As parents, we all have a collection of items from when our children were babies through their childhood. Maybe you have a favorite blanket or stuffed animal. Perhaps some baby outfits or the first pair of shoes. There might be art projects and school awards. Then, when our children are grown, we have something to look back on those days and remember. But what happens when your child comes out as transgender? What do you do about all those items from before they present as their authentic self? Consider making a memory box.
A memory box is for the items you treasure most.
Your child may decide they want to keep some items from the time before they came out. My son maintains that the identity he presented as helped to form the person he is today. He is comfortable with photos and mementos from his past. It doesn’t bother him to have them around.
During spring break, after he came out, he went through all the stuff he was saving and created his own memory tote. We made tubs for each of our kids when they were young with things they might want to have when they were older. He went through his and decided what he still wanted to keep. We made a deal that before he got rid of anything, I got dibs on keeping it or not. Then, he purged what remained in his room (he was in college at the time), and that was that.
When he was done, he showed me what was in his tote, and it was a snapshot of all the different stages of his life. A beautiful collection of his past that he wanted to honor. I picked out the few items I wished to keep, and he disposed of the rest.
Your child may not want to keep any reminders of who they were before they came out.
Honor that decision. Ask if it’s okay if you save some of the things that they are getting rid of. If you have your items stored away where your child can’t see them, it shouldn’t be an issue for you to have what they no longer want. It might help to explain to your child why you want them and what you plan to do with them.
If you have to, recover them after they have been disposed of. Sometimes what they don’t know won’t hurt them. Your child might find that later on, they wanted some of those things. That maybe they got rid of them in haste. They may be grateful that you have them saved. You should also be prepared for them never to want those items back. That’s okay too.
Creating a memory box is pretty straightforward.
Most craft stores sell photo storage boxes in an assortment of different colors and designs. I chose one that most reminded me of Leo’s favorite color when he was growing up. The box was big enough to store what I had and to add items in the future.
You’ll want to choose one that speaks to you. Is it a representation of a color your child once loved? Maybe it’s more about who they are now. Perhaps it’s your favorite color. You could choose a pattern that reminds you of a favorite memory. There’s no wrong way to choose.
Next, you’ll want to gather all the items you want to save. Lay them out and decide what goes into the box. Some items might be too large. I don’t have Leo’s favorite quilt or the dress he wore to my sister-in-law’s wedding saved in my memory box. Neither of those items would fit. You might want to make a scrapbook of favorite photos and paper items too.
Then, it’s just a matter of putting what you are keeping into the box in the order that fits best. In my box, I have the largest items on the bottom. It’s a newspaper from the day Leo was born. Then everything else is piled in on top of that from biggest to smallest. You’ll want to put anything fragile on top so that it doesn’t get broken.
Finally, you need to decide where to keep it. I keep mine in a steamer trunk in our front room. I store a lot of other precious items in that trunk. A TV lives on top of it, so it’s not easily accessible. Until this week, I had only taken that memory box out once in six-and-a-half years, and that was to add an item to it.
I don’t need to look at this box, but it’s important for me to know it’s there.
Saving those items was an essential part of my healing. When I put them away, I still thought I had “lost a daughter.” Making that memory box helped me understand that I never actually had a daughter. From the time Leo was a baby, I thought I had a daughter because that was what the doctors had told me. Until Leo was able to tell me that he was a male, I lived with that idea. Putting those items from that time in his life away helped me to come to terms with the reality I was living in more fully instead of holding onto the past.
What will you do to save items from before your child come out? Will it be a memory box? Or perhaps a tote full of treasured items? Will you make a scrapbook? Maybe a combination of some of the above? Or none of them. Nothing that says you have to save anything from the time before your child presented as their authentic self. Everyone gets to decide for themself.