They get to spend 9 glorious weeks at the
summer sleepaway camp that I grew up at.
A place that has always been my second home and my safe place to
land. I started going right after my own
parent’s divorce and continued well into adulthood as staff. When I could no longer take summers off I
still made sure to visit and attend alumni functions every chance I got. My camp family was always in touch.
Shortly after my own divorce I returned for an
entirely different kind of summer, with my twin 3 year olds in tow.
I was able to give my babies a safe place to
land as well. And we thrived!
And we continue to thrive. Summers away give kids a chance to explore
and challenge themselves in the best way possible. We unplug from the world, we unplug from our
devices, we unplug from so many of our daily stresses.
It also turns our parenting schedule entirely
upside down. My ex only sees them one
day a week for the whole summer. I get
to be with them every night but on my only day off each week, I am bringing
them back home to visit her. We all give
up something. And it’s not without
difficulty, but it brings so much reward.
This summer our babies grew in leaps and
bounds. They went on hikes, they learned
to swim almost entirely without their puddlejumpers. They navigated new friendships and being
reunited with old friends. They learned
to handle crowded dining rooms and social scenes they don’t get to encounter at
home. They went to a water park and the
movies, learned songs and dances. They
spent the summer being kids and came home ready for kindergarten.
They have no idea what this means for them yet,
what seeds we planted. But one day they
will be so glad we didn’t spend the summer fighting over who gets to have the
kids when and instead gave the summer to them.
It’s not my time or my exes time.
It’s their time. And they loved
We didn’t agree on a lot of things when we were married. We had a lot of feelings clouding our judgement. There was a lot of stress distracting us from prioritizing. After our divorce was finalized and everything was written in ink and signed off on, it all got easier.
It wasn’t quite overnight, but over time we grew closer and more capable of healthy communication when it comes to our kids. We had been on the same page before we got married and now we are back on the same page. We just needed to get rid of some of the other aspects of our relationship to become the parents we were meant to be.
So while some minor details aren’t always agreed on, we seem to always find a good place to land when it comes to the big issues. Like our children’s wellbeing, mental health, and meeting their individual needs.
Our daughter comes with a whole host of needs. Not all of which made sense to us at first. And not all of which came with any sort of “how to” guide. Allowing our child to transition was the simplest and hardest thing to come to terms with. We both knew who she was and who she needed to be allowed to be. We both were terrified of messing this up. We consulted wit ha specialist. We met with other families, some in real life, some virtually. We took it slowly and followed her lead.
Most recently, we signed documents and mailed out a check. We finally gave our girl what she needed in order to be able to live her life. A child shouldn’t have to come with an explanation or a “heads up” before starting a new class. A child shouldn’t always have to enter a new arena by waiting on the outskirts while their parents explained to the adults in charge what to expect. And now, she won’t have to.
a 5 year old transgender child started asking about eggs (in the context of
mammals), their parent knew she was in for an interesting discussion. In
response to the “do you have eggs” question posed by the child, their parent
(assigned female at birth) informed them that she does have ovaries with eggs
in them. When the child asked if she
also has eggs, the parent replied that most people do not have both eggs and testicles. To that, the surprised child said “WAIT! Mama, you don’t have balls?”
conversation and this child’s surprise highlights the idea that children are
flexible in thinking and if not taught a specific version of gender role
concepts and expectations of gender conformity, a child has the potential to
accept the world around them and to develop naturally without constraints in
what is considered common social norms.
Parental modeling and teachings have a significant influence on
children’s own concepts of self (Bosacki, 2014).
If someone has never thought about their gender identity,
it is probably because their gender identity matches the sex they were assigned
at birth. A doctor makes a determination
based upon genitals or chromosomes at the time of birth as to whether to mark
the “female” checkbox or the “male” checkbox at the time of birth, and while
that designation will create an individual’s sex assigned at birth, that
momentary designation does not determine a person’s actual gender identity
Gender, as compared with biological sex assigned at
birth, is a person’s psychological identification as either male, female or
non-binary. Transgender is the term used to describe an individual whose
biological sex assigned at birth does not match their gender identity
(Goldstein, Corneil, & Greene, 2017).
Research shows that individuals start having recognition of gender
differences in their perceptions in infancy.
These are based upon social constructs as to what is embedded into
society as male or female gender-role identifiers (Dunham, Baron, Banaji,
self-identification of a child starts at age 2-3 years old. By that time, it is common for parents to
have immersed their child into gender stereotyping simply by way of clothing
and toy choices thus creating an environment where a child is encouraged to
conform to gender stereotyping associated with their sex assigned at birth
rather than an innate development of gender identity (Winters, 2017). Their environment can significantly affect
initial concepts of gender identity based upon the social feedback (both
positive and negative) associated with choices and preferences a child shows in
their environment such as color and play choices.
Within cognitive theories, children are
viewed as internally motivated who construct their own concepts of gender. Those concepts then morph into gender
conformity which children see as a way to conquer the concept of gender. Also, within this theory, children (ages 2
through 6 years old) may have phases of awareness, followed by rigidity, and
then flexibility (Halim et al., 2014) associated with their gender identity
based largely in gender expression. Utilizing
clothing as a tool, children can use their learned gender stereotyping to
express their own internalized gender concepts because the rigidity allows them
to try to conquer this rather complex concept (Halim et al., 2014).
Within a concept of social learning theory,
Albert Bandura opined that humans are neither entirely able to act inherently
independently nor entirely controlled by external forces and are, instead, able
to develop self-regulation to a degree that they have control over their own actions
(Wulfert, 2018). Self-regulation is
one’s ability to plan behavior but then modify based upon situational need to
adapt (Montroy et al., 2016). This
social theory as applied to gender development would lend itself to the idea
that children are able to recognize their own gender identity even if they are
exposed to social modeling and gender stereotyping.
There is, undoubtedly, a complicated
relationship between sex assigned at birth and gender identity. Social constructs have a significant
influence over defining gender roles and expectations and privileges associated
with a particular gender designation. As such, a child’s freedom to discovery gender
identity that is innate and self-determined lies significant with those adults
and peers creating the environment and modeling roles, gendered or otherwise,
for those children.
Bosacki, S. (2014). A Longitudinal Study of Children’s Theory of
Mind, Self-Concept, and Gender-Role Orientation. International
Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 6(2), 213-228.
Dunham, Y., Baron, A., & Banaji,
M. (2016). The development of implicit
gender attitudes. Developmental Science, 19(5), 781-789.
Goldstein, Z., Corneil, T.A., &
Greene, D. (2017). When Gender Identity
Doesn’t Equal Sex Recorded at Birth: The Role of Laboratory in Providing
Effective Healthcare to the Transgender Community. Clinical
Chemistry, 63(8), 1342-1352.
Halim, M., Ruble, D.,
Tamis-LeMonda, C., Zosuls, K., Lurye, L., & Greulich, F. (2014). Pink frilly dresses and the avoidance of all
things “girly”: Children’s appearance rigidity and cognitive theories of gender
development. Developmental Psychology, 50(4), 1091-1101.
Montroy, J., Bowles, R.,
Skibbe, L., McClelland, M., & Morrison, F. (2016). The development of self-regulation across
early childhood. Developmental Psychology, 52(11),
Winter, G. (2015). Determining Gender: a social construct? Community Practitioner, 88(2), 15-17.
Wulfert, E. (2018). Social learning according to Albert
Bandura. Salem Press Encyclopedia of Health.