Category Archives: parenting

Parenting The Popular Crowd

It began in Kindergarten. 

Raising my three children into adulthood, I can trace the threads of the social hierarchy back to the earliest days of elementary school. At age 5, some kids mocked others, refused to play with them — and The Cool Crowd was born. Standing in a pack of parents, watching the playground from the sidelines, waiting for the opening bell, I was always struck by the way the children’s behavior was reflected in the parents. A clear social hierarchy existed among the moms and dads and unsurprisingly, the kid and adult hierarchies often mirrored each other. 

I remember a group of children loudly reliving a birthday party, making sure those who weren’t invited heard every enviable detail. One girl who was excluded began to cry. I waited for parents to step in, which they did, but not in the way I hoped. Instead, a posse of adults launched into a discussion of the same party, putting on a show for the excluded parents. As a mom with kids in different grades from the grand event, I watched the drama unfold from an emotional distance. Still, I was appalled. The cool crowd was alive and well, rejecting and mean, spanning generations.

An elevated seat on the social food chain makes people of all ages feel safer, stronger, less vulnerable. When rising up is based on pushing others down, the resulting sense of security rarely lasts. The shot of power is temporary, the vulnerability resurfaces, and the need surges to find a target again and again. 

Parenting the popular crowd was a challenge, no matter where my kids landed on the hierarchy. With parents endorsing Top-Of-The-Food-Chain behavior, The Cool Crowd was clearly here to stay. My job was to help my kids feel steady, to behave with decency, whether or not they were tagged as “cool” or “uncool.” Sometimes my task felt effortless; other times, it felt impossible. 

I carried my prototype of popular from personal experience. Nope — I wasn’t Cool-Crowd-Material (much too nerdy), but I met my role model for cool in high school, taking a ceramics class to fulfill an art requirement. The students were randomly assigned to tables of six, and I found myself seated with one of the school’s most popular girls. She was so beautiful that I could barely tear my eyes away from her to work with the clay. On the first day of class, she looked around our uncool table, and didn’t balk for an instant. She was kind, inclusive and she proved that being popular does not necessarily entail being mean. In a run-down classroom, bottom-of-the-line equipment, age 16 — she showed me that using popularity as an excuse to hurt others is just that: an excuse. There’s nothing wrong with being well-liked and respected, and there’s nothing wrong with being cool or popular. There’s everything wrong with using social status as a weapon. 

I’m sure that girl doesn’t remember me. I was the quiet one at our table. I watched, listened, barely spoke. I finished my art requirement, and barely gave the class a thought…unless I was thinking about her. She showed me the definition of popular that, decades later, I handed to my children.

___

Amy Kaufman Burk is a therapist-turned-author. Her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, was written in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school. The story follows Caroline Black through tenth grade, with her circle of friends, as her new high school opens her world. Tightwire, Amy’s second novel, continues to follow Caroline, this time as a rookie psych intern treating her first patient — a stormy, brilliant, troubled young man who ran away from the circus to find himself. Amy’s blog includes posts about parenting, gender equality, LGBTIQ+ ally support and racial equality. Amy collaborates with educators who include her books and essays in their classrooms.

Amy’s Author Page On Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

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Filed under parenthood, parenting, The Cool Crowd, The Popular Crowd, Uncategorized

Raising Gender Equality

When my daughter was in second grade, the girls in her class became fascinated by the television show America’s Next Top Model (ANTM). Play-dates, sleepovers and birthday parties were scheduled around the show. Hallways were converted into faux runways, and party bags contained lipstick and eye-liner.

ANTM was created by Tyra Banks, a wildly successful supermodel who hosts a competition for aspiring models. When my daughter first told me about the show, I watched Top Model on my own, to check it out. I expected to hate it with 100% fervor, certain that every feminist fiber in my body would break out in hives. But as the episodes unfolded, my reaction was mixed.

Top Model contestants live together for months, in close quarters. As the competition progressed, personalities revealed themselves. Some stepped forward as fine people, but not all. A significant number reverted to school-yard bullying, shamelessly ganging up on each other. Some dropped homophobic and transphobic remarks. Several tossed out snarky comments about their competitors’ weight and appearance.

