Monday, April 16, 2012

No Stepford people

DJ was moping around today.  When I asked if she was ok, she responded by saying:

"You and Dad are so annoying when you do that all the time."

I started remembering a time when this same child was much easier to deal with.  A time when she was happy go lucky, rolled with any and all punches, rarely got annoyed and didn't seem to have a care in the world.  That's when I caught myself.

That person, those people, weren't real.  JD embodied all of those qualities, as did DJ when she first came out.  Neither JD or the newly introduced DJ were the real deal. Not completely, anyhow.

Before I offend anyone, please let me explain.

When DJ was living as JD, she was acting like a boy, and not just any boy, but a nearly perfect boy.  One who would not raise suspicion and would blend in.  From what she has shared, nearly every minute of every day was comprised of maintaining this facade.  I can only imagine the absolute control that was required.  JD rarely got angry, rarely angered anyone else, and was universally charming.  Did he feel like he had to be?  Was that part of the facade so that no one would guess JD's secret?

Then DJ shared with us who she really was and then the honeymoon began.  Perhaps she was so relieved to be able to share who she was that anything displeasing in her present life just didn't matter compared to how she had been living.  She was so relieved that her parents accepted her that she wasn't going to get annoyed when they were.....well, typically annoying parents.  Maybe she didn't want to rock the boat.  I don't know because she is a considerably more private person than she was two years ago when she let us know that she was not our son.

Back then, she was initially frightened that we might reject her; that was followed by immense relief when we didn't reject her.  Even when we cautioned restraint in her transition she did not get angry or annoyed.  Maybe she felt that our acceptance was still tentative and that she had better not rock the boat. Whatever was driving her, I don't think being authentically DJ was her driving force.  Yes, being authentically female was driving her, but I don't know that she knew herself well enough as DJ; she certainly didn't know us as DJ's parents well, either.

This young lady is not as easy to get along with.  She can be difficult and headstrong (always in the most ladylike manner, however.)  She has likely always been somewhat moody (aren't we all?) but until recently, maybe she has masked her less desirable qualities until she knew, no matter her reality, that we wouldn't desert her.

And maybe taking those rose colored glasses off helped too.  We all would love to be our best, sweetest selves and trust that no one would ever stomp on us like a wine glass at a Jewish wedding, (without the Mazeltov, of course).  But most of the time, if we don't toughen up in some way, this world will eat such delicate creatures alive.

Maybe I'm just full of crap.  Quite possibly.

But today, I knew that seeing my daughter for the imperfect daughter she is is actually a greater gift than seeing her as the perfect daughter.  I won't be disappointed when she acts like a typical teenage girl.  I won't be exasperated (ok, not as much) that this sweet girl is now savvy to the faults of her parents and calls the shots like she sees them.  She doesn't need any more fake living.  Oftentimes, being real is much more difficult than being fake, but it's worth it.

But what if we, as parents, remember that other compliant child and wish for him/her? What if we actually share with our child that we miss that other person?  This has happened to a friend of mine and I want to shake her parents and frankly, slap them around a little bit.  And here's why:  they are fooling themselves if they think that other kid was ever real.  Sure, that kid was likeable and loveable as hell, but so is Joey Tribianni from the American TV show, "Friends" but guess what?!!! He's not real!!!

On the one hand, I understand a parent's sense of loss because that other kid seemed so awesome, but that kid was just a supreme actor and the kid in front of you is even more wonderful than that phantom kid.  The flesh and blood child is a fighter and a survivor.  I'll take that any day over easy going and charming.  You can fake the latter, but there's no faking the former.  What makes the real kid "tick" is something more meaningful and cannot be replaced simply by being the "joker" in the family.  Maybe I'm stereotyping and I'm certainly NOT finding fault with an excellent and healthy coping mechanism that some transgender people employ in order to be accepted in their families, but we all want to be seen and loved unconditionally for being our authentic selves, warts and all.

So, I slid backward for a minute remembering a time when DJ was compliant and complacent and feeling momentarily wistful; but I got my footing again. Like my sister-in-law (who we'll call "Malone" after the Irish song because she is indeed sweet) pointed out when I was feeling guilty about not being a "perfect" mother, "I wouldn't want to see you as a "Stepford Wife" (or daughter), it would scare me a little bit."