The Pronoun Game

Once upon a time, not so long ago and a lifetime ago, Denise had a job where she had to play the pronoun game at work. Those of you who are straight probably wonder what that means. It means that each sentence that referred to me or our family was carefully constructed without “she/her/girlfriend.” It was soul sucking and yet what she had to do in order for comfort. Everyone at her job knew me and us. It was just the forward facing part that was a problem.

I’ve thought a bunch about that since March 27. You see, I have been playing the pronoun game about one of my children. My first born. For those keeping track: Denise gave birth to three–the three oldest. I gave birth to three–the three youngest. The oldest has been referred to here as College Boy, boychild, the prince, and lately as first born.

Why? Because on March 27 that child texted me. “In other news–surprise, I am trans.” Yes. Instantly. After 20+ years of being the mother of a son, I had another daughter. The sudden change from son to daughter may not seem like that big of a deal. It is still the baby I gave birth to, the one I fell in love with, the one I love still. But, I am no longer a biological mother of a son.

Stop! Right now. Don’t tell me that she is lucky to have such an accepting family. Don’t tell me it is wonderful. Don’t for a second think this is any easier, just because she has queer parents.

No, we didn’t disown her or yell. Ok. That’s who you are, how are you going to handle this?  I changed son to daughter on Facebook (but non one noticed). The child gave me permission to blog that same week, but I didn’t.

The whole mommy thing is hard. (Yes. I know. Far harder to be TG. Got it. That’s her story. Mine is being the mother.)  The name change is hard. The being a different mother is hard. The pronouns–hard to remember. Yes, I’ve had nearly 4 months. Ava (the child’s new name) is not here a lot. College, summer job, adult with friends in town. I will get it.

In the meantime, for various reasons, the little girls didn’t wait to get their ears pierced until their first period and their stepmother took them. I missed out on a big rite of passage with them. When Ava told me she was trans, I grabbed the chance. “If you decide to get your ears pierced, promise I get to take you.” I never really thought it would happen. Ava hates needles. Turns green. Faints. Vomits. Always has.

But, tonight we went. She got her earlobes pierced. I got my cartilage pierced with a matching earring.

I took a selfie. One of the few I’ve taken in the past few months. Just in time for BlogHer. No more pronoun game. a mother and child selfie. Me. My daughter Ava, I am so glad to welcome her to this spinning world.

My Daughter and Me

About Our Pack

dogs at the dog park Pack life See those dogs? That is our pack. Three hound dogs. No they aren’t related. We did get all of them from the same shelter. (Wright-Way Rescue) They are all mixed breeds of varying sorts. Left to Right in the picture with them in bed…Buster not quite one. Then Skeeter Bess–first adopted but about a month younger than Lola–both two years old now.

We adopted all of them within 14 months. It was after a lot of talk of our forever home dog. This dream dog was loosely based on Denise’s mother’s dog–Duncan and my childhood dog Ginger.

Instead we have three coonhounds–who did actually alert us to a sick raccoon in our yard last week.

Buster and Skeeter are about 50lbs each give or take. Lola is 35 lbs. They all believe they are lapdogs. They sleep a lot. They run a lot. But…they do other weird things.

  • Skeeter Bess is a tattle tale. If Buster in particular is breaking a rule–Skeeter will come to tell me ALL about it. Now if Buster’s ill-gotten gains are interesting to Skeeter–she will helpfully take them away and eat/destroy them herself.
  • Lola and Buster can both jump extra tall baby gates. Skeeter does not. She also is the least likely to open one herself if it isn’t latched. (They are the swing open type)
  • Skeeter and Buster alone together sleep. Lola and Buster alone together sleep. Skeeter, Lola, Buster all in the same room means play time or argue time.
  • Lola will not eat her kibble in general until someone is in there threatening to take it away because breakfast or dinner is over.
  • Skeeter and Buster will do anything they understand for a treat. (Buster’s exception is below) Lola doesn’t care.
  • All three love their heartworm medicine and consider it the biggest treat on the planet.
  • We weren’t crazy dog ladies. We’d both grown up with and had as adults various dogs. Mostly one at a time. Our first years as a couple we had two–the mother/son couple Chanel and Jake that Denise got in the way she always ends up with pets. Then just Jake and when my mother moved in Jake and Koto. Then just Koto.  We never imagined after Jake passed away that we would get three more dogs. After adopting Skeeter we sort of wanted another dog to keep up with Skeeter. She was young and energetic. Also, she turned our life upside down. Instead of running errands and spending the weekend in bed, we were taking her to the dog park. We adopted Lola and then were in a 5K.
  • Buster is the tallest of the bunch. He is also afraid of strangers. VERY VERY AFRAID. Strangers is a broad term that includes children who haven’t been home in a while, the landlord that visits at least once a month, delivery people, people staying with us. He won’t eat with strangers in the house. He won’t take any sort of treat. He shakes.
  • His fear of strangers means he plants himself on the bed. If you come to the bedroom and sit on the bed and wait you will eventually get to pet him. This makes said “strangers” very happy. (even if it is a girlchild who is here alternating weekends and more)
  • When they are running wild they are dangerous. Buster and Skeeter both have slammed us to the ground in the house.
  • Buster walks pretty well on a leash–see fear of strangers.
  • Exception: at the dog park. The distance between the parking lot to the gate to the dog park means I am being dragged by 100 lbs of excited dog. Once in the park–the dogs mind and keep in sight, come when called. (exception–last weekend Buster got lost–he started down the path with Skeeter between the pond access points. There were a lot of people. He doubled back beyond us and was back at the first pond access point scared because he didn’t see his pack.
  • They love the dog park with unparalleled abandon. Running through the tall grass with just the tips of their tails showing. Splashing in puddles. Rolling in puddles, dead frogs, dead snakes. Sniffing new dogs.
  • While they enjoy splashing in puddles at the park–puddles in the back yard are a complete insult and they dare not get their feet wet. (except Buster who enjoys the backyard that floods in every heavy rain)
  • Buster is the only one who has kept a hound song. Skeeter had one but lost it–she now barks like a poodle. We heard one recently at the dog park who sounded JUST LIKE HER. Makes sense I suppose since the second highest breed in her DNA after treeing walker coonhound was poodle.
  • Skeeter is very intent on herding the other two, correcting them when they disobey, and generally a nuisance. She also is the first one to roll her eyes at Buster insanity.
  • Lola pushes Denise out of bed in the morning to get a better spot.
  • Lola has a high prey drive and will try to get squirrels, birds, anything that moves outdoors. Lola does some intricate parkour type moves in chasing squirrels. She also loves to just BE outdoors.