But Tyra Banks took me by surprise. She defended interesting, off-the-beaten-path features, including larger sized models. She encouraged viewers to broaden their definitions of beauty. She treated all racial heritages as equally attractive. She was outspoken, supporting the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Tyra Banks was articulate, lightning-intelligent, and a stunningly effective teacher when she coached her contestants in technique.

Although I respected Tyra Banks’ talent, I found many values of the modeling industry outright harmful. I have three children – two sons, and one daughter. As a mother of both male and female kids, I’ve experienced the cultural values regarding gender that continuously smack my kids in the face. It begins on Day One. When my boys were infants, strangers looked at my slumbering, 8-pound puppies, and pronounced them “strong and smart”; with my daughter, strangers called her “pretty”. Gender stereotypes are alive and well.

My husband and I talked through our choices, figuring out how to handle our ANTM dilemma.

Option #1: Our daughter could watch the show, with no guidance — which was the choice of many other parents, and which we rejected immediately.

Option #2: We could outlaw the show — but with all the other girls entranced, we felt our daughter would become drawn to Top Model like forbidden fruit, sneaking behind our backs, and unable to turn to us for help with the values because she would have to blow her cover.

We decided on Option #3: Our daughter could watch ANTM, but one of us had to watch with her. As overt or covert messages emerged, we’d be there to offer alternative perspectives.

A few friends thought we were making a huge mistake, arguing that seven-years-old was too young, too impressionable. I agreed with the too-young-too-impressionable part, but not with the huge mistake part. Gender stereotypes crop up all over our culture. That’s the reality. Would I have preferred that my daughter didn’t encounter these values until much later (or not at all)? Of course. But that piece was out of my control. Her classroom was filled with ANTM acolytes, and we had to deal with it.

So we watched the show, as a family, with a running commentary. My sons and daughter learned to identify comments that reflected assumptions about females, about physical appearance, about bigotry. We talked about the pressure to be thin, a value already emerging in some second grade girls who worried about being “fat”. We discussed our culture’s hyper-emphasis on beauty. We also gave kudos to Tyra for her progressive approach to defining attractiveness, for her support of racial equality and LGBTQ rights, and for her “mad skills” (sic my oldest son) as a teacher.

Around her tenth birthday, my daughter lost interest in Top Model. But something had taken root in the course of watching that show: my daughter and her two older brothers — ages 10, 12 and 15 — all began calling themselves “feminists”. And they still do.

___

Amy Kaufman Burk is a novelist, blogger and mother of three grown children. Amy wrote her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school. Her second novel, Tightwire, follows a rookie psychology intern through her first year of training. Amy blogs on a variety of subjects including parenting, LGBTQ+ ally support, gender equality and a Rolling Stones concert. Amy also collaborates with educators who include her books in their curriculum. 

Amy’s Author Page On Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

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Filed under gender equality, parenting, Uncategorized

Perfect Moms, Pebbles and Pinafores

During my first five years of parenthood, we lived in a lovely a part of San Francisco, filled with perfect moms. Every Saturday morning, they arrived at the neighborhood park looking…well…perfect. Their hair was colored and styled; their outfits were runway-ready; their make-up was impeccable. Their dapper sons and coiffed daughters gummed their Zwieback Crackers in style, regal in their state-of-the-art strollers. Even their bottles sported bells and whistles beyond my wildest dreams. I watched one mom put down a blanket, push a button, and the blanket inflated for a spa-caliber diaper change.

I always showed up in my most comfy sweats, with my brown/gray hair au naturale, no make-up. Usually my one-year-old son pushed his own stroller, with his bag of clean diapers and snacks in the seat. This particular park was his favorite, because the ground was entirely sand, so he could run, fall and jump up unhurt. Best of all, mixed into the sand were thousands of pebbles. He spent hours happily digging for these precious stones, and sorting them into piles. He liked me to sit with him as he constructed each architectural wonder.

So there I sat, more scruffy by the minute, with my son parading pebbles for me to admire. I glanced at the other moms. They chatted, sipping water or coffee, legs crossed on the benches. I loved hanging out with my son; at the same time, I longed to meet other new parents. But that clearly wasn’t going to happen here. While I floundered with naps, sippy-cups and diaper rash, they remained perfect.

