Now that I’ve made my ebook “Who Cares? Life for an Irish Transgender Teen” free to the public (you can download the full thing here), I’ve decided to publish the chapters here on my website. Below is a chapter from this book which was published in April 2016.
Hello parents. How are you? Tired? Angry? Too busy to talk? Who can blame you. Your job is difficult. Kids are horrible. Teenagers are worse. And then they just leave at the end of it all. Why does anyone do it? This chapter is about trying to give you an insight into the mind of your child and maybe giving you some tips on dealing with them. What’s that you ask? Why should you listen to me? Oh don’t worry, I have no doubt that you’ll completely ignore any of the things that you disagree with and that’s completely your right as a parent. But I am going to speak about some things that may relate to your teenager. They probably won’t because god knows, I was never your average teenager. But nevertheless, let me begin.
I’ve previously mentioned how I’ve put my parents through hell haven’t I? This was not intentional. I did not go out with the intention of annoying my parents but I’ve never been the type to let my parents stop me from doing something that I wanted to.
I don’t always text my parents back. I’m not that easy to deal with. I’ve had my moody stages. I’ve been rebellious and irresponsible. They’ve had to help me out of many awful situations that I’ve landed myself in and they’ve had to collect me drunk from countless parties. I have screamed at them, stormed away from them, blatantly disobeyed them and refused to speak to them. In spite of this they continue to love and care for me and I am so grateful for this. I may not always show them my gratitude but I do recognize how lucky I am to have two wonderful people to look up to like them. It is with this respect for these amazing people that I begin to compose the following list.
Try not to be too concerned about your child. I’m sure you want to tell me to shut up right now. I’m just a naïve eighteen-year old. I don’t have children. I wouldn’t understand. But, believe it or not, this rule is actually for your sake. In my experience, the children with the most freedom are the most down to earth. Let them live. Let them be idiotic and silly. Let them behave irresponsibly and materialistically. Let them cry over relationships and laugh over juvenile things. Because forbidding them from doing something won’t stop them from doing it. It will just stop them from telling you when they do it.
Pay attention when your child apologises. This one is so important. The most prominent part of growing up is learning to admit when you’re wrong. Apologising for something you’ve done wrong is such a relief and such a rewarding experience. It’s vital that you make this a positive experience for them. Don’t make them feel bad, don’t start naming out other reasons that they should apologise. Just be happy that they are showing remorse.
Let them underage drink. You may disagree with me on this one and that’s okay. But all I am trying to say is that your child will probably start drinking at around 16 or 17, so you should probably decide what you’re going to do about this. The first time I ever drank was a party where all of my friends had decided that we were going to drink. I was in a panic. How would I get drink? Who did I know that could buy it for me? After thinking about it long and hard, I decided to go to my Mam. I took a huge risk in doing this as she could have completely forbidden me to attend the party. Instead, she thanked me for coming to her, bought me a small bottle of something light and let me go to the party. From then on I always told my parents when I would be drinking and let them decide how much I was allowed. It never did me any harm and I can now drink a sensible amount in the right company.
Recognise that their education isn’t everything. Your child’s education is important, but it’s not everything. If their mental health is suffering or they are going through a personal crisis, school is the last thing on their mind and it should also be the last thing on yours. Trust that your child is on top of things and if they’re not then you can’t really do anything. Know that their teacher is not always right but that they probably are in most cases. Know that exams can be repeated and that life can go on if things go wrong. Know that whether they fail everything or get the best marks it has absolutely nothing to do with their ability.
Never put your child down. Just don’t ever do this. Don’t make nasty jokes at their expense. Don’t ridicule something that they love. Don’t comment on their clothes, or the length of their hair. Let them go through an awkward adolescence with the support of their parents. Let them learn all the difficult lessons on their own and be there to pick up the pieces when they do. Don’t try to either diminish or preserve their naivety. Let them live life and face criticism with the knowledge that their home is a safe, welcoming place.
Don’t hold your child back. DON’T tell your child that their dreams are unrealistic or too big. Don’t laugh at your child for having certain desires. Don’t make your child feel guilty for being ambitious or for wanting to change their life. Let them go where they need to. You can’t protect them forever. Find the happy medium between constant protection and no support.
Look for yourself in your child. Look for the traits in your child that you know you possess. Look for your stubbornness or your temper. Look for your tendency to fall in love with assholes or your low self-esteem. Be strategic when you recognise these similarities. Don’t clash, but rather respond in the way that you would like to be responded to. Be clever when it comes to stuff like this.
Be a friend. Be your child’s friend. This one is so important! Being a friend means understanding what your child is going through and helping them with it. It means you encourage them to be open with you, instead of invading their privacy. It means you share things that you mightn’t necessarily want to share with them so that they can do the same. It means not acting like an asshole just because you’re responsible for their existence. It means treating them like a human instead of an inferior product of you and your partner.
Maybe you won’t listen to me. God knows that I am not qualified to give parenting advice. Maybe you’ll disregard all of this. Maybe you should. But I stand behind each of these points. At least consider them. After all, I’ve basically given you the method to raising a perfect human being like myself. And that is priceless.
Read my advice for if your children ask about me here.
Watch my poem Hi, I’m Transgender below: