Our Brutally Honest Christmas Letter [2018]

11 lines of text is all I had on our family Christmas card this year.  11 lines cannot adequately provide you with enough information that is our family- our wild, incredible, ordinary, but not-so-ordinary family.  11 lines shared some of our good things, but I assure you 2018 was the hardest, most complicated, and heaviest year I’ve had.  We changed in big, enormous ways, we’ve loved and lost, we’ve started over.

Eleanor

Five is tough.  Five is adventurous and exciting, but also scary and new.  Five is starting kindergarten, making new friends, and hitting your teacher.  Wait…what? Yep.  Only Eleanor (exhale heavy sigh).

Did I ever tell you that Eleanor was the first person to acknowledge Luca as a boy?  Out of her teeny, tiny, toddler mouth came, “He’s my brother,” and not just once- always.  I’ll forever wonder how kids just know these things.  I’ll forever be afraid that she’ll be lost in our shuffle, our disarray, and following behind Luca.  Because sometimes being ‘normal,’ doesn’t get you what you need.  Sometimes being normal leaves you out.

She’s crazy smart, by the way.  She gets pulled out for advanced reading because she was too bored in the classroom.  She’s seeing the school social worker {which launched immediately following the slight teacher abuse}.  With everything that’s changed in her teeny life, I’m glad she will be getting some tools to help her navigate through her muck.

We share the same soul.  Maybe it’s because I understand all too well what it’s like to feel all the feels and feel them with such enormity.  We can’t hide its magnitude and we wear it like armor.  It’s big and real and it sucks to carry around.  But it’s in this connection that makes me understand myself a little better.  Someone who will finally and fully understand me.  I’m taking that as a gift.

She never chose to be Luca’s sister.  But I’m glad she came second.  I’ll watch her compassion and empathy continue to flourish in the years, reminding her to use her passion, independence, and strength for good- to use it for the underdog and for those who need it most.  She has a magical fight in her.  I can’t wait to see what 2019 will give her.

Eleanor’s 2018 highlights: all the drawing, painting, and coloring a five-year-old can do. Starting kindergarten and riding a school bus.  Eating jelly from the jar with a fork at 6am.  Cutting off 9 inches of hair because it was itchy.  

Luca

It’s impossible to compare him to anyone else in the world… so we don’t.  After accepting my teaching position and learning we’d be moving, we knew that God aligned our stars to make this move about Luca; to make it be about changing our world, not his.  To finally give him the freedom to live as who he was always meant to be, not by expecting him to fit in the pocket-sized, misery box the world made for him.  So on June 8, we called him Luca.  We gave him validity.  And he finally broke open through his box of shame and was released back into the world with freedom- as his whole self, not the empty shell he thought he’d have to live in for eternity.

I cried for three days.  Some people told me to wait, some supported and trusted us through it all.  We lost a few along the way.  I never wanted it to be this hard, but you’d have to have a barren soul to not see how living his truth has vigorously changed his life.  Strangers and distant friends/relatives have shouted from the rooftops at the obvious change in his demeanor merely by a single photograph.  It’s definite.

We did the right thing.

He’s still the same kid, though.  Grumpy, smart, compassionate, affectionate, hilarious, and charming.  He gives us the strength to live ferociously and fight the good fight.  He reminds us that our Good Father is right, loving, and true.  He gives us life.

Luca’s 2018 highlights: Starting 2nd grade and riding a school bus!  Golden birthday at Legoland FL.  Riding a two-wheel bike.  Super smart mathematician. 

Devin

Devin remains the most boring of the family.  And by that I mean he’s the lowest maintenance.  He doesn’t require much, but he consistently holds us together.  He’s everything we need.  He’s absolutely essential.

In September, he started a job at ePromos, which he enjoys mostly because he typically doesn’t have to talk to people.  He uses a lot of acronyms and I believe it’s very fancy work.  He has a computer and gets vending machine coupons so he can endlessly enjoy Twizzler Nibs and Twix.  What a life!  Sometimes I even let him watch his beloved Vikings so he can yell at all the people who can’t hear him.