One foggy Saturday, a two-year-old girl approached shyly, clueless that she was about to change all of our lives. She wore a pink pinafore, white lace and patent leather shoes. She walked over slowly, and offered her fist to my son. He reached out and she dropped a pebble into his hand. They played for 2 hours.

Next time, the same girl scampered over. I glanced at her mother, who smiled coolly from the bench. Within an hour, three more kids joined the pebble brigade, while their mothers remained on the bench. The children all brought their pebbles for me to admire, then moved on to my son who supervised the sorting into proper piles. They played together beautifully, with the intense concentration of toddlers immersed in a project. I was pleased when my boy’s new friends turned to me for help — an untied shoe lace — a pinafore bow which needed to be retied – a boy’s Batman cape which somehow entangled in a girl’s ponytail and they were stuck together.

Finally, I got up, dusting myself off. My son ran to his stroller to claim his snack, and the pinafore girl jumped into my arms for a hug. At that point, the entire posse of perfect mothers approached. I hesitated, they hesitated, and suddenly it hit me: they didn’t know how to break into my circle any more than I knew how to break into theirs. I introduced myself, awkwardly shaking hands around the pink-bowed/white-laced/pig-tailed bundle in my arms. My son politely offered his pretzels and apple slices to his new friends, and then to their mothers as well. One girl gave him a home-baked oatmeal cookie while another boy offered a carrot. All at once, their snacks turned into a buffet. The picnic table overflowed with juice boxes, cheese sticks, crackers, banana slices. A stunning mom in 2-inch heels ordered pizza, and our buffet became a party.

The following Saturday, to my surprise, every perfect mom dropped down in the sand. Pizza-Mom asked where I had bought my athletic shoes, because her heels didn’t work well in the park. They asked how I played so comfortably with the kids, and I asked how they managed to look so bloody perfect. We all laughed, and our neighborhood community formed on the spot. Hairstyles and haute couture didn’t matter one whit. We were new parents, together, embarking on the most enriching, challenging, terrifying, uplifting journey of our lives.

We met every weekend morning for years. We broke into smaller groups of closer friends, but still remained a supportive community. Over time, we scattered and lost track of each other. I’ll always be thankful to those perfect moms, and to the neighborhood park where I learned that pebbles, pretzels and ponytails trump haute couture every time.

___

Amy Kaufman Burk is a novelist, blogger and mother of three grown children. Amy wrote her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school. Her second novel, Tightwire, follows a rookie psych intern through her first year of training. Amy blogs on a variety of subjects including parenting, LGBTQ+, gender equality and a Rolling Stones concert. She also collaborates with educators who include her books in their curriculum. 

Amy’s Author Page On Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

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Filed under community, motherhood, parenting

The First Failure

Parenting Perspective: The First Failure

SPOILER ALERT: If vivid descriptions of breast-feeding bother you, then skip this post!

From the moment I became pregnant, I looked forward to breastfeeding. I read What To Expect When You’re Expecting forwards, backwards and sideways. I took prenatal vitamins, snacked on fruits and vegetables. As the due date approached, I bought all the necessities – diapers, stroller, crib. But I told my husband not to bother with formula. I knew with absolute certainty that I would be a Poster Mom for breastfeeding.

Within an hour of giving birth, my chest began to feel strange. An uncomfortable sensation of heat spread and I smiled, feeling a bone-deep connection to the tradition of mothers who have been breastfeeding their children through thousands of years. The heat in my chest intensified, followed by an odd “filling” sensation. I said something to my husband about the wonders of my post-partum body.

Then the pain hit. My breasts were unrecognizable – rock hard, gigantic, so painful that the weight of the hospital gown was agony. The tiniest movement, including breathing, hurt terribly. I had no nipples for a baby to latch onto, just a marble-smooth surface. I was alarmed, but the doctors and nurses reassured me that all was well. Yes, my breasts were “more engorged” than they had “ever seen”. But I shouldn’t worry. I’d be fine by the time my child grew hungry.

