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Identifying who I am

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The last few nights, I've been woken through the night by minor headaches. I'm off all of the pain medications, and the new medication regimen I have to control my headaches is doing a decent job of controlling the frequency and intensity, but I still get hit from time to time. Usually I take ibuprofen, sometimes Tylenol, and then it takes a half hour or so to kick in to where I can get back to sleep.

It gives me time to think and reflect.

One thing that I've been reflecting back on is how my kids are doing, especially my oldest two. I think about how I feel I've done as a parent for them, to feel if I have given them my best effort for what I thought was best for them. I realized that my decisions over the years have been made based on their needs and desires much more than my own. This, in turn, has led me to reflect on my own upbringing and where I got the attitude I have.

I know I got it from my father. He is that type of person. He is not perfect, and I realize I have my failings as well. The thing is, even though my parents divorced when I was just 5 or 6, he never stopped doing what he could to give me what I needed. This could be funds for clothing, or visits with him, or even the occasional reprimand. His desire was for me to be the best person I could be but still be my own person.

At the same time, it leaves me reflecting on my life growing up with my mother. Now, after the years of experience and wisdom that I have gained, that she cared more about getting me to become who she wanted me to be more than becoming the person I needed to be.

I'm glad I didn't pick up her attitudes, I think my children are better for it. My mother (and stepfather) were believers in the phrase, "Children should be seen and not heard." For them, it meant, 'be quiet until we ask you what we want to know'. Our opinions were not important or wanted. With my children (as with my father) we would often each get a say for simple things like where to do lunch or dinner if eating out. A child's opinion carries the same weight as an adult's. We compromise. Birthdays allow the child to choose the restaurant for dinner exclusively, celebrating for us and them how special they are in our world.

Birthdays with my mother and stepfather seemed to often find a way to not just celebrate, but a way they could humiliate us. A tunnel of people, legs spread, was common for us to crawl through and be 'spanked' by each person as we went. This would happen every year for our birthday party with family. I realize fully now just how much I hated that time, how miserable it made me, and how I would be berated for 'not taking it like a good sport'.

There are a lot of things that I realize were done not because it would help me become a better person as I grew, or because I needed to learn an important lesson, but rather because it was what my mother wanted for her. Having bladder trouble growing up, I wasn't dry during the day until I was in kindergarten. I frequently wet the bed, and still had accidents (both bladder and bowel) for many years. Doctor opinion was that I was a 'late bloomer'. It wasn't that I was dumb or retarded--they could see I was able to read and handle complex problems at an early age. My body was just not at the same age as my mind.

With all of the trouble I had, I understand the need to use diapers on me. I understand they were used to control an issue I faced, and that they were the best choice for my needs at the time. Even though other children would tease me for my wearing, there was little other choice. However, other choices made at the time were done not in my best interests, but based on my mother's desires.

Growing out of toddler clothing, finding snap-crotch pants to buy was not possible. Mom hit on a solution that, to her, was a double win. I was given my older sister's hand-me-down dresses and skirts; this made changing me easy and it saved money. I didn't wear them to school, but she didn't have to change me there. As a young child desiring attention, I didn't mind the fussing made over me while wearing them. Mom had little trouble getting away with it without my father knowing: he was an airline pilot and could be out on trips for extended periods.

By the time my parents divorced and re-married, I was finally out of day diapers, though I still regularly wet the bed and had daytime accidents. The need for easy changes was gone, and the two incomes from mom and stepdad (not to mention child support from Dad) meant that funds were not as big of an issue.

The thing that bothered me most about growing up with mom and stepfather was their attitude about children. We were more of an accessory to their lives than anything else. It did not matter what our needs or desires or plans were, if they did not match how they wanted things to go, they were tossed aside like an off-color tie or a purse that didn't go with an outfit. I had promises from them to go to school events that were cancelled when their friend dropped by to visit. Taking me to my soccer game on the weekend was ignored when they wanted to stop and visit with another friend. My best chance to take care of what I needed was to get on the bus or my bike and deal with it myself.

This was always the case growing up, and I see now how cold and distant mom and stepdad were to me. I didn't feel wanted or deeply cared about. Knowing more about my mother and father and their bitter divorce, I understand that emotions ruled more with my mother than anything else. But understanding her does not necessarily make me feel better about the way things were done when I was raised.

Anymore, I realize why, as I hit the earliest stages of puberty, I began to get interested in dressing in female clothing again. The times before when I had dressed as a young child were seeds that had taken root. That was when I had been paid attention to, when I felt like I was cared about. Being the best with my schoolwork didn't matter--report cards were ignored. Everything I did I wanted to make them proud of me or show how much I deserved their attention. Fortunately, I had my father's sensibilities to know that misbehaving would get me the type of attention I didn't crave.

But the clothing associated with girls and women was not illegal or something that was wrong, after all, I had worn them earlier in life. So when I expressed an interest in knowing what it was like to be a girl and my mom suggested the best way to learn was to experience it firsthand, it didn't bother me. Instead, I found myself enjoying it and when my mother told me how pretty I was and that with hair and makeup I could probably look better than most other girls my age, I was disappointed when I was told that night didn't have the time for her to do them for me. She did ask if I would dress up again if clothing was made available. I don't remember how enthusiastic I was, but I do remember agreeing that I would.

I guess she talked with my stepfather about it that night, and I wasn't fully prepared for what was to happen the next day when I was told we needed to run errands. I dressed normally, not expecting what errands were to entail. My mom almost seemed surprised I hadn't put the clothes from the night before back on, and I found that it was because the errands she wanted to run were to go shopping to make sure things were available for me to wear--these would be MY things.

Dressing up after that became a regular thing for me. I had mom teach me a lot of how to act as a girl along with how to do my makeup and hair. I found out later that my stepfather had no objections--he had two daughters from a previous marriage, with my sister and I he felt it always could have been easier to raise us if all four kids were girls.

My mother, being a nurse, had contacts where I was seen by a specialist in gender disorders and actually spent a few months on testosterone blockers and female hormones. Within that few months I decided I didn't want to fully transition, but I admit (especially now) that I enjoyed all the extra attention that I had missed out on for so long. I would continue to dress on and off through high school, and graduated high school in the top ten students out of a class of two thousand.

I went to a military academy straight from high school at the urging of my mother and stepfather. They had a list of reasons why it would be 'good' for me. Within six months at the academy, I realized I was not the military type. What allowed me to come to that realization was likely in large part due to the fact that I was out from under my mother and stepfather's influence and being encouraged to think for myself. Mom and stepdad threatened me with never receiving a penny to help me get a degree if I left the academy, but my decision had been made, I had begun to find myself.

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