A Certain Kind of Man

dogs We take our dogs to the dog park about once a week. They’d love to go more but the dog park is a drive and washing them down after is never fun. We also take them for walks. Granted, we did that more before Buster who has not learned about leash manners very well and has stranger issues.

On one of the first walks we took with Skeeter, we ran into a landscaper who stopped and talked to us. (myself and the girls) about our dog. The girls were a little creeped out by it and it did seem over the top. I mean we were pleased with our “beagle mix”, but what was making the man go crazy. That was before we knew that Skeeter was far from beagle.

It wasn’t a one time thing. A certain kind of man will ALWAYS comment on our dogs. They are usually a little older than us or they are from the south. They watch our dogs bound through the prairie with just the tips of their tails showing over the brush. They watch them on the flat green spaces. They either engage us in conversation or tell whoever they are with about our dogs.

These men often get a bit misty eyed about the hounds. Apparently they are a man’s dogs. Or they spent too much time watching The Fox and the Hound. Or they dream of an alternate life where they go hunting with their trusty hounds.

It could be that they are stuck with labs or goldens because of family. (because they often do have such dogs) Or they admire the dogs for their independence and joy in running–but while they wait to make sure they’ve not run too far afield–they don’t need us to keep a tight rein on them. No one is alarmed by a hound dog bounding up to them, especially ours. Women and children don’t feel threatened by them–even as we yell at Lola that there is to be NO FACE LICKING. Buster and Skeeter both shy from most people off leash. (the exception is if Skeeter catches scent of treats. They are forbidden in the dog park and yet people bring them anyway. Skeeter can scent those treats from far away.)

In any case, a certain kind of man has a few daydreams about the day he’ll go out with a pack of hounds or have one trusty hound. Or he will miss the hound he had as a child. I like those men.

On Graduation-Rebecca

Today you graduated high school. We came early to get good seats. We had them. I could have had great pictures of your friend Fiona–she came in that door. Instead it was a bit of craning our necks, looking for the child with the glasses. I knew you wouldn’t leave them off. It was good though that you came in through the other door. Otherwise I suspect we might have hugged in the middle of the procession. You and I are like that. I knew when you walked in for sure though. Why do I still doubt that radar that draws a mother’s eye to her baby?

Momal poured over the program–showing me all the places your name appeared. I texted you and our previous ETHS graduate child. Denise snarked a bit on Facebook over “It’s a great day to be a Wildkit” as a drinking game. She did this even though she may have said it many more times today than anyone speaking.

I realized when we got home–there were no pictures of you alone as a graduate. I’ve got a picture of you and Denise. We’ve got pictures of you and Momal and you and me, but none alone. It sort of irritates me in a strange way. I am sure I can buy one or your father will have one. Then I thought–you’ve never been the child alone. Except for those days in Eugene when Ava was Joseph and in preschool. We’d do drop off and then the two of us would be alone for a couple of hours. I remember the joy of sharing M & Ms with you and telling you “shhh don’t tell Joseph.” as we wrapped up errands. But, really as my second born and social child, you’ve never really been alone. You’ve FELT alone, I know.

That’s not to say you aren’t singular. You head to Oberlin in August. You didn’t get there by being one of the crowd. Not just academic achievement or activities grants acceptance to Oberlin. You were flustered by the flurry of Senior Awards you received. I chuckled just over the PE award. Who would have thought that the child of two non-athletes, a child who herself enjoys walking and scootering, but not “sports” or even PE would win such a thing. But then, I remember your spirit. I remember how you really are Sunshine as all the school calls you. I suspect that Sunshine was something those PE teachers needed in the three years of Early Bird Gym.

You don’t “get” why you won the Marie Claire Davis Award. It isn’t humility, it is your blindness to the fact that your words dance and sparkle across the page. I read a lot of books, you know this, but there is nothing I like better than to read your writing. It slows me. It makes me think. It expands my vision. It stuns me. All those words you knew before you could pronounce them obey you in your writing.

Today was a day of pearls and sparkle. Tomorrow will be Monday Night Dinner. Tomorrow for a few hours with you and your siblings are home, I will be able to pretend it is just another Monday Night Dinner. But it won’t be. You’ll be a high school graduate. The clock ticks surely and steadily toward your leaving home for college. Where you go beyond that is unknowable to me at this point.

I know your future spreads spectacularly in front of you though. I know you will take my heart out into the world and give your own heart to the world. I know you have sparkled since you were born and you will sparkle forever. I know that I am proud to have YOU as my daughter, the real you, the secret you, all of you. I know that having you as a daughter has made me strive higher as a woman. But most of all, I love you. Anything. Anywhere. Endlessly.

And yes, there is a small bit of irony in the fact that this is a rare picture of you over the age of three with less hair than I have currently.