Two hours later, my son was screaming for a full meal. My boobs had morphed into bowling balls and worse, had missed the memo on timing. My baby was hungry, and my nectar-of-maternal-love-supply was non-existent. I hadn’t been a mother for 24 hours, and I was already a failure.

Enter the parade of specialists. Breast feeding experts, newborn specialists, La Leche League reps, post-partum nurses, parenting advisors, nutrition coaches. They scrutinized my every move as I tried (and failed) to feed my child. They examined every inch of my impressive chest, adjusted the way I held my baby. They checked my newborn’s mouth and tongue to make sure he could suckle effectively.

Most of these experts were sympathetic, but not all. Some grew frustrated, and one left the room yelling at me (a gut-shot for a mom brimming with post-partum hormones, holding a screaming infant, sporting a chest the size of a small planet). All acknowledged that my boobs were, to quote one specialist, “in a league of their own”.

The most creative expert was a nurse — kind, funny and determined to outsmart my uncooperative breasts. She rigged up a complicated system which included a test-tube of formula taped to my shoulder, with a thin straw to drain into a plastic nipple, which had a strategically placed hole. The theory: my baby would drink a mixture of colostrum (the prelude to mother’s milk) and formula. In a day or two, my boobs would become bored with being engorged, we would subtract out the formula, and my son would become entirely breast-fed.

I held my child to my breast, with my rigged up formula and my faux nipple. I barely breathed, hoping this would do the trick. Then my baby reached up with his little fist, and bonked the test tube smack off my shoulder, knocking the straw out of my plastic wonder-nipple. The formula in the straw dribbled down my belly, pooling in my navel. My firstborn then thoughtlessly batted his arm, and my plastic tit flew across the room. I tried to sort out the confusion, reach for a towel, cradle my son, but by then he was yelling in frustration, his food supply cut off. Hearing the wails, my husband rushed in to find his wife and first-born both in tears.

The next nine days were a haze of hot packs and cold packs, attempts and failures, formula in bottles always followed by feeling utterly defeated (me) and peaceful slumber (my son). Finally, on the dawning of Day Ten, I woke up and realized I was breathing without pain. In a few hours, my breasts reverted to normal.

I would have loved to breastfeed from the start, and maybe the next expert would have figured out the solution, but I wasn’t going to let my child suffer, hungry for 9 days. At the time, I had no perspective, no sense of humor. Although my son was thriving on bottle-fed formula, I still felt flattened, a failure. Breastfeeding was supposed to be a natural process. The conclusion was obvious: I wasn’t a “natural” mom.

Now I look back with the perspective of a mother whose three children range in age from 18 to 23. With each new baby, the same pattern followed: my boobs became bowling balls for nine days, and no specialist was able to figure out a way to jump the track. To my disappointment, all three grew attached to the bottle during those nine days, and only breastfed briefly. I tried to express milk, but my supply tapered off. I worried about long-term effects, but they all grew up healthy, productive members of society, and showed no signs of being morally compromised.

Since those first nine days, I’ve “failed” more times than I can count. I’ve struck out, missed the obvious, and just flat got it wrong. But there were also the times I got it so right I’m amazed. My perspective on parenthood has changed since those introductory days. I now understand that every stride, every step, every stumble — every failure, every success — are parts of the parenting process.

To all of you new moms and dads: I can guarantee that you’ll feel like a failure at times. Your boob may fly across the room. An “expert” may storm out screaming, “Something’s Wrong With You!” When you become a parent, failure is not an option; it’s a given.

And it’s okay.

Welcome to parenthood.

___

Amy Kaufman Burk is a therapist-turned-author. Amy’s first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, deals with homophobic bullying in high school, racial and economic diversity, and the power of friendship. Her second novel, Tightwire, follows a fictional psychotherapy from three perspectives — the rookie therapist scrambling to build a treatment — the patient struggling to heal — the supervisor working to guide the young therapist through the complex emotional terrain of her first case.

Click on the link to check out reviews, buy Amy’s novels, read her recent blog posts.