He’s everything I’ve ever needed.  Luca and Eleanor won the jackpot.  I know he’s the real deal because he changes my car clock after daylight savings and charges my phone when I fall asleep.

Devin’s 2018 highlights: “I got a new job. New house,” says Devin.  But that’s boring so I’ll give you a quick run down: he got a beater car from a dealership (complete with big, red bow!), his little sister got engaged (wedding next August), and thoroughly enjoys his daily twenty minutes to himself after the three of us head to school.  

Mama Bear

I didn’t do well this year.  I wasn’t well this year.  I made a lot of mistakes that didn’t need to be made.  I was hurt and defeated.  I got a little lost.  I had to leave to find myself again.  And I hope that 2019 brings her back.  She’s broken, but she tries.  She’s regaining her steps and she (finally, hopefully) won’t crumble.

I teach with real gravity.  I try and make each day count.  I still haven’t a clue what I’m doing and I make it up as each day goes.  But I look at those kids in the eyes and I don’t, won’t ever, give up on them.

Leaving a comfy job and a best friend hurt like hell.  For 12 years I tried to find people to fill our holes, but it was now that we needed our people to overflow us.  Loving a job that didn’t always love you back and living in a house that was 132 miles away from your mom just wasn’t enough for me anymore.

But now I know it was all in the cards.  2018 took me and shook me, but 2019 will uncover and recover.  We don’t have to lose ourselves by becoming mothers.  It gives us identity and intensity.  We wear ‘mother’ like a badge of honor, but we don’t have to hide in it.  Being a mom is transforming; it means being full of dreams.  It’s creative and rowdy.  But it’s not all.  It doesn’t have to be all of you.  You don’t have to dissolve.  You can still be vivid.

Mandy’s 2018 highlights: taking my two best friends to Disney, learning IEP language and feeling legit by, for the first time ever, holding my own insurance. 

To sum it up…

Life is really shitty sometimes.  It’s not always beautiful.  We’ve had a bunch of those moments this year.  But sometimes I think we’ve figured this out.  Maybe not everything, but we’ve figured out that even when life gets really shitty, we make it work.  We learn and grow and push ourselves.  It’s about what we do in our lives during the shitty parts that make us who we are.  We are responsible for our own happiness.  We are responsible for our actions, how we treat other people, and how much love we give.  We trust and we push the limits. We do the best we can.  And I think that’s pretty damn good.

May God bless you and those you love this Christmas. Have a happy, healthy and loving new year.

xoxoRUBINKS_18

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Stagger Our Breathing

You rip off the tape
And I’ll let her scream.
We can hold her hand
As she begins to dream.
 
She doesn’t have to say
Where she was
What she wore
What she drank
Or speak her war.
 
Fight for her bravery
She can’t march alone.
We believe survivors
Hear them in our bones.
 
Listen to her whisper.
Let her shout.
Let her scream.
Let her fight.
Boil the bloodstreams.
 
Stagger our breathing.
I’ll sing while she breathes.
We’ll survive together
Suffocating thieves.
 
Begin to believe her.
Give her hope
Give her space
Give her love.
She is our face.
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I Miss the Y

It was Patterns Day at my school.  So I felt slightly disheveled when I showed up at the kids’ after school care wearing Disney Aztec leggings, a floral top, and dissimilar multi-colored cheetah print scarf.  I hastily shuffled down the hall to claim my two smalls before anyone noticed that I was dressed like a lunatic.

Like a slap in the face, a kick in the butt.  Like a tidal wave crashing over me and crushing my lungs.  On a locker was marked “Lucy R.”

Naturally, the Mama Bear raged out, ready to pounce on the person who made the mistake, the one who possibly outed my son to everyone.  I felt my stomach drop and my cheeks redden.  It was probably one full minute of panic, but in the moment it seemed like forever.

