A couple nights ago, I said to my daughter Leigh (age 6) “Hey, I noticed that you called me ‘Aba’ a lot when we were at J & C’s house last weekend, that felt really nice.”
She responded, “Well, yeah, it’s just easier there since they understand so it’s just, I don’t know, it’s easier.” (I’ll also note that J & C have a 6 y.o., a great friend of our daughter’s, who is pretty consistent on calling me by my new name).
That reminded Gail that we were going to let her know that on our trip to visit family, most people will call me by my old name, and by “she” but that she should call me “Mama” or “Aba” (Hebrew for Dad, a nice complement to A’s longstanding moniker of “Ima,” the kids do a mix right now depending on context, comfort, and company), whichever she wanted.
This then triggered a whole cascade of interesting conversations that I’ll excerpt here and let them stand on their own:
Leigh: “Right now I call you ‘Mama’ or ‘Aba’ or ‘Dad.’ I think when it gets more inside, then I’ll just call you ‘Aba’ or ‘Dad.’ And after a while, once it’s even more inside, then I’ll just call you one of them. I wonder which one? I think it will be ‘Aba.’
Me: “Well, do you think it is inside at all now, or not yet?”
Leigh: “I don’t think so. Actually, no, it is starting to be inside. Actually, I’m just going to call you ‘Aba’ for the rest of the night.” (which she then did with great enthusiasm)
Leigh: “You know, I can help you out. I’m really good at figuring out good clothes and hair and I can help you look more like a man.”
Me: “Really? What do you think I should wear?”
Leigh: “I’ll help you choose your clothes in the morning. But you should definitely do your hair like this.” (she then comes over and massages my recently-trimmed hair into something of a faux-mohawk and instructs me to grow the front longer, it appears she wants me to look like Justin Bieber)
Leigh: “Have you decided if you are going to change your body yet?”
Me: (after a meaningful glance to A to confirm) “I think probably yes.”
Leigh: “Are you going to right now?”
Me: “No, it’s going to be a while. It’s not something I can do right away and it takes a long time.”
Leigh: “Oh, so are you going to do it like when I’m like a teenager?”
Me: “No, I think sooner than that.”
Leigh: “Like maybe when I’m seven or eight?”
Me: “Yeah, probably more like that.”
Leigh: “I think you should talk to J. Because he knows all about changing his body since he’s done it and he’s your friend. And if you talk to him, then maybe you won’t feel scared about it because he can tell you all about it.”
Leigh: “It sure is a lot of work to have to change. I think that would be a hard thing to do. I’m sure glad I was born with a girl body. Because if I felt like how I do inside, but I was born with a boy body, I think I would want to change.”
Me: “How do you feel inside?”
Leigh: “Well, I know that boys can like sparkly things and wear dresses if they want, but I LOVE sparkly things and dresses SO MUCH. And girls can have more of those things easier.”
Where in the world did we get this kid? I swear, I think she gets this even better than I do, certainly better than most grown-ups. It has been hard to see her discomfort so openly in some of our conversations, I just have to keep reminding myself that it is her openness that is going to get her through. She is reaching out to us, both me and Gail, and to her friends (we’ve eavesdropped some delightful conversations between her and J’s kid), and she’s really figuring this out. I still struggle with whether I am asking too much of my kids, but if there were ever a kid who could totally rock this, it is Leigh.