Does your Child Have a Voice?

I am one of five children in my family. I grew up with four older brothers, a dad who encouraged competition, and a mom who didn’t really talk much. They loved us. My parents wanted the best for us. They wanted us to have respect. I can’t remember ever learning how to show respect. We weren’t encouraged to share our emotions or feelings. We were taught to speak when spoken to. We got hit when we didn’t comply. We fought like normal siblings do. I’m sure I probably got into my brothers’ stuff and got in trouble. I can’t remember any specific incident, but I was told by my mom that I did. They wanted us to do well in school. Grade wise I was probably the worst but I don’t ever remember getting reprimanded for not doing homework or getting a “D” in high school. As I look back on my childhood I didn’t have a voice. There was a lot of teasing in my family. Today one might call it bullying. Siblings do that right? It’s normal right? In today’s day and age I’m not so sure it is ok. Role models start at home. Your child’s first role model is you and their siblings if they have any.
Fast forward into my late 20s and my husband and I bring our first and only child into this world. At one point or another we’ve probably all said aloud or in our head that we aren’t going raise our children like our parents raised us. We are going to be different with our own children. I was a pre-k teacher for eight years before Kam was born. I was teaching children to have a voice. I was modeling this behavior that was never modeled for me. I was teaching children to talk to each other, share feelings and emotions. I learned how to do this while teaching them. We can all say that “if we knew then, what we know now” we would not have had the process of learning and growing. Getting to the destination has to be a process. We don’t just get in the car and then boom we are at our destination. We have to drive there. I wish my process started much earlier in life. But it didn’t. Having this feeling and then having a baby, I knew I wanted our child to have a voice. My husband and I don’t always agree. We did, however, agree on how we wanted to raise our child. Maybe that’s why we are so accepting to our son being transgender. I don’t know. I am always looking for an answer or a reason as to why some things in life happen the way they do. I (and maybe you) have to accept sometimes there just isn’t one.

Currently I am back in the public school system doing what I love, teaching pre-k. I love that I get to help shape these little humans. They are so eager to learn. I love that the children I am teaching and modeling for are mere preschoolers, they are like sponges. I am hoping to teach them acceptance, love, and kindness. That it’s ok to be different and unique. Every person has something to offer each other and this world as a whole. We have always wanted that for our child.
You never know what a child might be hearing when an adult is talking. Adults don’t always censor themselves. Body language and facial expressions say much more than words. For example, my dad’s facial expressions looked like he was always angry. He was strict and wasn’t really open to the things surrounding him. I’m not even sure how many times he said he loved me. Again something we didn’t want for Kam. I would tell Kam “if Papa ever makes you feel sad or hurts your feelings, tell him.” Not only is it good for your child to share their emotions, it’s good for the adult to learn to adjust the way they talk to a child. I am not trying to preach. I am sharing MY thoughts along with what I wanted for MY child. I think It’s great when a child feels comfortable to express themselves to each other and adults, especially the ones closest to them. I would have Kam say something like, “that hurt my feelings,” or, “I don’t like that.” This type of talk also encourages more conversation. When Kam would say that, my dad didn’t know how to respond to Kam. The two of them had a pretty good relationship. My dad didn’t really talk to Kam the way he spoke with his other grandchildren. The other grandchildren didn’t really express their feelings to him directly.
In this day and age our children need a voice more than ever for many reasons. They need to be heard by their friends and the adults in their lives. As a teacher of any grade, it’s great if a student can express whatever they might need or be feeling. As Kam was growing he didn’t understand why he felt the way he did. He would have panic attacks. I remember one specifically. We were at a wedding and we were sitting at dinner. He began breathing hard and was asking me to take him for a walk. So we left the table and went outside. I was annoyed. I remember feeling like what the heck is going on? I asked him what the heck is going on with you? Why are you behaving like this? He only responded that he was uncomfortable around a large group of people. He was uncomfortable in what he was wearing (which was a dress). This was the time I started to put things together and I could see the physical anxiety in him. From then on, I could see that he would set himself away from large groups. He didn’t even like trick or treating because there were too many kids running around.
So let me talk a little bit about my child as he is today. He is an emotional young adult. As he is growing into Kam and learning who he is, he is becoming more stable each day. He is growing into this handsome young man. I’m not just saying that because I’m his mom. I see him blossoming as a participating citizen in this crazy world and advocating for himself and others like him. In my thoughts, I feel like his life won’t be easy. I know I could be wrong. I hope I’m wrong. I fear he won’t find that special someone. Questions I ask myself all the time, will he get married, be a father, have equal opportunities? I’ve even gone as far as wondering if he will die alone. That’s morbid. But as a mom with an only child I’ve always had that thought. I don’t believe he will but I do wonder. It’s a horrible feeling. No parent wants their child left out or to feel left out. I guess I won’t know because I’ll be dead. So I shouldn’t think about it.
This blog idea came from a night out with some friends. We began talking about transgender people they know. Some of my friends work in school settings as well. I love hearing about how the schools are dealing with this topic as it becomes more prevalent. My friends have also shared stories about how parents are reacting to their child being trans. I’m sad to say that from what I have heard these parents are not particularly supportive. I can’t say it’s easy, because it isn’t. It’s a MAJOR learning curve for all involved. Some of the stories I’ve heard or read about just kill me inside.
I really feel that if parents and adults can teach children to love everyone as they are, this world would be a better place where all are accepted. That sounds so nice to me. “Normal” is different for everyone!

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