Erin Britt essays

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The other night I was lying beside Eliza waiting for her go to sleep. There was a time when I cringed at the thought of having to put her to bed, of having to lie there while she tossed and turned and fought her way to sleep. My well of patience, shallow as it is, would dry up within the first half an hour and then I’d white knuckle my way through the rest of bedtime. It wasn’t good for either of us but luckily things have shifted. Now, when I lie down with her she usually goes to sleep within a reasonable amount of time. She curls into me and I stroke her hair as she tells me about her day, what’s on her mind, her secrets.

“You know I’m the only half-half at my school?” she said the other night. Half-half is how she described herself to me one day last year. “You know,” she said then. “Half boy, half girl.” It is a perfect description, really, and she came to it all on her own which makes it even better for this mama who was grappling with her own descriptions of my boxer-brief -wearing, I-want-to-be-a-boy child.

I’m learning seven years into this motherhood business to check my own feelings at the door and ask, first, how my daughters feel about things. It’s not easy but on this night I actually remembered.

“How does that make your feel?” I said trying desperately to make my voice sound neutral.

“I’m kinda famous,” she said.

“Really?” I said in a bit of awe. Her response was not what I expected. “Famous?”

“Yeah,” she said. “Everybody knows me and knows I’m a tomboy. They know I’m half-half.”

Now, I am harder on myself than any other person could ever hope to be. I second guess my motives, question my decisions and pretty much put myself through the ringer any ole chance I get. I’ve sought therapy many times for this particular set of traits and I’ve come a long way but when it comes to Eliza and her gender fluidity I’ve put myself under a microscope all too often. Does she feel supported enough? Does she know she’s loved unconditionally no matter where she lands on the gender spectrum? Does she know I am 100 percent on team Eliza or team Gerald or whatever name she chooses to go by? Does she know there is nothing wrong with her, that everything is actually very right and that anyone who has a problem with her gender creativity can go suck an egg?

Deep breaths. These are the things that keep me up at night. I worry most about my role as her mother. Shouldn’t I be able to ease the bumps in the road, to makes sure she doesn’t suffer just because she’s different. I know, logically, that I can’t head off every crude remark to come or every wayward glance but I like to think I can. Don’t all mothers like to think we have superhuman powers when it comes to protecting our children?

Even with all of my self-doubt swirling around me, the other night, a minute or two after her declaration of “I’m famous,” I thought to myself that I must be doing something right.

Whether she is or is not famous is actually of little consequence. She feels famous and that’s what matters. She knows she’s different and she doesn’t feel a negative connotation associated with that. She’s different and that’s good. She’s famous instead of all of the other names people could throw her way. This is how she sees herself and how she sees herself is awesome.

I held her, my famous child, until she went to sleep that night knowing that so far her confidence is intact, her heart is open and her will is stronger than ever. I can’t take full credit for the amazing person she is but I can take a little and lying there that night, I did.

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Erin Britt

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