C.J.’s Brother was invited to a laser tag birthday party at the local open-air mall. It was a Friday night and I left C.J. at home with his dad to take C.J.’s Brother to the party and hang out — just the two of us.
We arrived early and walked around the center. It was dark and there were strands of white lights strung high above our heads as a live band played in the crisp air. CJ’s Brother walked with his hands in his pockets because he thinks it makes him look like a teenager. Every once in a while he would hold my hand…forgetting that he was trying to look cool.
We were window shopping when he stopped in front of a jewelry store to look at the displays.
“Are you looking for some diamonds to buy for your mom?” I said teasingly, putting my hand on his shoulder.
“No, I’m looking for an engagement ring,” he said.
“You are way too young to get engaged, sir.”
“I know. I’m looking for later, to see what I might want to buy when I want to get engaged, so I can start saving. How much do I have to save anyway? Like a couple hundred dollars?”
“A couple thousand dollars,” I said. His jaw dropped.
“I really better start saving I guess,” he said.
“I don’t want you to get married. I want you to stay my baby forever,” I said hugging him from behind.
“Don’t you want grandchildren?” he asked.
“No,” I said.
He pulled out of my embrace and spun to look at me.
“That is so mean. How can you not want grandchildren?”
His feelings were hurt. Crap. I struggled to explain.
“Here’s the deal, baby. I don’t expect grandchildren. I don’t need grandchildren to make me happy. I want you to be happy. If having kids makes you happy then I’m happy. But, I really try not to project my expectations on you.”
It was going over his head a little. After all, he is only nine years old.
My history was interfering with my present, as it tends to do. My mom wanted grandchildren her entire life. If she could have had grandchildren without having children she probably would have. I knew it. My brother knew. It was one of the hardest things for her to deal with when he came out. She had to mourn the loss of the grandchildren he’d never give her.
I’ve watched it happen over and over at PFLAG. People look forward to grandchildren and when their child comes out of the closet they assume that they won’t have grandchildren and it hurts. I can understand that.
So I decided long ago that I wasn’t going to look forward to grandchildren until they were nine months away from appearing. I wasn’t going to count on a future generation for even a fraction of happiness. I was going to spend my energy making the generation that I was responsible for happy. I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought that I was doing us all a favor — until it hurt my son’s feelings.
“If you have a child I will love it with all of my heart because it will be half you and you are one of my top three favorite people in the world. I think that you are amazing. I just want you to know that you don’t have to give me grandkids to make me happy. You make me happy all on your own,” I told C.J.’s Brother.
“Okay,” he said skeptically. I felt like a turd.
My brother and C.J. have taught me that you don’t always get what you expect when you are expecting. And that can mess with your head and heart. So I try to let go of expectations and not to expect things or people to conform. But, every once in a while my oldest, gender conforming boy wants me to expect the norm.
I walked him into the laser tag building and watched him play with his friends and, for a moment, thought about my grandkids.
It’s so hard, they say things, you say something and then realise it is the wrong something and beat yourself up about it for the rest of your life. I reckon I may get grandchildren either through blood, fostering, step or maybe even as robots… There is one thing though that my husband and I do know and tell each other.. ‘You’re doing a good job, one day they will tell you they hate you, one day they will end up in therapy over something you said that you’ve forgotten about.. but don’t worry one day they’ll know we just did our best and that they were surrounded with love.’ It sounds like your boys live in a bubble of love too.
Do you think you would have the same expectations or lack there of if CJ were more like his brother? And have you ever before that moment considered whether or not adjusting yourself as a parent for CJ’s sake affects CJ’s brother?
I think I would have heard it the same way it sounds like CJ’s brother did rather than the way you meant it.
I would have heard “I expect NOT to be a grandmother” or even “I would prefer not to be a grandmother.”
Maybe phrasing it as “I don’t insist on being a grandmother” or focusing on “whether or not I am a grandmother is a matter of the choices you make in your life, not mine in my own. If you are happy having kids, I’ll enjoy being a grandmother, but if you make choices that make you happy, then I’m still going to be perfectly happy being a mother.
I know that this is just a small aspect to your piece but I wanted to comment about how you told your son how you wanted him to stay a baby forever. I, too, made a big deal about how I wanted my kids to stay young forever, thinking that they would take as an expression of how much I loved them the way they were. But my son started to get upset! Not understanding what I intended, he stopped wanting to “get big.”
