Reading headlines and listening to newscasts has given me a revelation: Being a kid these days is confusing. And with technology and convenience, and easy access to information and answers, this shouldn’t be so.
It makes me glad I grew up in the 70s and 80s. Things were so much simpler back then.
Angst is nothing new. Having an identity crisis when you’re a young person is part of “coming of age.”
But back when I struggled through it, no one confused me with platitudes like, “Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t be whatever you want.”
Because—the truth was—when I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a boy. And without a surgery and complexities I don’t want to imagine, I could never be that.
Why Did I Want it?
When I was in first through fourth grade, we lived on a farm. For four years. Those were the happiest days of my life.
Those were the most painful times of my life.
How can it be both? Because that’s the way the world works. Happiness is fleeting. When it’s gone, what follows is magnified by the lack of the blissful state it isn’t.
We had a section of land in Rainier. There were cows and apple trees and fences and a portion of woods filled with creaking pines and aromatic cedars. I remember the warm scent of cow manure and the gentle hum of bees pollinating the flowers.
I tried to keep up with my over-six-feet-tall father, but my legs were stubs compared to his. I trailed him to the barn, the pasture, the pond and down the rutted track in the woods.
I might as well have been invisible. Because I wasn’t what he wanted. I was just another daughter.
So I spent many years of my life wanting to be his son. Trying to be his son.
Nothing Would Have Changed
Let’s say that happened these days. And a well-intentioned teacher told me that it sounded like I wanted to “identify as a boy.”
I’d wonder, “Is that all it will take to get my dad to finally see me?”
But, no. That wouldn’t have changed anything.
In his eyes, I would still have been a girl. And what memes now decry as sexist: a tomboy.
No matter what I wanted to think of myself, I would never be the son he wanted. What I thought didn’t matter. The truth was in the anatomy: I was a girl.
Why This Makes Me Sad
When I started thinking about this post a few weeks ago, I started to experience melancholy.
It was so easy to recall the yearning I had in those days. Why wasn’t I enough? Why couldn’t he love me? Because I was a girl?
In the years since, I’ve realized the lack is not within me. In fact, the truth is probably that he did love me and was dealing with his own disappointment in the only way he knew how.
Which meant shutting me out.
You see, I didn’t want to be a boy because it was who I was, but because of what I wanted. Acceptance. Love. Camaraderie.
And none of that would have happened just because I “identified” as male.
I wanted to be a boy so badly that I pretended to be one in many ways and at many times.
Because I was a kid. I was trying to win my father’s approval.
That’s what kids do.
And that’s why I’m thankful I’m not a kid these days. It wouldn’t have helped me in the least to have someone encouraging me to accept my maleness and become the boy I wanted to be.
It would have led to more angst and more disillusionment for me.
Because true acceptance means looking in the mirror and seeing what is really there. And being okay with it.
Even if it means you don’t have a great relationship with your father. Or you can’t play baseball with the boys. Or you have to sit down to pee (yes, I really did just say that).
Acceptance isn’t about trying to be something you are not because you’re uncomfortable with what you are. That’s pretense, and it’s the gateway to Disappointment Road.
Thank the Lord no one tried to tell me that my desire to be a boy meant I was supposed to be one. That all I had to do was decide I was one, and everyone would have to accept me as male.
Think of everything I would have missed out on in my life: a 29-year marriage, two sons and now two daughters. Being a sister, a wife, a mother.
Self-acceptance is hard enough for kids. Why do people want to make it even more difficult?
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