For ten years, I was the mom of two boys. I had it all sewn up: with birthdays just two weeks apart (oh, and seven years) I had the whole Bris (circumcision) thing down pat. I knew how to change a diaper without being sprayed with a fountain of pee. And the money I saved by having George (boy 2) wear all of Harrison’s (boy 1) clothing which I had painstakingly packed away was nothing, if not impressive. Harrison’s toddlerhood (and, if we are being honest, early schoolhood) was legendary in its wildness, it’s complete and utter boyness. He was frenetic and inexhaustible. He would commence being in motion no later than 6 a.m. and literally not stop until he eventually passed out after several hours of my (vainly) attempting to get him to bed. My father used to laugh and tell me that he was “all boy.”
When George came along, he followed in his older brother’s footsteps: wild, exhausting and with unending energy, he,too, was an impossible toddler. Ironically, I was far less concerned with George’s behavior. By this time, Harrison had miraculously turned into a human being and chilled out to the point of actually being referred to as “a day at the beach” by one of his teachers. So, too, I assumed (okay, prayed) would George. As the mom of boys, I had a unique kinship with my friends who also gave birth to two penised children: we were a sisterhood whose daily life differed so vastly from our friends who were moms-of-girls and moms-of-one-of-each that we stuck together like glue. We had an understanding of one another that often (okay, daily) allowed us the strength to get through it…even if only physically.
I recall my sister-in-law telling me that her singular goal during the toddler years of her one son (as opposed to his two sisters) was just to keep him alive: his exuberant energy level had him regularly flying across the room to wreak havoc on something or another. I dared to take it one step further and argue that my goal for my boys was to keep them alive by keeping myself from killing them! (Kidding, kidding!) Despite their exhausting and unrelenting energy, I loved being the mom of boys. Oh, sure, I was afraid of them much of the time, but not nearly as afraid as I would have been had they been girls. I remembered all too well what it was like to be a girl growing up and had very little interest in living through it again. No…I could do this boy thing. For sure.
So what if my second son shunned the toy cars, transformers and the forty-five million Legos I had stocked away? Who cared if his costumes of choice required wigs and dresses as opposed to the ab-enhanced Superman costume? And his drawing girls all the time? Whatever. I was a mom of boys, dammit, and had the penises to prove it.
I’ve always known that boys love their mommies. (Much the way girls love their daddies.) Explained by an amorphous blob that hovers somewhere between adoration and fear, boys just want to be with mom, be adored by mom and, yeah, probably want to sleep with mom. (Crap, how did Freud invade this conversation?) Not gonna lie: I liked our dynamic, and I loved being their Number One.
And then, in what seemed like an instant, I was no longer the mom of boys. Just like that, everything I had lived through and, frankly, been preparing myself for was suddenly divided. I was now supposed to switch gears and be a mom of a boy…and a girl; a transition for which, I can assure you, there is no guide book. What the fuck?
It has been nearly a year-and-a-half since George tearfully and bravely told me that “his whole life he had wanted to be a girl,” yet I still think of myself as the mom of boys. I see a child who, in many ways, looks so vastly different from sixteen months ago, yet so much the same: she is taller and has longer hair, but much of her personality is decidedly George. I usually think of her as Jessie, but still sometimes slip and call her George. I get tripped up every single time someone asks me about my kids’ gender and never know how to refer to my second born when recalling stories from her first ten years. I don’t consider her my son, or my daughter, really. Neither feels right. She is my child and I love her and he is my child and I love him. It is more than semantics, for sure. It is more than long hair and shopping in the girl’s department. She has transitioned with little trepidation. This mom of boys, however, is still trying to figure it all out.