learning to swim

My main focus for a time will be my son but it's a tricky tightrope to walk. You don't want to do things for him but instead want to help him develop the independence which this life requires.

I watched him from a distance during the Christmas party at my sister's and he is alone lost in the crowd as much as I was at his age. Perhaps he is mired in his thoughts but also paralyzed by the fear of not knowing how to interact. He has confided to me that this concerns him but this skillset cannot be transferred to someone and they must force themselves into initially uncomfortable scenarios during which much trial and error occurs.

I refuse to be a millenial parent who creates a monster that cannot be tolerated in the workplace and perhaps here is where his natural shyness will help take the edge off of any potential sense of entitlement. I know my son is intelligent and excels in mathematics and science but he also lives in that nether land of gaming which provides sanctuary from an unpredictable and unnerving world. Yet at some point he will have little choice but to wade into those uneasy waters and learn much the same lessons the rest of us have.

Being almost 18 is a precarious period where the self is being constantly questioned and where doubt can be at its most heightened. But like others before him he must make that same trek into fashioning a sense of identity which gets him through this life. It is something I cannot give him directly and can only offer him counsel.

This evening I will have dinner with my almost grown son and continue my tentative steps towards letting him go.


  1. It is a scary time for him and I don't have much to suggest. Maybe you're glad for that! :-)

    Through HS I'd wanted to be a jazz guitarist which was a rebellion of sorts vs. my father who had a PhD in engineering. Finally, I convinced them to support me in my music studies. But then the weight of it all was really on my shoulders. The summer after HS I attended a friend's wedding reception where a three-man jazz group entertained us with beautiful music. During a break I went to them and said in a "musician to musician" tone of voice (if you will) that they sounded great; I wondered how long they'd played together to sound so good. They told me that they were called in by the union, had never played together before, but the songs were all standards that they'd played hundreds of times, so it all came together seamlessly.

    As I returned to my table I had an epiphany. I didn't want to be like them, in what appeared to be their mid-40s, playing at some kids wedding on a Saturday night, trying to scrape by. That Fall I attended the local junior college to brush up on math that I'd avoided in HS, and eventually transferred to Berkeley where I majored in electrical engineering and computer sciences.

    I think you're on the right track with your son. He needs to be gently pushed out of the nest so he makes his own trials, errors, and experiences his own epiphanies. As parents we can't control or direct them into a career or anything. It's up to them to establish themselves. We hope that they'll "at least" go to college but even that is out of our hands.

    I wish you both the best.

    1. Emma, how do you think things would be in your life now had you transferred to Berklee in Boston instead of U Cal Berkeley? I so wish that I'd received a formal music education, but, then, I still have done a lot of scraping by playing music. For me, music has always pulled me back in as much as my gender identity has. With both, I've learned that playing the standards is what you make of them. At 18, though, I had no idea of how to pursue either properly.

    2. Hi Connie,

      Interesting question! To be honest I've always had struggles with patience and my expectations of myself. My guitar playing was okay but I don't think I would have been successful. I knew I wasn't good enough so in some ways coming up with my epiphany helped me rationalize my change in course.

      Now that I'm fully out and living my life as Emma I am able to address these challenges much more effectively. The elimination of gender dysphoria and shame has had a remarkable effect on my life which is a reason I envy younger trans kids so much. But I don't dwell on the past. I'm focused on the future!

  2. My 18-year-old grandson has no real idea of what to do with his life, either. I have told him to get out and learn about as many things as he can, find something he loves, and then pursue that. I also keep reminding him that nothing is forever, and that it's OK to switch gears at any time. If I'm not a prime example for him on that note, I don't know what, or who, would be!


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