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Again, touching and beautifully written. I think your son will understand, and probably in less time than you think. In the meantime you could tell him that the conversation made you were thinking after your conversation…including about the grandkids. It doesn’t seem surprising from the outside that he would want children; he had a great example of what a family can be and wants to share that with his own, including wanting to share you, your husband and C.J. with them too. Sounds like he’ll be a great parent if that’s what he ultimately decides to do.
If only I had a mother like you! I am always amazed at how insightful you are when it comes to your children. And for someone so young! I am not gay, am married with two beautiful children (one bio through IVF and one adopted). I believe that people who adopt or have their children through their hearts instead of their bodies have more insight into what parenting is all about. Just think about how much we had to go through to get our children! I have fallen in love with you, your children and your husband through this post and never miss it. Keep it up girl, it’s given us all hope, laughs, tears and understanding. Even though I’ve got at least 10 years on you, I try to model my mothering after you.
I have to say that I love babies. If one day I have grandbabies, I will be thrilled, but I really, really, REALLY believe that it has to be something the parents of those possible grandbabies want, not what I want. I picked up on your comment about “mourning the loss”. When my son told me he was gay, I did not “mourn the loss” of anything so much as work to confront the stereotypes I realized I had slotted my children into their whole lives. I did dress my son in blue and my daughter in pink. I did think that they would grow up and get married. I have come to realize that I did not question anything I was brought up believing, but rather I followed certain societal expectations and imparted those on my children. I still say and do dumb things, but fortunately, they have great patience with me while I follow a path of questioning and rethinking.
You are a wonderfully sensitive mom and you understand both CJ and his brother so well. How lucky are they!
I really limed the point about not putting your own expectations on anyone else. just being in the present is more than enough. wish more people had that common sense, for themselves and on what they put on others.
as someone said, even in cj’s case, maybe he’s just totally in the present, and this present is just enamored of stuff that girls have and do, and in a future present he’ll like something else, or not, and get married to a girl, or not and have babies, still liking what he likes. the point is why bother with projection, the present whenever it is is more than enough to cause happiness.
What a beautiful post! You’re an amazing writer and parent. CJ & his heteronormative bro are lucky to have you for a parent (and they sure keep you on your toes)!
Gay, straight, trans or whatever in-between, don’t rule out grandkids! =D
I love your approach.
Want to add that I put a link from my blog Brian’s Books when I reviewed ODDLY NORMAL one Family’s struggle to help their teenage son come to terms with his sexuality.
I think your response was exactly right! But CJ is no more or less likely to want children because he’ll probably end up being gay. Your sexual orientation doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not you want children (and it has very little to do with if you CAN have them anymore). I hated that my mom thought I wouldn’t be having children when she found out I’m into girls, because I very much want to get married and have babies some day. It’s no longer an expectation or assumption that gays or lesbians won’t have children, as it probably was in your mother’s times at PFLAG. Now if anything, the expectation has gone the other way, which isn’t any better but at least is equal .
When I came out to my mother, she was so unhappy because she wanted grandkids. She’s thankfully come around after realising that I also want children very badly and whether I’m with a girl or a guy, that won’t change.
For what it’s worth, I think that you handled this situation beautifully and that your opinions on the topic of grandchildren are exactly what they should be. So kudos for that.
I have never in my life had any interest in having children and I really don’t think that will ever change. My husband feels the same way. My mother, on the other hand, very clearly wants as many grandchildren as her two sons can give her, and I think that she is (or at least was for a long time) disappointed that I didn’t seem to be going in that direction. In fairness to her, she has never gone so far as to outright ask about it yet (though she has dropped hints on occasion, like “if you two decide to have kids some day, blah blah blah”), but just knowing that I was disappointing her in this way was tough to deal with even without her bringing it up. So your approach is refreshing and pretty awesome, as far as I’m concerned.
OMG. I love Sweet ‘N Low Barbie.
My son & his husband to be will adopt a child. This will be my Grandchild. Now I am not saying that when he told me he was transgender F to M that I did not become sad about the thought of “no grandchildren” because I did. But there are many “straight” couple who can’t/don’t have kids the “traditional way”. Families are made up of people who love & support each other & sometimes they share some of the same genes too. There are many options open to CJ & others who identify as non gender conforming when it comes to building a family.
CJ’s affinity for all things “girl” might just draw him towards motherhood as naturally as it does many women. I don’t know if CJ will develop a biological clock, but I bet he’d be a great, GREAT parent someday! Both of your kids would be, it sounds like. But I do see your point about not wanting to express unecessary expectations or, for your own sanity, getting your hopes up, as many other parents do about grandkids. I know my own mother just assumed it would happen, even if she never pressured me.
