A Father’s Nightmare

Last week, C.J. had to have a small dental procedure done that required him to go under anesthesia.  Of course his dad and I were a nervous wreck the weeks and days leading up to the morning of the 7 a.m. appointment.

Mural from the dentist's office...

Mural from the dentist’s office…

The night before, we fed C.J. a big dinner and dessert because he wouldn’t be able to eat for at least 15 hours.  We gave him a bath with Strawberry Shortcake bubble bath and tucked him into bed wearing his favorite Disney Princess nightgown.

My alarm went off extra early in the morning.  I turned it off and rolled over to wake up C.J.’s Dad.  He was staring at me with big, bright eyes that startled me.

“What?!” I said/asked/gasped.

“I had the worst dream last night,” he said.

“What was it about?”

“I had a dream that when C.J. woke up from the anesthesia he liked boy stuff.  That he was gender conforming.”

“Why is that a bad dream?” I asked.  It seemed like a weird dream, but not a “bad” one.  He explained.

“Because that’s not my boy.  My boy likes girl stuff.  In my dream, we went to the dentist and I was holding him and they gave him the shot and he went under.

We waited for like an hour and a half and they came out to tell us that he was coming to and we went back to be with him.  We walked in and he was coming out of it and he said ‘Hey Dad, what’s up?’  He said it just like his brother says it.  I was stroking his head and he looked down and saw that he was wearing his Disney Princess nightgown and he asked ‘Why did you dress me in this?  Why am I wearing this?’  He was really mad.

I told him that he was wearing it because it was his favorite nightgown and he kept getting more and more fired up.   He wanted another shirt.  He wanted a boy’s shirt.  He was pissed off and didn’t even want to ride home with the nightgown on.

He totally wasn’t himself.  His mannerisms were all boy, like his brother.

I kept asking you and the dentist if he was okay, if he was fine.  The dentist told me that the procedure was a total success.  I said that it wasn’t, that he was totally different.  I got upset because something was wrong.  He was not acting like himself.  And you and the dentist were downplaying it.

‘What’s wrong with him?! What’s wrong with him?!’ I started yelling.  And, you asked if I was happy because the anesthesia got him out of his gender nonconforming phase and that he was normal now.  I grabbed you and said ‘he’s not effing normal now, not like this!’

I was so pissed because people kept saying that now he was normal and fine.  I yelled at the dentist, ‘What did you do to my effing kid!?’ and everybody was looking at me like I was crazy.  You and the dentist kept saying that I should be happy that he liked boy stuff now.  But I was yelling and so pissed off asking what they had done to my son.

It wasn’t him.  He had changed.  To me that wasn’t ‘normal.’  C.J. is normal the way he is.

What does that even mean?  ‘Normal?’  That’s not my kid, that’s not my boy.  My boy likes girl stuff.  That’s his normal.  My boy likes girl toys and girl clothes and saying things like ‘Ohhhhh, heeeeeeyyyyyyy’ and ‘Drama-bomb!’   I don’t know what I would do now if he changed and started liking boy stuff.  I love him the way he is.  I don’t want him to change.”

He finished telling me about his dream and we stared at each other.

photo 1“Oh, baby, it’s going to be fine.  He’s not going to change,” I said.  What if my husband was clairvoyant?  What if the anesthesia was going to make our gender nonconforming boy conform?  I couldn’t bear to think about him changing either.

Three hours later C.J. woke up from the anesthesia.  He got upset when the dentist gave him a “boy’s toothbrush” instead of a “girl’s toothbrush.”  When we got home he gathered his Barbie dolls and Monster High girls to comfort him as he watched old episodes of iCarly on the iPad.

He was and still is gender nonconforming.  The anesthesia didn’t change him.  My husband is not a clairvoyant.  For all of those things, and so much more, I am a very thankful mama.   There was a time when all we wanted was for C.J. to conform to traditional gender norms.  Now, the thought of him doing so doesn’t feel right.  It feels disturbing.  It feels like a bad dream.

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44 Responses to A Father’s Nightmare

  1. David A Morse says:

    You wrote that CJ’s dad does not get enough credit. I want to say that I think he is a great dad. In a world where most dads want their sons to be all boy, a real boy, CJ’s dad is a real prize. He loves his sons with all his heart, without conditions, and would not want them to change. He was beside himself with dread that CJ would come home from the dentist changed. After six years of raising a princess boy, he could not see him any other way. Its true that most future gay teens and men grow up appearing to be a traditional boy and their sexuality is more a shock. All dads should be like your husband. If you created this child how can you believe they are not really yours if they are gay? He gets it that CJ did not ask to be born, his love for you is why he is here. He is a witness of your love.

