The Kid You Get, Not the Kid You Want

I don’t personally know any transgender people, at least I don’t think I do. I’ve interacted with transgender people; Seattle is an open, progressive city and people feel free to be who they are. Macho men wear kilts made of rugged fabric and with camo prints. Lesbian professional basketball players are openly out with their partners/wives. “Family” can mean a lot of things, not just mom and dad and the kids, as any reasonable observer can see at Seattle’s string of summer family-friendly festivals.

I read this piece from The Guardian –Britain’s daily newspaper to which I subscribe to get the “across the pond” view of the world — and found it deeply moving. The reflections are from the mother of a 12 year old child, now a boy, and amply illustrate the advice I often far too blithely give to new parents: you get the kid you get, which might not be the kid you wanted. Your job is to help that kid — the actual one, not the wished-for one — become the best person he or she can be.

The point of the piece is that the acceptance and affirmation of who we are — not who our loved ones or strangers need us to be — is a non-negotiable part of healthy human development.

I was moved to reflect on that in terms of my own life. I was born, seemingly, with a calm and unflappable temperament which leads those around me to assume I’m always fine and can take charge if asked, no matter the chaos around me. I always look fine, even if I say words to the contrary. I was seriously undone by my first visit with Minga to her ambulatory dialysis treatment in the public hospital. Was it the sight of her through the broken window into the dialysis suite, attached to the machine that cleansed her blood outside her body? I’m truly not good with medical things that involve blood and gore. Was it the dilapidated hospital, the heat and the insects that flew in and out of the open windows, the lack of coffee or food along the corridor where we waited for so many hours? Was it the parade of patients taken in before Minga, some also suffering from untreated diabetes and missing multiple limbs like so many warring Black Knights from a Monty Python movie? Who knows.

Without my saying anything — as I was masterfully trying to be as calm and supportive as the rest of Minga’s family who took turns keeping vigil — Lily knew. On the second treatment day, she arranged for Angel to come and drive me and Ana and Miley to a nearby cafeteria for lunch and a break.

Often in my life here when I’ve said, “I’m really not OK,” the people around me have looked at me and said, “Of course you are.” That’s why I treasure the friendships with people who understand my calm demeanor as something hardwired and listen instead for my words.

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