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

 

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Filed under first child, mothers, parenting

LGBTQ+ Posts

Dear Reader,

Before I decided to write fiction, I was a psychologist for 25 years. I’ve always been drawn to the process of self-discovery and personal transformation – first as a therapist, and now as a writer. Our culture often makes this process extremely difficult for people on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, and I hope my writing can help.

As I write each post for my blog, I’m drawn to the same underlying themes. My blog includes a body of work on LGBTQ issues, which focus on different aspects of self-discovery, personal transformation and ally support.

Below is a “hit list” of these posts.

Thanks for reading!

Amy

 

“Imagine”

Written in support of trans students, and to try to help people understand why bathroom issues are so harmful.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2017/02/23/imagine/

 

“More Bathroom Bills”

A trans ally is fed up with bathroom bills.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2017/02/18/more-bathroom-bills/

 

“GLSEN 100 Days Of Kindness”

In high school, a friend stopped a bullying incident with one simple question.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2017/01/27/glsen-100-days-of-kindness/

 

“Amy vs. Chapter 37 — GLSEN No Name Calling Week”

Writing as a form of healing from words used as weapons.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2017/01/17/amy-vs-chapter-37-glsen-no-name-calling-week/

 

“GLSEN Ally Week — Let’s Open The Conversation”

A 91-year-old woman’s path to becoming an LGBT ally.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2016/09/26/glsen-ally-week-lets-open-the-conversation/

 

“Use Restroom, Wash Hands, Leave”

Written in response to HB2, signed by North Carolina’s Governor Pat McCrory.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2016/04/07/use-restroom-wash-hands-leave/

 

“Confused Children (Or Not…)”

In support of same-sex parents.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2015/10/24/confused-children-or-not/

 

“Rainbow Cake”

A celebration of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold same-sex marriage.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2015/06/29/rainbow-cake/

 

“LGBT Pride Month: Yale Has Come A Long Way”

An experience in college that taught me how to be a better ally.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2015/06/17/lgbt-pride-month-yale-has-come-a-long-way/

 

“LGBT Pride Month: I Wish He Had Told Me”

About a boy I knew when I was in high school, who didn’t feel safe coming out.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/lgbt-pride-month-i-wish-he-had-told-me/

 

“Huge Mistake”

Written in response to the homophobic Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed by Indiana’s Governor Mike Pence.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2015/04/02/huge-mistake/

 

“Same-Sex Parents”

In support of gay dads and lesbian moms — addresses some common concerns and misconceptions.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2015/02/07/same-sex-parents/

 

“If My Child Came Out As Trans”

To help families handle this situation with togetherness and support.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2015/01/29/if-my-child-came-out-as-trans/

 

“Heartbeat of AIDS”

About being a psych trainee, in San Francisco, in the early 1980s, trying to figure out why healthy young men were inexplicably dying.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2015/01/22/heartbeat-of-aids/

 

“Spectrum Of Normal”

A perspective on the LGBTQIA spectrum.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2015/01/03/spectrum-of-normal/

 

“Everyone Can Be An Ally”

The bullying incident in high school that motivated me to write my first novel.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/everyone-can-be-an-ally/

 

“Two Weddings And A Novel”

How my first novel was influenced by Gavin Newsom’s legalizing same-sex marriage in San Francisco.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/two-weddings-and-a-novel-2/

 

“All Love Is Created Equal”

A a child, realizing that gay and straight couples were viewed differently.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2014/05/15/all-love-is-created-equal/

 

“They Came Out And Gay Fills The Room”

Support for families when a daughter or son comes out, and suddenly all the parents can see is GAY.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/they-came-out-and-gay-fills-the-room/

 

“When Your Daughter Or Son Comes Out”

Support for families, a model of togetherness.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/when-your-daughter-or-son-comes-out/

 

“Speak Gay With Pride”

About the homophobic expression “It’s so gay”, and how parents can handle it.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/speak-gay-with-pride/

 

“Reading Guides for Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable and Tightwire”

Both of my novels have LGBTQ themes central to the plots. Without the gay and lesbian characters, the stories could not exist. As I wrote the reading guides, I included several questions inviting readers to share their experiences. Understanding diverse perspectives creates a path to acceptance and support. Let’s open the conversation.

https://amykaufmanburk.wordpress.com/2014/12/31/reading-guides-for-hollywood-high-achieve-the-honorable-and-tightwire/

____

Amy Kaufman Burk is an author and blogger. Her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, was written in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school, and follows one family’s journey after their daughter comes out. Her second novel, Tightwire, includes a strong friendship between a gay man and a straight man, as well as two women, a couple raising 2 children, who become role model parents to the main character. 