Don’t worry… about six lockers down in blue and purple paper marked “Eleanor and Luca R”.

But the Lucy wasn’t mine.  That Lucy doesn’t belong to me.  In fact, my Lucy only gets to remain a memory.

It’s the little things that I find have the deepest scars.  While I’ve been completely focused on surviving this uprooted, uncomfortable, and unprepared part of our life, there are days when I completely forget what we were.  And how our family got here.  I forget this is our story.

If you’d asked me six months go why Devin and I decided to eradicate our entire southern Minnesota existence, we would have said things like: we want to be closer to family, I’m hoping to get back into/start teaching, blah blah blah.  It sounded and, more importantly, felt real at the time.

Life didn’t give us an easy choice.  Leaving was hard.  His happiness is worth it.  He got a new beginning. We do no correcting.  No explaining.  He’s just a little boy who’s excited about his upcoming 8th birthday.  He loves Legos.  He loves screen time.  He’s normal- we’re normal.* (*Kind of.)

Life doesn’t give us easy choices.  Like ever.  I didn’t choose who my children were, are, or who they will become.  I do, however, get to choose how to love, support, and celebrate them.  And day after day, I DO choose it.  Or rather, WE ALL do.  Our tribe.  The ones who continue to love, support, and celebrate our family.

It’s the little things I forgot to mourn.  When I find myself staring at a locker bank, dressed like a maniac, staring at the LUCY R. tag that doesn’t belong to me.  I forgot to mourn the Y.  I miss the Y.  I’ve been too busy that I forget to give us the grace we deserve.  Surviving is now.  We’ll thrive later.

One day at a time.

xoxo

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Hello World, Meet Our Son

Hello world, meet Luca.  He’s our seven-year-old son.  He loves ice cream and pickles.  He loves swimming and soccer.  He has short, light-brown hair and blue eyes.  He is afraid of the dark and he hates being alone.  He excels in school and makes friends easily.  He has autism.  Oh, he also happens to be transgender.

For over three years, we described him as having Gender Dysphoria, a trait in which one feels their anatomy does not reflect their true gender.  Gender dysphoria oftentimes is so intense that it interferes with daily life.  Gender Dysphoria is not a mental illness.  The intensity heightened during his first grade year and it became progressively harder to deny that he was, in fact, a boy.

It started before three.  He was late to speak, presumably due to his autism.  And once his speech came, he never referred to himself as a girl.  Several times I had age-appropriate anatomy conversations with him.  It didn’t matter.  It was never a question.  It was never, “Can I be a boy?”  It was always a statement, always a declaration of what he is.  Always.

This journey has not been easy.  His transition is not his alone, it’s a transition that involves his family, friends, and community.  Even though we support Luca a thousand percent, it doesn’t eliminate the pain.  At least for now, the grief remains.  Because for 7-and-a-half years, we had Lucy.  We dreamed of the things Lucy would do and who Lucy would be.  But the truth is he has his whole life to be Luc.  We have a healthy child, and now he’s confident and happy.  We know our pain will subside and the transition will become easier, but it’s still difficult.  This is, by far, the hardest thing I’ve ever dealt with.

But as his mother, this is what I know:

  • He is a human.  A human that should never have to fear his safety, his acceptance, or his rights.
  • The decision to socially transition to male was not dirty, inappropriate, or sexual- in any way.
  • I never want him to believe that he doesn’t belong here.  I never want him to underestimate his ability to be whatever he wants to be. I want him to be validated.  I want him to be celebrated for who he is and who he will be.
  • Abuse, persuasion, vaccines, his mental health, or the devil himself did not make him transgender.  He was absolutely, unequivocally designed just like you and I.

I trust you understand love and how you can deeply love your child through things that are confusing, hurtful, and challenging.  That’s all we are doing.  We are loving him.  And by loving him, we are supporting and celebrating him.

