For many parents, there is a conscious effort to create those moments in time that our kids will remember for the rest of their lives. We hope that those memories are carried on through their children and for generations to come. We want any negative memories or experiences in our children’s lives to be outweighed by the positive, the fun and the emotionally strengthening times we can create.
I will be perfectly honest. Life with me in the few years before my transition was difficult. My own gender confusion had been growing and my marriage had been falling apart for years. When I was home; anger, frustration and depression often over whelmed me.
I had become distant from my family in an effort to shield the kids from the internal and external battle I was facing. As much as I tried, I know they heard the loud arguments, the slamming doors and the crying that seem to have happened all too often.
My own memories of that time are at best vague and foggy and at worst – just nonexistent. My life seemed to be on autopilot. I was existing, not living. At times I was only a shell of a person. At the time I faced what was to me the worst decision of my life – either live the rest of my life as my authentic self or live in a shell of a person with the likelihood of me committing suicide because of the mounting stress I was facing. No matter what I decided to do, the lives of my kids would be forever be changed.
I know from my talks with my kids and reading letters from kids of other transgender parents that the years surrounding the parent’s transition can be extremely difficult on the children. Loads of confusing emotions can overwhelm everyone involved. Then you add a divorce of the parents into the mix, I can’t blame any kid for struggling. And then many transgender parents are denied access to their kids either by the court or by the former spouse, as was the case for me for a six month period.
This is why I have made that conscious effort to go above and beyond to make sure those difficult memories have been left as a distant cloud in the lives of my children. Along with teaching my son and daughter life skills to help them face their lives with strength and endurance, I have also made the effort to create moments that will cement enduring memories in their lives.
We have taken in the brilliance of the Masters at the Art Institute of Chicago. We have enjoyed seeing the Blue Angels, a F4 jet fighter and the planes and pilots of Lima Lima precision flying team all while enjoying the sights and sounds of Navy Pier. Last year, with the help of friends and strangers, I was able to make my son’s dream of seeing his first Major League baseball game at Wrigley field come true. I was blessed to have my daughter in the audience when I took the stage as a cast member of Listen to Your Mother just a few weeks ago.
As great and monumental as these experiences are, no matter how much I treasure them, the quiet moments playing Farkle or Uno in my living room have been just as memorable. Taking time to wade through the nearby creek or into the Fox River is always something my son looks forward to every summer. Taking a break on a hot Sunday afternoon to enjoy a bowl of soft serve ice cream and a ton of sprinkles always is a hit for my kids.
I learned quickly that it is the time we spend together that has been the most important thing that keeps us connected. It makes up for all the missed baseball games. It makes up for the missed band concerts. By focusing on the moments we have, makes the time away from each other easier to bear.
Since I don’t have custody of my kids, my time with them every other weekend flies by and is over all too soon. I spend the intervening two weeks planning the next weekend I have with them.
For our vacation this year, I have spent months in the planning process. Not only will I be reliving my own childhood as we stake our tent in the same woods of Wisconsin my parents took me nearly three decades ago, but my kids will be able to experience my memories with me on top of making dozens of our own.
One of the biggest lessons I have learned is not to live in the past, but to use the past as a foundation for the here and now. We can mourn the decisions and events that hurt us in the past. OR we can use them to learn from and move forward, vowing never to let circumstances in our own lives get in the way of letting each other know that we love each other and that spending time with together is one of the most important things in our lives.
Sometimes as parents we really don't have a measure of how we are doing as parents. But I got my reward this last week. The hug my daughter gave me after she graduated from high school told me volumes.
Carpe Diem people – seize the day. Carpe Momentum moms and dads – seize the moment! Omnia vincit amor – love conquers all!
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