Amy’s Author Page On Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

 

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Filed under AIDS awareness, bullying, coming out, Equality, family, gay and lesbian parents, LGBT, parenting, Transgender

Same-Sex Parents

Several years ago, a close friend asked if I thought he’d be a good father. I said of course. Laurents was (and still is) dedicated, loyal, playful, responsible, loving, funny, caring, bright, successful. But back then, he remained worried. Laurents worried he’d make mistakes. (As a mother of three, I assured him that yes, he’d certainly make mistakes, that the only “perfect parents” are the folks who have never raised children.) He worried that he was athletic, but not at all artistic, and what would he do if his daughter or son turned out to be a young Picasso? (I told him I was in his camp, except I was an abysmal athlete and a worse artist. We all have strengths and limitations.) He worried that he always forgot to get a haircut, that he’d bake inedible birthday cakes, that he never learned to waltz. He worried that he was a worrier.

Finally, I took him by the shoulders. “Laurents, what’s on your mind?” He looked at me with tears in his eyes: “I’m gay. My wife is a husband, except we can’t legally marry. Last night, we were at a dinner party and a mom asked why in the world Mark and I thought we could be good parents?”

We sat in my kitchen, with two gigantic cups of coffee. First, we vented our outrage. Next, we had a grand time coming up with responses to the Supreme Homophobe Party Animal, answers that slammed her, which she well-deserved. Finally, we settled down and began to think it through. This Leader Of The Heterosexual Parent Brigade was absolutely sincere – obnoxious for sure, but firm in her beliefs. So we began to brainstorm the questions same-sex parents are forced to field — the thoughtlessly cruel doubt, the homophobia disguised as concern, the pseudo-helpful suggestions stemming from the assumption that a gay parent is, by definition, less qualified than a straight parent. From that conversation so many years ago, these are the questions and answers I remember.

Should gay parents be more scared than straight parents?

I’m a straight mom, married to a straight dad, who is the father of my children. One of the most frightening moments in our lives was after the birth of our first child, a healthy baby boy. My doctor examined me, and a pediatrician examined our son. My doctor then smiled at us and said six of the most terrifying words I’ve ever heard: “You can take your baby home.” Suddenly, my husband and I were responsible for a tiny person, a human life. Our eyes locked as we skyrocketed past “worried”, soared beyond “scared”, and landed gracelessly on our butts in the Land of Petrified. Being scared isn’t about LGBTIQ/straight; it’s about parenthood.

Can LGBTIQ parents “turn” their kid gay?

There are 2 issues here. First, nobody can “turn” anyone’s sexuality in any direction. Your child’s sexuality and sexual identity belong to your child, not to you, and you don’t get a vote. Second, there’s an underlying assumption that being straight is better than being gay or bi or trans. That attitude is hurtful, damaging, dangerous — and false.

How can two men talk to a girl about her period?

The same way they talk about anything else – with respect, care and love. Our culture has an odd attitude toward menstruation; often, the mere mention of a girl’s monthly cycle stops a guy in his tracks. But honestly, that seems rather silly. If a dad doesn’t know how to put in a tampon (and gay, bi or straight — why should he know?), then he can ask a woman for help. My husband and I have turned to our It-Takes-A-Village friends several times. For example: we don’t wear make-up, but our daughter does. She learned to apply it from another adult, since neither of her parents had ever so much as put on lipstick. She’s tolerant of our woeful ignorance, and more importantly, shows no signs of being scarred for life. The point here: No parent can be everything for her or his or their children. It’s not about being LGBTIQ/straight; it’s about being human.

With two moms or two dads, will the kid get confused about which parent is which?

Nope. Not an issue.

Will the child feel bad that he/she doesn’t have a mom/dad?

