RAising My Rainbow

If I Die: How to Raise My Gender Nonconforming Son

To My Hubby,

I’ve never told you how much I worry about losing my life and leaving you and the boys behind. No mother wants to outlive her children, but no mother wants to vanish from their lives in their youth. Length of life is an even greater concern because of C.J., our little boy with uncommon wants and non-traditional needs. Sometimes, when he does something that only a mother could love, I get scared. If only a mother could love it, who will love it when I’m gone?

If something happens to me, and I’m no longer here to raise C.J., remember these things…

Enjoy the unique journey, even though I’m not here to hold your hand through it.

Seek out therapy for you, for him, for his brother. Create a solid team for raising our boys into men, like you and the ones that came before you. It takes a village to raise a child, but make sure to choose the village wisely, one that is well-suited for C.J.

If something that he is doing is bothering you, think to yourself, “Why is this bothering me so much?” I’ve found that the answer usually has something to do with what other people will think or say. Remember, this isn’t about you; it’s about him.

Let him perform. Let him sing and dance and act until his heart is content. He may be the only boy doing it, but if it doesn’t bother him, try not to let it bother you.

Let him be creative, which may mean trips to the craft store. He wants to create and it’s a messy process. Put down newspaper and let him go for it. It may require some direction and participation from you. Have fun! Sign him up for art classes.

Strongly encourage him to try sports. A sport. Any sport. He may not like the typical, considered-to-be-more-masculine sports, but there are other ones. Between fitness and the arts, he will have healthy outlets for release when he needs them most.

Get interested in what he’s interested in. Fake interest. Just as you learned to properly identify all of the Disney Princesses, be able to understand what he is excitedly talking about.

Hold him accountable, there are no excuses.

Surround him with the right people. Protect him. Keep him safe. Be his advocate. You don’t have to write a blog, but you do have to stand up for him. Stay engaged and stay in the know.

Support his spirit, never ask him to get rid of his love of make believe. Make believe with him. Show him that anything is possible and believe it yourself.

Take him to museums and the theatre and concerts and other places you wouldn’t normally go. Continue to brush his hair like Justin Beiber as long as he wants you to. Keep his dress-up drawers stocked. It doesn’t have to be fancy stuff. The Goodwill is good enough.

Raise him strong, with a sense of humor. Raise him smart, with compassion for others and their journeys. Things aren’t “weird,” they are just “different,” and “different” isn’t bad.

Raise him to know that if he needs to talk, you will listen. And, if you don’t understand exactly, you’ll still listen and, then, try to find somebody else for him to talk to who might listen and understand even better. Find him mentors, no matter the subject.

Be his biggest fan. Your job is to love him, not change him. Support him. Let him know that you are there unconditionally.

Remember that holidays are for wonder and joy and impossible things. Create them accordingly. Get him the toys that he wants most, even if it means shopping from the pink aisles, not the blue.

Take pictures. Keep report cards. Keep his secrets. Know his friends.

Remember the names of all of his boyfriends or girlfriends or boyfriends and girlfriends. Remember the names of his bullies. Let the bullies know that you know their names. Never let others feel big by making him feel small. Volunteer in his class.

Encourage him to see the world and seek out inspiration. Buy him books. Hug him and kiss him and tell him that you love him every day, even if he doesn’t want you to.

Teach him to respect his body and sex, no matter his orientation.

Help him be the best at whatever he wants to do: hair stylist, mechanic, lawyer, whatever. He can follow his bliss, but encourage him to be the best at that bliss.

Let him watch Dancing with the Stars. If he continues to be a fan of Paula Deen, or, as he calls her, “The Lady Who Cooks Dinner,” take him to her restaurant. Eat the fried chicken and banana puddin’ for me.

Tell him that I can hear him when he whispers to me and that I’m always watching over him.

Raise him to know that his mommy adored him and fought for him as he innocently played with his Barbies in the other room. Raise him to know that you will fight for him. Raise him to know that you wouldn’t want him to be any other way. He’s perfectly-created as is. Never let anybody tell him any differently.

I’ll miss watching you walk hand-in-hand down the street; you and the little boy in the black and white polka dot apron.

Love always,

Your Wife