So much of our lives this year was about Hope. Hope’s new clothes. Hope’s new bedroom. Hope’s feelings and thoughts and therapy during her gender transition and after. Don’t get me wrong, this is all big stuff. But I have another child. His name is Will.
Although Will is two years younger, he has incredible patience and empathy in this world. Like me, he wears his heart on his sleeve even though it seems an unlikely attribute upon a first meeting. He is this little man, husky voice and playful spirit. What strikes me most about Will is that his type of love is old school- loyal, courageous, selfless and gentle. This tiny person is an emotional giant. Still, he is four. It’s easy to forget that sometimes since he asks for very little and gives so much.
I struggle with finding balance in life, I guess in almost every respect, but with regards to my children I worry about it the most. Hope’s personality lands her in the spotlight on most occasions so what about Will? Does he get what he needs? Does he know how much he is loved? I lay awake some nights wondering if he secretly longs for center stage. As I drift to sleep then I remind myself to show them the love in my heart and everything will be fine.
“I am yours, you are mine. Mommy loves you porcupine.” I whisper the line from one of our favorite books and the corners of his mouth turn upward as he smirks. His smile lights up a room, this child. His laughter lifts your spirit. Despite his good nature, he can be mischevious in a delightful curious-bordering-naughty way and you have to laugh. From the very beginning my mom said, “Will is his own man.” And that he is. He knows what he wants and how he feels. Simple as that.
Ever since he was a small child he’s been content with less. Typical of a second child, he is flexible and adjusts to change with a certain casualness that astounds me. For a time when he was small, I worked out of the home. He took it in stride. We’ve moved several times and he sees the good in what we have, not what we lost. How lucky I am that he goes with the flow, right? When I sit back and think of how understanding he has been with Hope’s transition my tears start to fall effortlessly. My heart aches.
When Hope transitioned Will lost his brother, the person who he counted on to “show him the ropes” about growing up as a boy. It was easy to look to his big brother for all the answers about what to do and how to do it. Within the span of one day that brother vanished and he was left with a sister. Where did that history go? This person looked the same, but almost everything about them was different. New name. New appearance. New sibling. Looking back I realize that I could have done more to prepare Will for the transition. I could have spent more time talking about what it means to have a sister. That it’s not so different from a brother if you think about it. But the names are all changed. Our language changes. It’s hard to know what to expect. There is a whole world of coulda-woulda-shoulda, but it is all hindsight.
I’ll always remember him sitting in therapy, reticent to speak. After a few moments he told us he missed his brother. Hope leaned in close and said “I am the same person Will.” She told him she loved him while she stared straight into his eyes. That gesture was all it took for Will to make his own transition of thought. From that moment on he never made a mistake about Hope’s new name, gender or pronoun. Never. I think if he wasn’t allowed to talk about his feelings back then he would have been stuck in that space of loss, unable to quite put his finger on what to do to make it better.
Some people say it’s easier because Will is so young he won’t remember his brother, but I hope that isn’t true. Rather than wish for something to be lost forever I hope that there is a greater understanding of where we all are on this journey. We aren’t hiding here. Nothing has to be perfect.
I’m sitting here writing while watching them play together beside the Christmas tree and I am inspired by their capacity to love. I am motivated by their generosity and their grace. And I am forever blessed with my two angels who bring the harmony that was always missing in my life.