Why I’m Glad I’m not a Kid These Days: Part Three

Reading headlines and listening to newscasts has given me a revelation: Being a kid these days is confusing. And with technology and convenience, and easy access to information and answers, this shouldn’t be so.
It makes me glad I grew up in the 70s and 80s. Things were so much simpler back then.
Angst is nothing new. Having an identity crisis when you’re a young person is part of “coming of age.”
But back when I struggled through it, no one confused me with platitudes like, “Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t be whatever you want.”
Because—the truth was—when I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a boy. And without a surgery and complexities I don’t want to imagine, I could never be that.

Why Did I Want it?

When I was in first through fourth grade, we lived on a farm. For four years. Those were the happiest days of my life.

Those were the most painful times of my life.

How can it be both? Because that’s the way the world works. Happiness is fleeting. When it’s gone, what follows is magnified by the lack of the blissful state it isn’t.
We had a section of land in Rainier. There were cows and apple trees and fences and a section of woods filled with creaking pines and aromatic cedars. I remember the warm scent of cow manure and the gentle hum of bees pollinating the flowers.
I tried to keep up with my over-six-feet-tall father, but my legs were stubs compared to his. I trailed him to the barn, the pasture, the pond and down the rutted track in the woods.
I might as well have been invisible. Because I wasn’t what he wanted. I was just another daughter.

So I spend many years of my life wanted to be his son. Trying to be his son.

Nothing Would Have Changed


Let’s say that happened these days. And a well-intentioned teacher told me that it sounded like I wanted to “identify as a boy.”
I’d wonder if that’s all it will take to get my dad to finally see me?

But, no. That wouldn’t have changed anything.

In his eyes, I would still have been a girl. And what memes now decry as sexist: a tomboy.
No matter what I wanted to think of myself, I would never be the son he wanted. What I thought didn’t matter. The truth was in the anatomy: I was a girl.

Why This Makes Me Sad

When I started thinking about this post a few weeks ago, I started to experience melancholy.
It was so easy to recall the yearning I had in those days. Why wasn’t I enough? Why couldn’t he love me? Because I was a girl?
In the years since, I’ve realized the lack is not within me. In fact, the truth is probably that he did love me and was dealing with his own disappointment in the only way he knew how.
Which meant shutting me out.

You see, I didn’t want to be a boy because it was who I was, but because of what I wanted. Acceptance. Love. Camaraderie.

And none of that would have happened just because I “identified” as male.

I wanted to be a boy so badly that I pretended to be one in many ways and at many times.
Because I was a kid. I was trying to win my father’s approval.
That’s what kids do.
And that’s why I’m thankful I’m not a kid these days. It wouldn’t have helped me in the least to have someone encouraging me to accept my maleness and become the boy I wanted to be.

It would have led to more angst and more disillusionment for me.

Because true acceptance means looking in the mirror and seeing what is really there. And being okay with it.

Even if it means you don’t have a great relationship with your father. Or you can’t play baseball with the boys. Or you have to sit down to pee (yes, I really did just say that).
Acceptance isn’t about trying to be something you are not because you’re uncomfortable with what you are. That’s pretense, and it’s the gateway to a Disappointment Road.
Thank the Lord no one tried to tell me that my desire to be a boy meant I was supposed to be one. That all I had to do was decide I was one, and everyone would have to accept me as male.
Think of everything I would have missed out on in my life: a 29-year marriage, two sons and now two daughters. Being a sister, a wife, a mother.
Self-acceptance is hard enough for kids. Why do people want to make it even more difficult?

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What do you want to do when you grow up?

When I first started school I wanted to be a teacher. Who wouldn’t want to boss everyone around? By fourth grade, I loved making up stories, so I decided I wanted to be a novelist. Later…solving mysteries seemed exciting, so how about becoming an FBI agent?

Like most kids, my thoughts about the future vacillated from one end of the realistic spectrum to the other end of unrealistic. Dreams are grand. Dreams inspire us to reach higher.

Dreams are dreams. Expectations are a 1000-pound weight on a tired swimmers back. Throw them into the sea of swarming high school students who think they know everything. Is it any wonder kids drown?

When you know your purpose

I wrote my first “book” when I was nine years old. I filled dozens of spiral notebooks with short stories, longer stories, poetry and general musings from that time until after I graduated from high school.

Writing has always helped me express my emotions and sort out my problems. It’s safer to bleed your secrets on a sheet of paper than divulge them to people. A pen ranting on notebook paper gets a person in much less trouble than a verbal confrontation.