I think being open is the way to go. You never know CJ could want kids and CJ’s brother won’t – it’s a mixed up world. I’m a fairly conventional gal, but I knew at 13 I never wanted children. In my 20s I finally got up the courage to tell my mother that any grandkids weren’t coming from me. She just laughed and said, “Oh honey, I’ve known that for years.” Your willingness to take whatever comes is an inspiration – and a wonderful thing. CJ’s brother might not quite appreciate it now, but he will later.
You just keep on doing it right, don’t you!
Off topic: the Sweet n Low dressed doll blew me away!!!!! Put the days piece back in Cj’s court: The kid has talent…… and as he is not being pinched pushed or squeezed into any particular mold society might want to force him into (BIG THANX Mom, Dad, and Big Brother) He is likely going to grow up EXACTLY as He and Source have intended him to and BE SOMEONE AMAZING for the World to reckon with!!!!! TALENT oozing from his young and free spirited and self directed little self!!
That was my first thought too. I would totally wear that dress.
I read an article recently about gay men in New York that were getting the “When are you getting married and having babies?” pressure from their moms now that it was accepted and becoming a new normal.
But as a straight woman in her 40’s who has never married or had kids, I appreciate your sentiment. Whether your kids are straight or gay or otherwise on the spectrum, you are absolutely right to not pressure them to make you happy with their life choices. In fact, I’m amused by the previous comments encouraging you to want grandkids when, either way, it will not be your choice. 😀
This isn’t about parenting a gender nonconforming child, it’s about good parenting and letting your kids make their own choices. You are right on… again.
You amaze me. Bravo on the way you are raising your children!
One of the first things my mom said to me when I came out to her in 1980 was “what about kids?”
I told her being a lesbian hadn’t destroyed my uterus.
Twenty years later she held my leg as my beautiful boy made his way into our lives. I always wanted a child and even in 1980 I knew I would find a way to make that happen. So could Uncle Uncle, if he and his husband were so inclined.
I also know several straight couples who do not now, nor will, have children. I think this decision to engender the next generation has less to d
I think as parents it’s tough to
Less to do with sexuality as personality.
I think as parents it’s important to recognize the difference between expectation and encouragement.
Don’t knock yourself, CJ’s Mum!
You’re doing a damned fine job, in a situation where not only do you not have all the answers – NO parent does – but you don’t even have a blueprint in the case of CJ. All parents make mistakes, and hopefully they learn from them as well, including learning to forgive themselves for honest errors.
I wouldnt go so far as to assume that CJ will grow up to be a gay man, or if he will continue to identify as female when he grows up, because only time will tell. Often gender non conforming children grow up to be hetrosexual men and women. CJ is who he is.
Either way, he will have a good chance to have children, if he chooses to. The world is changing 🙂 It’s a good time to be growing up.
Gillian, research with gender non-conforming children such as CJ find that about 70-80% of gender non-conforming boys later identify as gay men upon adulthood. About 3% identify as transgender. My own gender non-conforming son is 6 years old, and already talks about wanting to kiss and marry boys. So, I respectfully disagree, and feel that by assuming your son is (most likely) gay, you are doing the best you can as a parent to support him and affirm him. Girls are a bit more gender-fluid, however, with only about 50% of gender non-conforming girls later identifying as lesbians upon adulthood.
Regarding the grandparent issue, however, I think by the time our kids reach adulthood, it will be much more normative for gay couples to adopt. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of being a grandparent someday.
I think you’re absolutely right to take this perspective. My parents never pushed any expectations for grandchildren on me, and I’m grateful for it. Even though I might end up with an opposite-sex partner (I’m bisexual, currently dating a man, though my last relationship was with a women), I’m still not sure I want to have children. And surely the most important thing for children is that they’re wanted- not by their grandparents but by their actual parents, who must devote their life and unconditional love to them?
A lot of comments have said that same-sex relationships can still have kids (through adoption, surrogacy etc) and of course that’s absolutely true, but I’d like to point out that some men-women relationships don’t end up with children, and that’s perfectly valid too. But I think (/hope) that you already think that, by the way you dealt with CJ’s brother’s questions.
Love your blog, and how open and supportive you seem to be with your family.
But a child a gay child adopts would still be a grandchild.
Love this perspective on parental expectations, but seriously, it’s that so sweet ‘n’ low dress that really knocked my socks off!
And CJ may surprise you, what with family life being made so much more accessible to LGBT young people than it was when I was a kid.