Family of Me

by Daphne
Updates Mondays and Fridays

Scene 129: Relentless Growth

(Twyla sits in a toy-scattered front room as a young child toddles around. They stop to play with one of the toys every now and again, getting intensely focused before quickly losing interest and moving on to something else. I arrive from elsewhere and take a seat nearby.)

Mom (Me): Good morning, Twyla. I see our child is a bit older in this memory.

Twyla (The Parent): Good morning Daphne. Is it strange that this memory feels kind of surreal? I know I was dominant for this, but these first years kind of blur together.

Mom: I don’t think that’s strange at all. These days were repetitive, and yet not—young children grow up so fast that our circumstances as parents change as soon as we start to settle into them.

Twyla: That’s exactly it. There’s no getting comfortable as a parent of a young child; we’re constantly adapting to our child’s rapid growth. Every few weeks they’re doing something new, and they need new experiences to grow further.

Mom: How does that make you feel?

Twyla (tired): Exhausted. Inadequate. Maybe if I’d had the luxury of parenting in a vacuum I’d only have to deal with mild anxiety, but no person is an island, as they say. On top of continuously adapting to our child, we’ve lived a lifetime of absorbing societal messages about parenting. How to parent correctly, what makes a good parent, how your child is supposed to behave, what is and isn’t healthy…

Mom: It’s a constant barrage of demands and expectations.

Twyla (upset): It is! And for most of our lives, we could be oblivious to those messages since they didn’t apply to us. It was easy to be judgmental of others, because of course we had our own opinions of how to be a good parent. I suppose I still have those opinions, but it feels so different when I’m the one doing the parenting and it’s my child whose future hangs in the balance. All of a sudden those messages cut right through to my heart.

Mom: Unfortunately It’s even worse than that, because the messages we got over the course of our lifetime didn’t go ignored just because they didn’t apply to us. Instead, because they went unchallenged, we often just absorbed them.

Twyla: Yeah… That did happen, didn’t it? When we became a parent, we already had a lifetime of expectations to live up to. We picked some of those ideas up from elsewhere, but a lot of them were thoughts about parenting that we formed on our own.

Mom: Exactly. So we had to pick through and unpack all those preconceived notions.

Twyla (exasperated): Except we never had the time or space to do that, because we were busy parenting. There isn’t any downtime—no breaks where we can just take what we’ve learned and process those concepts into something more coherent. At least not anything long enough to make significant progress.

Mom: True enough. Though we eventually learn to make time and space for that kind of processing.

Twyla: Do we? That’s a relief.

Mom (measured): Therapy helps a lot. Even on weeks that we don’t have something specific to unpack, it feels good to take an hour to decompress and talk through the events of the week. When we do have something specific to unpack, having a trained professional to help us reflect on it in new ways is especially helpful.

Twyla: I assume there’s no shortage of things to unpack since there’s always new situations to adapt to.

Mom: Life as a parent is rather relentless.

(Twyla only pauses for a moment before pivoting to a related topic.)

Twyla (flat): So, are you going to tell me how this is like transition too?

Mom: Of course I am. Though there’s probably a better analog than early childhood…

Twyla: Which is?

Mom: Adolescence, presumably. Our kid isn’t old enough that we’ve been a parent for their adolescent years, but I remember ours, and there are plenty of similarities. Adolescence is another period of rapid growth when your body and mind are both changing all at once. Both parent and child have to adapt to a new reality every handful of weeks.

Twyla (skeptical): You’re talking about puberty. Somehow I doubt that our kid’s puberty is going to go quite as fast as these early stages of growth did.

Mom (unconcerned): Maybe not, but I have a feeling they’ll still go faster than we’re really comfortable with.

Twyla: And that’s like transition, I take it?

Mom: People call transition “second puberty” for a reason… For this reason specifically, in fact. A person in transition quite literally goes through a second puberty, and it’s just as rapid and tumultuous as the first one. Except that we literally have to parent ourselves through our second puberty, especially for those of us who transitioned later in life.

Twyla (insistent): Okay, but this work is constant. Our kid is always around, needing care of one kind or another all the time. I’m sure that with all our years of experience, we’ve learned how to set our own thoughts aside for a bit and take a break when it comes to our second puberty.

Mom (incredulous): Have you met us? Is that something you’re good at?

Twyla (hesitant): I mean… Not really, granted, but you’re older. And you’re a girl.

Mom: You’re a girl too, Twyla.

Twyla: Okay sure, but you’ve been on estrogen for a while. I’ve suspected for a while that being on estrogen would… Calm us down, somehow.

Mom: We’ve suspected that since college, I think. We weren’t wrong, either… Estrogen does help settle our mind a lot. But puberty is puberty, whatever your gender. Our second puberty can’t be turned off when it’s inconvenient any more than the first one could, and once we start transition it’s always on our mind.

Twyla: I admit that if I’d gotten proof that I was a girl back then, I wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about it.

Mom: Twyla, I still think about it several times a day, and I’ve known that I’m a girl for over three years now.

(Twyla sits silently, slowly accepting my explanation.)

Twyla: I’m glad you figured it out. Our gender, I mean.

Mom (smiling): Thanks, Twyla. I’m glad I did too.