    • mark says:

      I also think dad epitomizes a father’s love for his child, and all dads of any persuasion of child would be well advised to emulate his example.

      I understand what you were trying to say, but in my view most dads never think, much less actively want their child to be “all and a real boy”. They do have an assumption of what their child is to think and act like, which is projection of their own internal expectations and experience. Not a place of letting the child dictate themselves and of their expression of life.

      Fact is, cj as well as his brother are “all and real” boy in every sense of the word. One just happens to like sparkles, colors, clothing and whatnot as an outward expression of the internal himself than the other. Should cj play soccer and baseball than so be it, it aligns with other’s expectations of what he should like, irrespective of the fact that again he as an individual can express his likes for himself. If his brother likes cooking and shopping and other more girl like stuff, is he not a real boy then too?

      So is there an invisible line between real boy and not real boy? Or girl for that matter. If you do that one more thing that is against other’s expectations do you suddenly cross into not real territory? Which one would be the straw then? Would it be that even one thing would hold more power to do that than another, more weight? Skirt holds more weight than cooking? Cooking plus shopping plus conversation over action addup to nailpolish? So add sparkle and guess you crossed the line.

      reminds me of sodom and gomorrah. Find me 50 good people I’ll save the town. How about 40? Well ok, can’t kill off all those good folks if you fall short of 50 by one or two. Then how bout 30? Well, you’ve got a point there, too etc etc.

  2. Firefly says:

    I hope, when I find another parent for my future kids, that they will be as awesome as your husband.

  3. I’m sure you’ve seen this story already, but this appeared in the Huffington Post recently and instantly made me think of Raising my Rainbow:


    As a 24-year-old who hopes to have children someday, I’m thrilled to see American parenting heading in a direction I’ll be proud to be a part of one day!

  4. samatwitch says:

    Did you see this story? It made me think of CJ’s father.

  5. Nicki says:

    That sounds like it was a very detailed dream! Good thing it didn’t turn out to be true… a lot of parents who aren’t as accepting as you are would be lining up to get their kids under anesthesia!

  6. fashionelle says:

    This was beautiful. I started tearing when reading the part where you were explaining your dream. It truly shows the love of a mother is summed up in loving the differences of her child and wanting him/her in no other way.

  7. polyleigh says:

    Will y’all be my parents? 🙂
    My mom doesn’t care that I’m gender queer. Her and my family’s biggest beef with me is that I’m polyamorous. They have called me a disgrace and an embarassment and that I shame my family. Oh, and I’m going to hell. I wish there were more people like you and your husband in the world- open and loving and accepting.

    It’s so amazing when I get to see that someone loves someone not in spite of their differences, but because of their differences. You and your family are an inspiration to me and I’m sure a great many more.

    Much love and many blessings

  8. AMM says:

    This reminds me of how I feel about my older son, who is now 22.

    He has (well, is diagnosed with) Asperger Syndrome.

    It was an enormous amount of work and a huge PITA when he was growing up, partly the dealing with him, and partly the dealing with a world that preferred to think of him as a bad boy and us as bad parents rather than accept that he was different.

    But I would _not_ have ever wanted to “cure” him of it. It’s not like a club foot or a heart murmur. It is who he is, and if they had come up with something that would have turned him into a “normal” kid, I would have felt like they had murdered him and put some other poor kid in his place. He wasn’t what I had imagined having when I “made” him 🙂 :-). But I feel like in a way he was given to me and not somebody else because I was, due to my own family background and life experiences, much better equipped to understand him and accept him than most of the parents I have known.

    Not that I don’t wish he would do some things differently. Like take a shower every day, instead of only after I’ve nagged him for 3 days. Or not leave string cheese wrappers on the floor. Stuff like that.

  9. “Normal” is subjective, but in this case, you ARE both really normal parent which all kids ever dreamed to has parents like you, whether they’re gender conforming or not.

  10. Emma says:

    OMG I was tearing up during this post CJ is so lucky to have two parents who love him to the end of the earth and back, just the way he is.

  11. It sounds like he has the perfect parents for him! Way to go you two!!!

  12. Sofia~ says:

    Thank goodness it was just a dream.