Let me go on record to say that we don’t have to tell you any of this.  We choose to be heard.  We boldly tell our story- the insignificant, the marvelous, and the dreadful.  We share our story for those who can’t.  We share our story so transgender people are visible.  To show you that they have a face, they have a voice.  Trans people are all of us.  Humans who deserve a place in this world.

I want you to know that it’s okay to ask questions.  It’s okay to not understand it.  But more than anything, I want you to know that we are so hopeful that you’ll support our decision, and our family, with your whole hearts.  We need more people in our tribe.

He’s just a boy.  He’s not the scary beast you shield your children from in public restrooms.  He’s our son.  And we are proud of him.

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xoxo

 

 

I Never Wanted This

Motherhood is a constant one step forward, two steps back.  It’s figuring out who you are and navigating life with tiny people who are also doing lots of figuring and navigating.  Ultimately, we’re just a bunch of people without a map, without a guide book, with only each other to lean on.

1 year and 11 months ago, I posted a blog titled, “A Boy Named Lucy.”  I had no idea how sharing my words would change our lives, but I knew if I wasn’t honest about who Lucy is, who Lucy chooses to be, and who Lucy has a right to be, I wouldn’t be a good mom.  Period.

In the beginning, it was easy.  I think most people believed we were in denial.  I think most people were afraid to talk about it because they didn’t understand or didn’t feel comfortable.  I want you to know that I get it.  I get that it’s scary to talk about.  I get that it makes you feel uncomfortable.  But I also don’t particularly care about your feelings.

When I wrote the ScaryMommy article, they told me not to read the comments.  And for the most part, I complied.  I asked my friends to send me some of the positive, encouraging comments.  I thought after putting our story out there, I deserved a little bit of reassurance.  To tell you the truth… there weren’t all that many.  Aside from the few beautiful comments were three common criticisms.

She’s so young.  She has no idea what being a boy or girl even means.  Really? To be honest, I believe we over-exaggerate gender norms to our children.  So much that at 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7 years old, they’re typically very confident in their gender.  This is clearly an example of an atypical child who is uncomfortable with her birth gender. 

If this mother was truly supportive, she would refer to her child as ‘him/her’ and use the child’s preferred name.  She’s never asked me to call her anything else.  I am simply following her lead.

Let kids be kids.  Girls can play with boy toys and boys can wear tutus.  Yep, that’s actually not my point though.  This isn’t a girl who’s a ‘tomboy’.  This is a child that has both a neurodiverse and gender diverse brain.  I’ve always let my children dress as they wanted and play with both gender neutral or gender specific toys, yet here I am… 

The worst part is that nearly two years later nothing has much changed.  People still feel this way, still have these criticisms.

I’m finding hope.  Sometimes I have to look for it through pain and scars and through cracks and holes to genuinely find a minuscule ounce of peace.  I’m finding it feels okay in the middle.  I don’t know if Lucy will ever transition.  I don’t know if Lucy will ever medically transition.  I don’t know if Lucy will ask me if she can change her name.  I’m finding good people, I’m finding my tribe.  People who aren’t afraid to ask questions or ask how they can help.

I never wanted this pain for her- or us.  I never wanted this.

Ultimately, I believe these wounds are wickedly more painful for me than her (at this point in her life).  At these beginning stages of bullying, I have my sword and shield ready, but it feels frightening knowing that it’s only going to get worse.  It’s only going to get more confusing.  It’s only going to get more complicated, more unappreciated, more hateful.  And that’s why I never wanted this.

I want her to be happy.  I don’t care if she’s a boy or a girl or a chimpanzee.  She’s a really cool kid.  She wants to be a pet groomer when she grows up (or a fixer, but one that can ‘fix everything like lights and cars and wood and stuff’).  She loves ice cream.  She loves her sister, her dogs, and her parents (in that order).  She’s hilarious, and kind, and wildly intelligent.

