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.
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.
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.