She Doesn’t Call Me Mommy Anymore: On Nonbinary Trans Parenting and Mother’s Day
It wasn’t supposed to be like this—me, drinking coffee, her sitting too close all elbows and knees and bones and limbs. She had plans. Her plans included me taking her to a toy store, but that was mostly because she didn’t understand the holiday and when you’re 7, all holidays and special days and every day should end up at a toy store. I redirected that plan with a short list of examples of how people sometimes celebrate the occasion. I started with “maybe breakfast in bed…” and she stopped me short to make a list of the foods she would deliver to me. In bed. Ginger ale, tortilla chips, Life cereal, and coffee. Of course. She even asked to be dropped off an hour early, since holidays put us on the holiday custody schedule not our regular every other weekend situation. She was all in. That was Thursday.
By Sunday morning, she arrived hungry (because too early) and with a strong desire to both ask me for things: snacks! cereal! orange juice! and the need to smash all limbs into my soft body on the couch requiring that I stay in one place. You know, the standard be in all places at once parenting skill we all somehow manage. While drinking hot coffee without spilling or burning anyone though the child is on you/next to you/on you, of course. Thankfully, The Girlfriend took over breakfast duty. We had bagels and skipped the tortilla chips and ginger ale.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this—celebrating this holiday that isn’t mine, but is because of that whole birth thing and the not-a-dad thing. The holiday that feels wrong but fine, changed, reclaimed. She calls me Apa full time now. Mommy is a tiny voice distant memory, one that comes up quickly at playgrounds and around little kindergarteners calling out. Mommy! Mommy! Not mine, this time. Not me, anymore. Maybe she was growing out of it anyway. Maybe it’s a single parenting thing. Maybe it’s because “mommy is a girl word” and “mommy isn’t your gender” and calling me Casey didn’t quite feel right, though she tried for a bit.
It wasn’t really supposed to be like this, but maybe just because I didn’t know it could be like this. I didn’t know I could parent like this with equal parts learning and doing. I didn’t know I’d question my own every move, doubting my ability to keep loving like this, to keep showing up like this, holding love and loss in the same hand like this.
I didn’t know I could parent as myself and didn’t have to try to fit into some kind of role that was set up before me, some kind of not me, some kind of failure I wasn’t required to even try for. I didn’t know that kids see parents for who they are, not for who they’re trying and failing to be anyway.
“I don’t have two moms,” she says now with pride, “I have a Mama and an Apa. They’re my parents. I have two houses, too.”
I didn’t know our first custody schedule Mother’s Day would turn into Apa’s Day and she’d fall asleep moments after saying, “I love you, Apa.” I didn’t know we could do this. I didn’t know it could be like this. Even if it wasn’t supposed to. Even without breakfast in bed and anything or everything going according to some kind of plan. I’m not so great with plans anyway.