Maybe, as a phase, just like my kids have wished for a more athletic dad, or a mom who was a “cool firefighter” like a classmate’s mom. These wishes aren’t about LGBTIQ/straight; wishes are a part of healthy development, as children, over time, let go of the superhero view of their parents, and see them more realistically.

Will my kids get teased for having two moms/dads?

Possibly. Or possibly for being short, or tall, or good at math, or bad at math, or…. In other words, if you try to set up a situation where your kids get exempt status from ever being mistreated by another child…well, best of luck with that. Instead, how about helping kids learn how to stand up to bullies? It’s terribly unfair for any child to be forced to deal with homophobia. But it’s absolutely no reason for two fine people to disbar themselves from parenthood. Bigotry is a terrible fact of life. It’s not a LGBTIQ/straight/parent issue; it’s a cultural/social/playground issue.

How will other parents react at school?

If they’re decent, responsible parents who are hoping to meet other decent, responsible parents, then they’ll smile, put out their hands, and introduce themselves. If they don’t, then they’re probably not the ones you (or I) want in a friendship group.

Your child just fell and skinned his knee! Where’s his MOM??? A mom would never have let that happen!

Scientific Factoid: Only the children of gay parents skin their knees.

Final question: What happened to Laurents and Mark? Did they become parents?

Laurents and Mark adopted twin boys at birth, who are now in fourth grade. One plays baseball, and is proud that he has read the entire Harry Potter series 3 times. The other plays soccer, and has turned their garage into a science lab. They have two cats and two dogs. Their boys dream of Olympic gold medals. Laurents and Mark dream of a five-minute stretch with absolutely nothing to do. It’s not a dream about LGBTIQ/straight; it’s a dream about parenthood.

Laurents and Mark were married last year. Their sons were their “Best Men.”

 

*All names and identifying information in this post have been changed.

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Amy Kaufman Burk is an author, blogger and mother of three grown children. Her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, was written in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school, and follows one family’s journey after their daughter comes out. Her second novel, Tightwire, includes a strong friendship between a gay man and a straight man, as well as two women, a couple raising 2 children, who become role model parents to the main character. Amy’s blog has several posts written in ally support of LGBTQ+. 

Amy’s Author Page On Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

 

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Filed under gay parents, lesbian parents, LGBT, parenting, same-sex parents

If My Child Came Out As Trans

I wonder how I’d react if my child came out as Transgender.

I don’t have experience with this, either in my own family or with close friends, and I won’t pretend to be an expert. But recently the world lost Leelah Alcorn, a trans girl who felt too unsupported, too misunderstood, too tormented to go forward. Leelah died of homophobia, specifically transphobia, and bluntly: that’s wrong on more levels than I can count. Sure, I feel judgmental toward her parents for their lack of support for their daughter. But it’s relatively easy to feel judgmental, and much harder to figure out how to help. I want to try to help. So I’m imagining one possible scenario, step by step. To avoid a confusing array of pronouns, I’ve chosen to write about a young person with the body of a boy, whose gender identity is female. However, I think the issues will hold true for a transgender boy or girl, female or male, and for his or her family.

I’m imagining the conversation:

“Mom, can we talk?”

“Sure.” (Uh oh. Torpedoed a test? Drugs or alcohol? Speeding ticket?)

“I don’t know how to say this.”

“Okay, whatever it is, I’ll help you through.”

“I know I look like a boy, but I feel like a girl.”

Thud of silence.

In that instant, we’d be launched on a new trajectory, a hairpin turn, a lightning-bolt surprise journey. I imagine my first reaction would be shock that my most basic assumption about my child was wrong, and always had been.

My boy is a girl?

In an instant, my confidence in my parenting would be shaken to the core.

What else have I missed?

The guilt would hit, with anger on its heels. I’d feel guilty that my child had carried this alone for so long, and at the same time angry that she had kept something so huge from me for so long. I’d feel guilty for missing something so fundamental, and furious at her for slamming me with this magnum-force news bulletin.

Breathe. Just breathe.