  13. What a powerful dream! Your family is so special, loving, and supportive of each other. Thank you for sharing your lives with us!

  14. What a powerful dream! Your whole family is so amazing and supportive of each other. I truly admire ALL of you!!! Thank you for sharing your lives with us. 🙂

  15. This made my day, I wish all parents could be as wonderful and accepting as you two are. “Normal” is subjective, and it was really sweet that CJ’s dad (and you) let CJ define his own normal.

    I hope that the Monster High ghouls are helping keep up CJ’s spirits (get it?!)

    And I’m happy to here CJ is still his Clawsome self!

  16. Mark says:

    lol, chris for short.

  17. Mark says:

    great post. as a psychotherapist who works with dream analysis, I see a deeper level of acceptance of love for his child than, from my viewpoint of reading this blog for so long now, has been vocally expressed before by his father. not that he didn’t feel that inside, just that I didn’t get the feeling that he was to the place to outwardly express it to those outside your family. I believe that shift took place a bit ago and as a result of this scenario made it concrete. will be interesting to see what changes will be forthcoming, if any needed to be. great personal growth here. really outstanding.

  18. I rally have no idea his you cope so well. You are such an inspiration to all parents!

  19. pegges says:

    oh…and I’m glad that everything went well! 🙂

  20. pegges says:

    I have no idea why, but it brought tears to my eyes! weird.

  21. Nichole says:

    This actually made me cry at work, very touching!

  22. Isabelle says:

    Very sweet story! So glad CJ is fine and unchanged!

  23. Aw, I think daddy’s dream, and his reaction, shows his fear of losing CJ as he is, loved by all. Very touching, and thanks for sharing.

  24. Denise says:

    That your husband considered that dream a nightmare just shows how awesome you guys are as parents.

  25. boringyear says:

    Oh man.I know this isn’t the point of your post, but having to fast Monkey is my least favourite part of the GA.

    I’m glad everything went smoothly and CJ woke up his normal adorable self.

  26. 'Angela' (John) says:

    Just to be yourself, and accepted as such, is a joy beyond measure.

    It’s too late in the day for me, for the changes that you are having a hand in bringing about, but it’s helping future generations of children just to be THEMSELVES, instead of having to conform to others expectations. I see that as having a far wider and more important social impact than just to the children.

    Of course there will always have to be sensible constraints, but then ‘sensible’ constraints were never really the problem in the first place.

  27. Giselle says:

    One day when he is quite a bit older, CJ will get to read this post and I think it will make him very happy. He will know it already but it’s always nice to get something confirmed: that his parents love him for being himself and it is very important to them to fiercely love him just the way he is and don’t ever want to see him change.
    That makes me feel so very happy too because it confirms that it really is perfectly okay for anyone to be different, for all of us to be us. Whoever we might be.

  28. Shelly says:

    Love it! I feel the same way about my own little princess boy…whenever he tries to ‘act boy’ to blend in, it strikes me as odd.

  29. Jess says:

    Tears! So beautiful!

  30. Tommy says:

    Well, you now have one complete episode of Season Three of the hit TV series, “Raising My Rainbow”. Time to call your agent and renegotiate for bigger residual checks. Love, love, love this blog!!!

  31. serenityh says:

    Well I am very glad that CJ is still the same person. I am also glad that the surgery was a success. Congrats! I’m glad he has his same personality.

  32. Mark Derby says:

    Reminds one of the maxim, “Be careful what you wish for.” A bit chilling & disturbing. But also touching and beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing it with everyone!

  33. doubleinvert says:

    CJ is fortunate to have persons like you and your husband for parents, and I think you’re fortunate to be raising CJ!


  34. Cdraper says:

    That shows total and complete acceptance… You know that if you dream in another language that you have crossed over into thinking in that language instead of translating in your head. Dad is there… Awesome…

  35. Dawn Conti says:

    You both are the most special people, that a child could have.. You are changing the world, one day at a time, one step at a time..Thank you !!!

  36. Nice piece of writing.

  37. NecroKitten says:

    I hope my comment here doesn’t sound offensive somehow, but I found this post absolutely adorable! I love that you blog about your son and how supportive you are, it makes me smile every single time I read a new update, knowing that there are parents like you guys out there. So, basically I just wanted to say thank you!

  38. You guys are wonderful parents! I wish I had parents like you.

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