids were born to change the world. They have taught us more in the last 10 years than many people will learn in a lifetime. There is something just so special about them. They were given to us for a reason. They have given us so much hope for the future.
Up until now, our kids have been pretty oblivious to the way strangers may view him.
I want to keep them like this forever and hold them. I want to protect them from the outside world. From the looks they get from grown adults at the grocery store.
Someday they won't be so innocent. They'll realize that not everyone is so accepting. I pray we have equipped him with the right skills to cope.
One thing I know for sure is we have already surrounded them with the greatest group of family and friends we could ever ask for. A few years ago, my brother Dat took Rowen shopping for his birthday. He bought him a the dress he wanted.
The way his little brown eyes lit up when he told us that his uncle let him get a dress was one of the best days of my life. He will always remember that and always know how loved and accepted he is by the people in his life that really matter.
And for any parents out there that don’t want their kids playing with our kids because of the clothes they wear? Joke's on them. We decided a long time ago that our kids weren't allowed to play with kids who have closed-minded parents. We'd much rather raise a gender spectacular child than an ignorant child.
If our kids turn out to be gay, lesbian, or transgender, we don’t care. We love them. And right now they are little kids. So we’re just going to let them be little kids. And just like we have taught our kids plenty of fun new words, we have also learned a few. Gender queer, gender neutral, transgender, gender nonconforming, gender creative and gender fluid. None of these new words scare us. All we know for sure right now is that our kids are gender-riffic!
People ask me all the time if I could change my kids, would I? If I could make all of my son’s chromosomes complete- if I could make all of my kids gender-conforming- would I? I used to always answer yes to this. But now I answer no. I wouldn’t change one thing. My kids are who they are. I don’t want them to be anyone else.
I just want my kids to be happy. I want what every mom wants. And all they want is to be loved and accepted and to fit in. They want exactly the same thing every single one of us in this room wants.
My all time favorite thing people say to me on the regular is,
"Well, you know, God doesn't make mistakes."
My response is always the same. You’re right, God doesn’t make mistakes. A mistake would be giving my kids to someone like you.
***Coming soon the reaction of the 150 students.
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