Mama Bearings: Field Trip!

By : Sylvie Griffiths
Comments: 0

My 10-year-old son Jake and I recently spent a Sunday afternoon at the Florida Aquarium. My youngest was excited to see a tank that would allow him to touch actual stingrays.

The field trip was an outing for parents and their children organized by a friend and former co-worker of mine at Metro Inclusive Health. It consists of transgender children ages 12 and under and provides them with fun environments to socialize while their parents get support from others with similarly-identified children.

Jake and I cannot always attend regular meetings due to their locations and my hectic schedule, but we go to outings like these as our lives allow. This was the second group trip Jake attended, and on each adventure he has had so much fun.

I believe that he should meet as many different people as he can — this has less to do with him being transgender and more with me wanting him to love all people and see diversity and inclusion with his young eyes.

Exposure to people, places and things unique from us is something I value regarding all four of my kids.

I cannot imagine that anyone at the aquarium that day knew we represented a transgender children’s group, but I can point out a few unique characteristics of our day. A few parents and professionals on our trip were wearing T-shirts that read, “Black Social Worker’s Lives Matter” and “Protect Trans Kids.”

Perhaps we came off like a big group of liberal parents to some; I was too busy chasing after a very excited little dude in a crowded aquarium to notice. The moment we posed for a cheeky photo in front of an informative plaque that read “Sex Change,” which detailed the unique gender qualities of sea life, probably did not stand out to many of the other attendees.

When we got the group organized to go into the aquarium, our gang did introductions to make everyone feel comfortable. We discussed pronouns as their icebreaker and this small gesture was a powerful reminder for me that gender is so unique to each individual. The fact that some kids do not want to be forced into a male or female box, so to speak, is equally impactful. Why must we require people in general to choose from two, very distinct options where there are so many other identities out there and in-between?

It’s not something I considered very often before I realized my youngest daughter was truly my baby boy. Our family is fiercely protective of Jake, and we worry about him having negative interactions when disclosing his gender identity. I dream of all of my children being happy, healthy adults who enjoy life, and it is my job to get them there the best way I know how to.

I genuinely love people and try to see good before I look for bad — and with all my kids, I hope I can raise them to be better than me; bolder, less self-conscious and absolutely more loving of one’s self. I wasted too many years hating myself for reasons that I now see as my unique strengths.

I’m incredibly social, but in certain settings I’m introverted until I gain the confidence to relax and put myself at ease. Meeting parents can be awkward when there is little to nothing in common other than the fact that our kids want to hang out. Attending a field trip like the one Jake and I did would normally get my anxiety going pretty full steam, but I realized as I began reflecting on the trip and writing this column that I wasn’t anxious about meeting any of the other parents at all.

I did not know any of the other parents yet, but I already liked them. As for Jake, although he was shy and interacted mostly with adults, he was enjoying just being with kids who could know about him and understand it personally.

All of us, at any age, crave that feeling of belonging and acceptance when we show someone our true selves. I tell my kids over and over to always be themselves. Naturally they respond with eye rolls or blank stares that make me wonder if my teenagers are really cyborgs, but they all are pretty quirky; this thrills me and makes me proud that they feel supported enough to be themselves.

The aquarium day was fantastic and I look forward to more field trips with the group. Jake talked about nothing else for days and I know he really enjoyed the experience on many different levels. It even gave me new friends on social media, connecting me with families who have so much in common with mine.

I now understand that you be your authentic self and belong at the same time — and for that, I am grateful, for my children and for myself.

Sylvie Griffiths is a proud mom of four whose eclectic interests include hairdressing, horror movies, mental health, advocacy, and writing. She holds a BS in Behavioral Healthcare and an MBA.

Share this story: