Life · Parenting · Teaching

Personing is hard

One of my favorite things to gripe about as an adult is how hard it is to be an adult. It’s hard to work, pay bills, change jobs, make friends, raise kids, blah, blah blah.  It’s a common complaint, really, and it is 100% true. Seriously, google “hard to be an adult” and see what you get. I did an image search and this is the first thing I saw:



Yesterday, a friend of mine made a comment on FaceBook about making a wish, and I commented on how much I wish I could be in college again, or have college responsibilities, anyway.  I was so smug.

Flash forward to the evening with my family. Daughter has been struggling with people calling her “him” or “little guy” or “dude” when we are out.  She has short hair and really likes “boys” clothes. Sometimes she is what I would have called super girly a few years ago, sometimes not. And she decided that we needed to talk.  I was in the front seat of the car while Husband ran into the store, and Daughter was chatting away. Out of what felt like nowhere, she said, “There is a boy in my head, you know.  He lives there.  He’s nice and we talk. I got my hair cut short to make him feel good, but it makes me feel good, too.”

“That’s very cool,” says I. I do some follow up questions to make sure I’m not dealing with something like schizophrenia or anything, you know, because I’m qualified for that. I make sure she feels comfortable about it.  I listen as long as she wants to talk, and she finishes up pretty well.  Later on at home, she brings it up again and proceeds to tell me about how she feels like she is a boy sometimes, even when she wears dresses, and she likes it.  Again, I make no big deal and talk to her about how some people feel like they are a different gender and it’s all ok.  I assure her that I love her and that I think she’s the queen (or king) of awesome.  Daughter throws arms around me and thanks me, and seems to be stress free for the first time in ages.

There I was, just a few hours ago, thinking about how hard my life is because I am all grown up. How many responsibilities I have, how tricky it is to be poor old me. The whole time Daughter is down the hall wondering if she’s a girl or a boy.

Yeah, being a kid is so easy.

Already by now I’m feeling pretty embarrassed for thinking how hard it is to make money while this is going on inside the head of my own kid. Still, I manage to sleep.

I am woken up at 1:53 AM by our puppy, because as an adult my life is so hard and I have to take the puppy out to go to the bathroom when she needs it, and I glance at my phone to see the time.  I have a few new texts from a former student.  He’s 13 or so now, and we had been very close when I had him.  I was lucky enough to teach him twice in his elementary career, and he has my cell phone number because I allowed kids to text me.  Again, it’s hard to be an adult, so I had lots of rules about the kids texting me, but not only am I not his or anyone’s teacher anymore, but he’s an old kid now.  He begins simply. “Hi. How are you doing? I need your advice.”

The next thing I get from him is a screen shot from his phone.  It is a shot of a series of texts he got that are from a girl, and it becomes apparent that they were involved.  Now, go ahead and freak out about the fact that he’s 13 and had a girlfriend, but it is what it is. In these texts it is very clear that they broke up, that she was not the one who wanted it, and that she is desperate to talk to him and get him back. Her last message is that he will “not have to deal with” her in his life anymore and she will “take care of it” followed by two emojis: a knife and a pill.  Now, oddly at 2:00 in the morning, my first thought was “Why in God’s name would there be a knife or a pill emoji?!?!” Then I realize what is going on.  My poor kid (I call my students, past, present and whatever, “my kids”) is trying to figure out what to do about his ex-girlfriend threatening suicide.  And he sent me the message an hour and a half ago but I was asleep and didn’t get it. Holy. Crap.

The first thing I tell him is that we always take suicide threats seriously.  Always.  Then, I assure him that no matter what she thinks, does, or will do, he has no responsibility. At that point I tell him he has to tell someone there.  Her parents are the first suggestion, and to call the police if he cannot get in touch with her parents.  I tell him that it doesn’t matter what time it is, they need to know.  All of this comes from me in a string of texts because he is asleep or out or whatever and it’s really late at night and oh no what is going to happen?  I lie awake for the next few hours.

Later that morning I get a text from him.  He contacted an organization that does this sort of thing exclusively that he knew about from school.  The girl is ok and he is, too.  He was really scared, but it was good to have an adult he could trust. He proceeds to chat with me for about an hour about his life and my life and the weather, of all things, and then we both go about our days a bit tired, but otherwise unharmed.

So the next time I think that being an adult is hard, or that someone tells me it is, I am going to try and persuade them that being a human being is hard.  It just is. To be good and kind and responsible and intelligent and caring and a friend and a mentor and all the things we are and try to be for good, it is all hard. Personing is hard. And it is totally worth it.

One thought on “Personing is hard

  1. Interesting! I found college significantly more stressful than post-college. Probably I should consider life to be hard, since I have to struggle every day to deal with all the problems that I have from the Peace Corps, but really, I don’t. I think in Eugene I would have said that life is just life. Here, I think that life is pretty easy. Okay, I have to speak another language and staying here is dependent on a lot of outside factors, but still life is pretty easy. Maybe because we have almost no responsibilities besides doing homework…. Of course, my life was planned to be that way. No kids, no mortgage, no car. I don’t admit people who create drama into my life, and Russians are generally closed enough in public that I’m not overwhelmed by being around strangers. In fact, it is generally really comforting. Also, in St. Petersburg, at least, our level of weird doesn’t even hit their radar. It is strange to have people think that we’re completely normal without having to pretend that we are different people.

    These days, I’m mostly around kids in their 20s. They don’t know what they want to do with their lives. The future is confusing and uncertain. You couldn’t pay me to be 20 years old again. Not for any amount of money. (Not only because I spent those years puking my guts out because of gallstones.)

    I’m guessing that you know that there are medicines that delay puberty so that kids who are uncertain of their gender can put off any changes until they are sure. Apparently, it is a whole lot easier than transitioning later. She seems like a sweet kid. I hope that she finds the path that makes her most happy.

    While these things all sound stressful, you seem to handle them with a lot of goodness and kindness. I hope that you give yourself the care and sympathy that you give to others.


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