so much more

This post marks my return to blogging after a long break. I have so many stories to tell, but I have to begin somewhere, so here is the story of my almost being mentioned in the New York Times, losing my mom, and reclaiming my child.

I was contacted by Ruth Padawer last March, who was at the time doing research for her New York Times piece “What’s So Bad About a Boy Who Wants to Wear a Dress?”. I received a message that she had read my blog, was impressed, and wanted to interview me for her research. I knew the odds that Ruth Padawer had actually read my work were slim. Further, knowing there was a more popular blog with a similar name, it seemed pretty obvious that she had confused me with the other writer. (The other blog, http://pinkisforboys.wordpress.com/, is definitely worth checking out.) Still, her call and the messages we exchanged, were a welcome distraction.

Just days before Ms. Padawer’s call, my mom passed away. Several months before that, G was diagnosed, at least provisionally, bipolar. O was every day being traumatized by his older brother and turned from a carefree moppet into a timid mouse. I truly had become an abused parent and was barely holding myself together. I would get nauseous every day on the drive to pick up G from school. On really rough days I would call and unload on my mom just to hear her say, “I don’t know honey, it’s just too much. It’s too damn much.” I couldn’t visit her enough, but when I did I would push gently, and then not so gently, for palliative care. I made several offers for her to come and live with us. She simultaneously assured me that my elderly father could care for her, and complained about how cruel he was to her.

I was horribly torn. I wanted to be full time mom to help G as I knew I was losing him down the path of anti-psychotic medication and there was no doubt that a hospitalization was right around the corner. I wanted to be full time mom to O and protect him from everything he was witnessing at home. I wanted to be full time daughter to take better care of my mom and make sure she was getting the help she obviously needed. Though I managed keeping up with most of my contract assignments, after that being a wife, aunt, sister, friend, or writer was way outside the realm of possibility.

When my mom landed in ICU, she had my whole attention, and she held it during the quiet days of hospice. I was too busy in that stillness that comes with waiting for someone to die for anything else–even too busy for remorse for not having done more for her. I sat by her bedside and wrote down the things she said, which were wise and moving if for no other reason than being absolute. Once she was gone and the details taken care of, the stillness inside me was almost unbearable. G continued to attack. O continued to cling. I realize now as horrible as it is, my mom’s death had actually given me a respite from my life, and now I had nothing to distract me. Perhaps that’s why, despite evidence to the contrary, I indulged myself a bit in the idea that perhaps Ms. Padawer really was impressed by my blog. It was something else to think about, the idea of writing was something I could feel something about.

When at last we were able to talk, as she lavished me with praise and quoted “my” words that had so moved her, the mistake was confirmed. I waited uncomfortably for the opportunity to correct her, which finally came. I was glad to be able to put her in touch with the author of the other blog and thrilled that she was doing a story on pink boys. We talked for a bit–she didn’t apologize or seem embarrassed by the error, and I wished her the best with her research. I went back to trying to find something to feel something about, trying to figure out what to do next.

What followed was amazing. Through the help of a new psychologist and a change to a new school, G was able to completely drop his medication, was no longer aggressive, and his anxiety was much diminished. O picked up the slack for a little bit and tried some rages on, but eventually he came full circle. The boys are actually starting to enjoy playing with each other, and will do so spontaneously, and if that isn’t a miracle, I don’t know what is. I also got to speak to my half sister for the first time (from my mom’s previous marriage), which was scary and amazing. G performed in his first ice show which was followed by entering a competition and then, after performing spectacularly in rehearsal, I made him drop out. O is able to play two full songs on the piano with two hands–he plays beautifully and boldly. He can also identify several artists and composers. He is bright and creative and expressive. I look at them and can’t imagine that I spent any time wondering what I was supposed to do next.

As I wrote early on, I started the blog to add my voice to the growing number speaking out on behalf of these boys, but this is such a small part of our lives now. Pink boys are about as common in our midwest town now as movie sets–they don’t go unnoticed, but no one turns to gawk either. Although G’s room is deep violet with zebra-stripped bedding and curtains, he’s about as likely to put on a princess dress as any girl his age (which is to say never). O on the other hand has two princess castles in his room, a High School Musical dress, and loves clopping around in Rupunzel heels from Santa. He doesn’t claim to be female or half female or complain about his body in any way. He likes baseball and soccer as much as he adores flowing blond hair. There are no gender identity issues, and as far as I can tell, no shame.

I’m proud that my boys have the freedom to do what all boys should have the freedom to do–explore the whole spectrum of colors and and playthings. I’m glad I’m not raising Neanderthals, but this is only part of our story. The numbness that followed my mom’s passing is lifting. I am finally able to feel–and I feel loss and sadness and loneliness and heartbreak, but the thing I feel the most is free. I lost the person I most wanted to impress. I didn’t even realize how hard I was trying to be the person she thought I was. As that person dissolved I thought I was done blogging, but it turns out I am just getting started. I’m looking forward to sharing more stories from the world of Tourette, adoption, pink boys and imperfect parenting. This is no longer a blog just about the pink boys, it is also about the girl who, for the record, prefers blue.

Thanks for reading.

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