Some Thoughts on My First Official Mother’s Day
Jennifer Angelina Petro
Being assigned the wrong gender when I was born had three wonderful unforeseen consequences much later in life: my three sons. No matter how unsettled I was inside I loved being a dad. I sang Van Morrison songs to the kids when they were still in the womb. When they were born I placed them on my chest and sang them to sleep as I rocked them in the rocking chair. I prayed over them, blessed them, and wrote them songs. I took them on wagon rides and to play grounds and parks. When they were older I took them bug hunting, snake hunting, puppy hunting, and ice cream truck hunting. I remember one day chasing an ice cream truck around the neighborhood after school until we were able to get close enough to run after it. We went fishing. I dragged them to used bookstores. I taught them the love of nachos, Mr. Bean, and baseball. When we went to Michigan I bought them enough candy to last them on a drive to Idaho. I drew with them. I drew for them. I taught them guitar chords. I bought them guitars, drums, mandolins, trombones, keyboards, amps, and drums. Of course, these are things any mother could do. That isn’t my point. My point is I did those because I loved being a parent—a parent who thought they were a dad doing what they thought, at the time, were dad things. As it turns out, I did all these things as a mother—they were both motherly and fatherly.
I longed (and still do long) to be pregnant and carry a child. I am well aware that will never happen. I deeply wanted to breast feed a child. I am well aware that will never happen either. And while these are saddnesses I will carry always to one degree or another, I have accepted the facts. On the eve of my Mother’s Day, I find myself feeling strange, and in sort of a limbo. I did my usual texting to the kids today to remind them to get something for their mom—Mom Number One. I told them not to get me anything. Part of me wants them to always think and remember me as dad, and yet, speaking of facts, I am a mom—a mom who gave birth to herself while she was still parenting her own children. Mother and matter are related in their Latin roots. They mean source—the stuff of the world—the feminine force of things. I have been, without knowing it, motherly giver and the source of origin for many things in the lives of my children. Father, in Latin (Dutch, vader—now you know what the “Vader” means in Darth Vader.), means paternal and Supreme Being; I have not been a supreme being except for when they were infants and in my arms or in my care in the woods, or when they were young and I made up stories for them stories until they fell asleep. I have been paternal to my children. I have cared for them when they were sick. I have laid down with them when they had nightmares.
Being motherly and fatherly makes me a genderqueer parent. And as the physical symptoms/manifestations of being wrongly assigned male at birth are slowly kneaded and shaped into the female parts I have always wanted, the fatherly form will fade, yet the fatherly spirit will always remain. And as the physical form of my real gender identity is fashioned, the motherly spirit will grow. I am a two-spirit parent who has untied things that have always been, from the beginning of time, united.
On this Mother’s Day, I am grateful for my three children. I am grateful for my own mother. Many of my relatives believe she is turning over in her grave at her “Joey,” being a “Jennifer,” and these are difficult fears for me to shake. I want to believe she would be happy and only care if I was happy. She would be worried sick about my impending future—no doubt about that—she would be telling me of all the teaching jobs open in Michigan, but she would be happy I am happy. I am also grateful to Mandy—the one who physically carried the kids and gave birth to them. She has been, and is, a wonderful mom. And on this, my first Mother’s Day, I am grateful for me and this wild, miraculous journey I am on.
So Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mom’s Out there—no matter what gender you are or aren’t.
Happy Mother’s Day to me.