So, no.  I didn’t want this.  But if this is what it takes for my child to find happiness, then it’s a journey we will take together.  She’s so deserving.  If I have to hold myself together and cry later, I’ll do it.  If I have to console her when kids are being mean, I’ll do it.  If I have to meet with schools and clubs and the President, I’ll do it.  If I gotta knock a bitch out, I’ll do it.  (Omg, chill.  Violence is not the answer).

I just really love my kid.  And I’m reeeeallly trying to figure this out.

xoxo

I also wanted to share this awesome fact that I learned at the Autism conference.
The correlation between GENDER DIVERSE AND NEURO DIVERSE people is upwards of some studies showing of 23%!! That’s insane. I am so excited for more research, more therapy, and adequate help in this journey.

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And Then There’s Nora…

When a local mama shared her son’s diagnosis with me, I jumped at the chance to meet up with her to share war- and warrior- stories about our special needs babes.

“Sometimes I get the feeling that people just don’t like him,” she said.

“Huh.  Yeah, I totally get that, but not with Lucy.  I actually feel that way with Nora.”  And it’s true.  I do feel that way.

The nice thing about Lucy is that nearly everyone she’s surrounded with understands the nature of her disability.  They are more prone to be forgiving with Lucy because they can recognize her behaviors which attributes to her Autism.  When Lucy’s beginning to get agitated or angry, they generally applaud her for simple things.  And by all means, yes!  Those are great accomplishments- continuing to work through hard tasks such as grocery shopping is exceptional!  We constantly celebrate her successes and growth- even when its baby steps.

And then there’s Nora.

People are noticeably less forgiving with Nora- and by all means I understand it.  It still doesn’t make it fair.  And unfortunately for her, life will fall like that.

It’s important to me to share my family’s stories with you because, like yours, my family is entirely unique.  I understand what it’s like as an outsider looking in and I can imagine people wondering, “What would it be like to have a child with both autism and gender dysphoria?”

It’s important to me to share my family’s stories with you because I believe when you are able to put a FACE and a NAME to our differences, people are SO.MUCH.MORE. prone to open their hearts and LISTEN.

So, at least that’s what I hope to be doing, pouring out all of my honesty and sharing my heart- as a voice of equality, change, acceptance and awareness.

I can write a million entries about Lucy and barely mention her sister’s name.  Not because Nora is unimportant or insignificant, but because she’s totally normal.

Well, as normal as Nora can be.

She didn’t ask to be born into our family, and certainly not as Lucy’s little sister.  She didn’t ask to have a sister with special needs.  She didn’t ask to follow her lead.

Like I said…. I can write a million stories about Lucy and barely mention Eleanor’s name, but it would be nearly impossible to write about Eleanor without mentioning Lucy.

You see… it’s so much of Lucy that makes Eleanor unique… her greatest characteristics are pronounced through the enormous love she has for her sister.

She is truly compassionate and empathetic.  She’s profoundly selfless for a four-year-old.  She’s fiercely independent and spirited.  She’s fair.  She’s everything you’d want in a sister; battles you like hell, but battles and conquers the world FOR you.  Without fail she’s on Lucy’s team, even when she’s the one in distress.

These are beautiful traits that I so admire in my sweet Eleanor and can often be unnoticeable underneath all of that sass.  (So unnoticeable that I even have to remind myself.)

Because she’s also really loud and obnoxious; wild, untamed and feral.  She goes a hundred miles an hour to Lucy’s one.  She’s greedy and demanding, high maintenance and particular.  She’s the “I’d rather have five Lucys over one Eleanor,” because she’s hard.

Believe me when I tell you it’s hard to parent someone with such a solid personality.  Someone who feels all the feels- the high highs and low lows.  Especially when SHE’S.JUST.LIKE.YOU.