I’d try to steady myself, because even though something huge would have changed, much would not have changed at all. She would still be my child – the same values of decency, the same wicked sense of humor, the same love for chocolate, the same conviction that okra and garden snails and Vaseline are biologically related and equally unfit for human consumption. She’d complete physics assignments with the same ease, continue her struggle reading music, and remain strikingly unable to complete a sentence without saying “like” or “y’know”. My child would still be my child.

Then the doubts would hit again.

This can’t be happening.

I’d remember my son, actually my daughter, as a newborn. Our first relationship to our children is through their bodies. We hold them, feed them, change them. We feel their foreheads for fever, and rock them to sleep in our arms. We develop a powerful bond with the body of our child, a physical and emotional connection, bone-deep. The foundation of our entire relationship stems from our child’s body.

That foundation misled me, betrayed me.

Then I hope I’d put on the brakes. My daughter did not mislead or betray me, and neither did her body. My own assumptions about her body did. I’d remind myself not to take it out on my child, and in turn, I’d ask her not to blame me for giving her a body that doesn’t match her identity.

We can get through this.

I’d feel a moment of calm, a quiet confidence. Then my emotions would surge, and run rampant. I’d be mortified to find myself up to my eyeballs in “wrong” feelings — politically incorrect, insensitive, hurtful, bigoted.

Did I do something wrong, make a terrible mistake that caused this?

Feelings don’t always make sense, or follow the rules of rationality. I’d try to be patient with my own “wrong” reactions. Does that mean I’d accept these wrong feelings, welcome them? No. But I’d allow myself the time I needed to process this new situation, to blaze an emotional trail. And as I struggled, I’d be surprised to realize that in some ways, my world had become a lot easier.

So much makes sense that I didn’t understand before.

I imagine that part of my reaction would be relief. I’d remember things my son did and said, which puzzled me at the time. I’d now realize that was not my son, but actually my daughter acting and speaking, and her behavior and words would make sense. I’d feel guilty that I didn’t follow up at the time, and possibly save my daughter years of pain and confusion. I’d wonder if I could ever forgive myself.

I never thought I’d be dealing with this.

At that point, I hope I’d pause, and begin to regain perspective, because that sentiment is felt by every parent, many times, in raising children. Kids are full of surprises, and the one sure-bet for parents is the unexpected. I hope my sense of humor would kick back in, to steady me, and I’d be able to smile at my emotional clumsiness. I’d feel the beginnings of a stronger bond with my child, a bond of truth and authenticity.

I love her so much, but I need support, and so does she.

I’d reach out. I’d talk to friends. I’d also find a new community of people who shared my experience. I’d encourage my daughter to do the same. No secrets, no shame. I would certainly encounter ignorance and bigotry. Worse, my child would be hurt at times by misguided people who’d feel a push to lash out. I’d be unable to protect her from being hurt, but I’d make sure our home remained a safe haven.

I hope that if my child ever came out as Transgender, we’d stand side by side. If I needed to cry, that would be okay, as long as I left room for her tears. I would try to accept my full reaction, and support my daughter through her full reaction, not allowing my emotions to eclipse hers.

I’d mess up, sometimes badly. If needed, I’d apologize. I’d ask questions. I’d learn. I’d encourage my daughter to do the same. I’d fall so many times I’d leave skid marks. But whether on our feet or on our asses, even shaken to the core, we’d love each other. We’d go forward as a family, a newly configured family – with a daughter instead of a son. Sometimes we’d walk tall; sometimes we’d stumble. We’d hold out our hands, helping each other regain balance. We’d talk. We’d eat our favorite foods, and enjoy our favorite activities. We’d have fun. Like always. Because we’d still be the same people, only we’d understand each other with a new clarity.

We’d figure it out.

Together.

Rest In Peace, Leelah Alcorn.

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Amy Kaufman Burk is an author, blogger and mother of three grown children. Her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, was written in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school, and follows one family’s journey after their daughter comes out. Her second novel, Tightwire, includes a strong friendship between a gay man and a straight man, as well as two women, a couple raising 2 children, who become role model parents to the main character. Amy’s blog has several posts written in ally support of LGBTQ+. 

Amy’s Author Page On Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

 

 

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Filed under family, Leelah Alcorn, LGBT, parenting, Transgender