Letting Go of Who I Thought My Child Was

It wasn’t until I became the parent of a transgender child, and had to do the hard work of letting go of the expectations I held of who I thought they were, and what I thought their life would be like, that I realized I had expectations for them to begin with. It was an eye-opening experience.

Until that day, I would have told you that I only had expectations for myself.

I expected that my children would grow up and do whatever it was that they desired. I had no expectations for how their lives would turn out. Learning my son Leo is transgender challenged those ideas. I had to face the expectations I held for a child I thought would grow up and follow a path I had laid out in my mind. All the while, knowing my child was free to do whatever they chose. The results could be wildly different from whatever I saw for them.

Photo by Bogdan Kozlovskyi on Unsplash

It made me rethink everything I knew about being a parent.

Being a parent comes with certain expectations, whether we realize them or not. We have expectations of ourselves as parents, for how we will raise our children, and what kind of parents we will or will not be. We have expectations for our children, for how they will behave, and what course their life will follow, even if we don’t verbalize them. We have expectations for our families based on our own families of origin, and often these are expectations we don’t even realize until something comes along to challenge us to face them.

Being the parent of transgender children means letting go of those expectations. Embracing our children for who they are. Not who we thought they were. In doing so, we face those expectations that we were holding. Even if we didn’t realize we held them.

Photo by J E S U S R O C H A on Unsplash

Letting go of those expectations doesn’t mean we let go of our children. It does mean we have to release the idea of who we thought they were. This can be a painful time. It’s normal to feel we are grieving a loss, even though our children are still here with us.

It’s important to recognize that not everyone experiences these same feelings. We need to be sure to acknowledge the feelings and experiences of those who do. Even if they are not our own. This prevents other parents from feeling shame and guilt around their feelings of loss and grief. And further alienating them from those who can relate to their larger experience.

What expectations are you harboring about your children or family situation? How can you release some of them today? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

4 thoughts on “Letting Go of Who I Thought My Child Was

  1. Our 21 year old daughter has just shared with me that she is non-binary and I am having a really difficult time understanding & accepting this. I have educated myself with all kinds of resources & information so I do not need more explanation on non-binary or how to parent. What I do need is to align myself with other grieving parents who are struggling with their thoughts & emotions. I feel a tremendous since of LOSS – it’s as if the daughter I knew for the past 21 years has died. I just can’t get past my sense of loss. I have searched high and low for a grieving group or online platform. All I find out there are groups “promoting” the gender spectrum. It’s as if they want to give me a pair if rainbow pom poms and have me join their club. I’m supposed to be an accepting supportive parent with unconditional love for my daughter – “just get over it and love your daughter unconditionally as “they”. I am unable to do that right now. I want to cry. I want to share my confusion and sorrow with other people who are feeling like me. I am looking for some empathy! I hope that with time, validation and support for my OWN thoughts and feelings, I can reach a place of acceptance for my daughter. Please don’t tell me to just LOVE her…. That is a given!!!! And I have told her over and over how much she is loved. I have also been honest in sharing with her how much I’m struggling with this. I didn’t even know what non-binary was – I had to google it! She is being patient with me and now giving me some grace and allowing me to learn in hopes that one day I will understand and be able to accept. In the meantime I desperately need to find a place where I can relate with other parents who are struggling. Do you have any suggestions for a group, blog, website, or other? This culture, isn’t very prevalent in my small town here in northern Idaho. PLEASE HELP ME!!!!

    1. Oh Shelley, first, big hugs to you. Take a big breath. I cried for the first year after my son Leo came out as transgender. I also felt a huge sense of loss and grief. Not only did I feel that grief, but I also grew up in a family of all brothers and I had prayed and hoped to have a daughter one day and I felt like that dream was shattered. It took me two years to understand why I felt so heartbroken over that loss and to understand why it hurt so big. Your pain is very valid and your are allowed all the feelings. There is a group on Facebook that knows exactly where you have been. If you go to this page, you first have to request to join the “big” group, but there is a subgroup just for mamas of transgender children. They all have been or are exactly where you are right now. .

  2. Thank you so much for your blog. I thought I was crazy for feeling like my child has died. The pictures of him as a little boy seem so out of place now. I love my child with my whole heart. I just never dreamt of her.

    1. Elizabeth, hugs to you. It’s so hard at first. I left the photos out for a year and then I put them away and replaced them with new photos of my son. I took away all the photos from when both my kids were little so it didn’t seem weird that we had photos of one and not the other. Everyone chooses a different path to take with how they manage things like photos and such, but the feelings I have found are pretty much the same.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.