And yes, I do feel like oftentimes people don’t ‘like’ Nora.  And I also understand she’s a LOT.  A LOT of everything.  But it’s impossible for me to forget that she’s also A LOT of wonderful, packed with love and energy and excitement for life.

This girl is going to change the world.  She is going to share her love of life in a BIG way.  She’s going to give so much to the world with her compassion and true empathy towards people.  And I think together they are going to teach the world about truly embracing our differences and loving one another.

This girl is going to change the world.  And I get to be her mother.

 

xoxo

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You Have No Idea

A simple question I had on a local FB Mama page made me feel all the feels today.

“Wondering if any local mamas have kids with gender dysphoria.”

Seems to me that if you were a local mama that had a child with gender dysphoria you’d be thrilled to find another: Yes! Me! I will message you!  {Or so I thought I would find…. turns out I was wrong.}

Seems to me if you were a local mama and you were not parenting a child with gender dysphoria you’d scroll on by- maybe send a cheesy heart emoji or write “praying for you,” Even though I’m confident your prayers are, ‘Thank God that’s not me’).

Seems to me like a local Mama page would be filled with all kinds of mamas who are hoping to reassure others and strengthen our sisterhood with positive notes and love.

It would have been easy to simply scroll on by, like the other 99% of facebook feed you pass daily.  But instead you decided to be “encouraging,” by being ignorant, uneducated, and oblivious.

“I know this will not be very PC to say, but I would caution against labeling this.  I was a tomboy for my whole life- literally until I graduated from high school.  If I had been labeled gender dysphoric, that could have been very confusing for me.  I would recommend that you trust the process (and the Creator) and encourage your child that likes/preferences don’t change your biology….”

Hey there, lady!  Thank you for your extremely unwelcome and distasteful advice.

Do I think her words came out of hate? No. But I also think she has ZERO idea of what she’s talking about.  I think she has assumptions of what gender dysphoria is (or isn’t), and questions its validity.

Thanks to my sister and the exchange of some profanity, I was able to find some words after she reminded me to keep breathing.

“A tomboy is not someone with gender dysphoria. It’s comparing apples to corn dogs. It is not a social preference in a neurotypical brain. She has an actual cognitive and neural difference in her atypical brain. I appreciate your very specific experience, but this is not our circumstance.
Finding a community of like parents is important with children having any diagnosis, which is what my post was intended for.”

She went on to apologize, saying she didn’t mean to be offensive, but rather encouraging.  Though it’s still SUPER UNCLEAR TO ME  how your totally unrelated circumstance could be encouraging…

So I had all the feels.  Maybe a morsel of rage.  Some sadness and annoyance.  But more than anything I feel really frustrated.

I get it- I really do.  It’s a confusing and complicated topic.  But have you ever realized that maybe it’s confusing and complicated because you’ve never experienced this before?  Maybe it’s confusing and complicated because you have inaccurate assumptions.

I get that it can be political, that it can be a topic of religious beliefs.  I get that it can make you feel uncomfortable because you’re unsure which pronouns to use or you’re afraid of saying the wrong thing.

This is our life.  We live this every single day and, I’ll be honest, 90% of the time this is completely a non-issue.  Because Lucy is our child, because we love her with every fiber of our being, because we have no interest in changing who she is and who she will become.  I feel so blessed to live in a world where she’s allowed to be who she is, even though our road will be tough.

I didn’t choose this for my child.  I never hoped this is something we’d experience as parents.  But she’s certainly not ‘just a tomboy.’

We are surrounded by loving and accepting family and friends who love Lucy for who she is, even when it’s complicated.  We are beyond grateful for the love they give her- and us- by going with the flow.  Because, honestly, I don’t know WHAT THE HELL I am doing.  We are taking this day by day, never being sure of anything but our B-O-U-N-D-L-E-S-S LOVE for her.

So thanks, but no thanks, lady.  I’m just gonna keep lovin’ my kid and mom on.

 

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