My yearning has always been to write. I used that yearning to write copy for a non-profit newsletter, lessons for classes I taught at church, and plays and skits for the youth group to perform.

I submitted a few stories to contests when I was younger. Tried my hand at writing articles and even wrote a novel. Rejection letters deterred me. My family needed me to be present in the moment rather than rattling around my make-believe worlds.

Most people don’t know what they want to do until they’re at least in high school. Some people don’t discover their “calling” until the age of 40, 50 or beyond.

If you’re 18 and don’t know what you want to be when you grow up, big deal. Don’t decide you won’t grow up until you do know. Follow a path. Experiment with different things. Purposelessness has a purpose when you’re using it as a barometer.

How to find your purpose

Some people volunteer at the animal shelter and they know they want to be a veterinarian. Others volunteer at the veterinarian office and decide they love animals, but doctoring the four-legged creatures isn’t how to express it.

The only way to find your niche is by doing. Try sports. Try theater. Try writing for the school newspaper (I did). Sing in the choir. Play in the band. Sell lemonade and deliver newspapers.

My oldest son found out he didn’t want a manual labor job after he worked at one for the summer. It inspired him to work hard in school so he could go to college. How did he know he wanted to be a computer programmer? You’ll have to ask him. His dad is and he always wanted to follow that path. Go figure.

My husband went to college to be an electrician. Yep and he ended up as a computer engineer. Electrical engineer or computer engineer. Slight difference, right? He’s been happy with the choice.

Some people like to do many different things. That could mean they would be happy in multiple fields. It might involve tons of experimentation before they find the right fit. Don’t give up. Keep trying.

You never know until you try. Words to live by – just saying.

What stands in the way

Let’s face it, when you’re a teenager, plenty of things stand in the way of finding out your genuine heart’s calling.

A short list:

  • Teachers: you know the one’s I’m talking about “You’re the best artist I’ve had in years”
  • Parents: “Writing? But what will your day job be?” “You’re going to take over the family business, right?”
  • Friends: “You should go to Western because I’m going there.”
  • Money: You either have it or you don’t. Don’t let that limit your vision.
  • Locale: If you live a million miles from nowhere, it’s hard to know if you’d like a career in the city or some other more urbanized setting.
  • Other nay-sayers: “What can you do with a degree in history?” “If you don’t go to college, you’ll never amount to anything.”

What other things have you heard that made it difficult to find your true calling? If you have advice or experience, please share it in the comments.

Tradition or Bust

Annual Cookie Baking Day
Annual Cookie Baking Day

A great irony greeted me. The source was flesh of my flesh. Traditions that had been acclaimed as unchangeable fell beneath the barrage of personal plans.

A son of mine was incensed when I mentioned to him last year in December that things were changing. The kids were becoming adults. Soon, the family Christmas traditions of his childhood would become a thing of the past.

One of the tragedies of adulthood – you have to let the childish things go.

“We will always get together on Christmas Eve. All of us.” His emphatic announcement of one year ago.

When you get married, I told him, you might discover that your spouse’s family has their own Christmas Eve traditions. Somehow, the two of you will meld these into a new set of traditions for your own household.

This is how it happened for me. Christmas Eve was born after my mom remarried and her husband’s parents had a mandatory Christmas Day gathering. Mom’s family gathered on Christmas Eve and the other family on Christmas Day.

Happily, this worked right into my husband’s family traditions. They had never really celebrated on the eve before Christmas. It became the time my mom, sister and I brought our families together to exchange gifts.

Every year, we added another item to the tradition. The kids performed a pageant of sorts every year. My husband and I shared a Biblical perspective on the holiday. Gathering around the piano to sing carols is the newest addition to the list.

Christmas Eve caroling
Christmas Eve caroling

This is what my son wants to continue.

Except this year he will be spending Christmas Eve “day” with his girlfriend’s family. What happened to the tradition being set in stone?

I’m sad that my son will miss most of the festivities. “I’ll be there by 4pm,” he says. Just in time for darkness to fall and gifts to be exchanged. After most of the other traditional happenings are finished.

Did I say “I told you so” to my son? Not in so many words, but I parroted his words from twelve months ago back to him.

Did he say, “You were right, Mom. Things are going to change”? *Falls on the floor laughing* That would be an emphatic “no.”

But we both know who won this argument. If there was an argument. Which there wasn’t because that’s not part of our traditional Christmas. Ha!

What traditions do you hope to hold onto as your children grow into adulthood?