The Return of the Dress

Two years ago, I wrote about a dress. It wasn’t just any dress- it was my daughter’s prom dress. You can read the original post here-  All Because of a Dress.

At the time that I wrote that post, the dress was crumpled up in a garment bag, stuffed behind the chair in my home office. It was a long time before I took it out of its hiding place.

It now hangs on the back of my office door. It represents my last days with Kerri, the last dress I would buy for my daughter. And that is where I thought the story ended. But this is Kris. And as I’ve learned, not everything is permanent.

Within a few short months after purchasing that dress, I would barely recognize that my child…. or my life. That was 5 years ago.

I’ve written about the different emotions I experienced as Kerri transitioned to Kris., female to male. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve reassured other parents that everything they are feeling is valid and OKAY. And yet, the one thought- the one idea, wish, call it whatever you want- that one thing that I cannot think without intense heartache and so much self-loathing for being so incredibly selfish is the desire that I had my daughter back. I can’t speak those words- when I attempt to even say anything that implies that I ever felt like that- well, I can’t. The words just won’t come. I beat myself up. The stream of reprimands is relentless. It’s one of my deepest secrets and it’s painful to even type those words. 

And yet,  if I hear those words from another mother’s lips, I am the fiercest in letting her know that it is perfectly normal to feel that way and to just FEEL it. It’s OKAY! This is your child you are talking about here and those emotions are so strong. Don’t suppress them. Don’t feel guilty. It doesn’t mean that you don’t love your child- you are just letting go of the child you thought you had. But when it comes to me? I just can’t give myself a break or listen to my own words- not me- nope.

And why did I have to keep that dress? Any dress? I knew that Kris would never wear it again and might even be hurt that I chose to keep it. Why did I force myself to write about it at that time- when the pain was so fresh. That was torture to write. I remember sitting in the very place I’m sitting right now, feeling like the words were being torn from me.

Letting go of Kerri was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. A year and a half ago, I wouldn’t have believed that there would be anything more difficult. If someone had said, “Just wait, Kat! It gets harder….. and the punchline is that you won’t see it coming until it hits you. Oh, and it’s not Kris,” I wouldn’t have believed it. As it was happening, I didn’t see it until I was in it. But that’s not what this post is about.

This post is about that dress- hanging there. I hardly look at it because when I’m in the room, the door is open.

And then Kris came home from spring break. Kris, my middle child, 24 years old, who was assigned female at birth, transitioned to male at 18, and then changed pronouns (they, them, their) and appearance (feminine) at 23. Not my daughter. Not my son. 

So, Kris came to my office door to talk to me and I saw the dress, hidden from Kris’s view because the door was open. I hesitated. Then I said, “I want to show you something. I’m not sure why I have it. I don’t know how you are going to feel.” 

I showed Kris the dress. I felt sheepish, embarrassed, guilty, anxious, sad….. I guess I shouldn’t have worried. Kris looked at the dress fondly and said, “Maybe I can replace the black sash and use it as my wedding dress.”

And because the mind works in miraculous ways, before the swell of emotions could rise, they were swept up and locked in a box and I was able to smile at Kris and respond, “That could be done.” I admit that I ignored the little scratching and tapping sounds coming from inside that box. So much feeling going on in there. So many stray thoughts did not make it in there- wedding dress, but not my daughter, nonbinary, dress dress wedding dress.

Maybe the story of the dress is not over. And quite possibly all of those things that I let go of when Kerri came out and became Kris aren’t gone after all. After that conversation with Kris and admitting that I still have the dress, I realized a few things.

It was hard to let go of all my hopes and dreams for my daughter but when I stripped them all down to bare bones I saw that they were still the same, they might look a little different than I thought they would. And that’s okay because I know my child very well and whatever that dream wedding was that I thought they were going to have, regardless of gender or name, Kris is so incredibly unique that no one knows what their wedding will be like, least of all Kris! 🙂

Now that a lot of what I thought was gone is back, I look at it much differently than I did before. It’s all fluid and not really important. Having my children live happy productive lives where they love and are loved, are kind, generous and caring people…..that’s what matters most.

I’ve managed to work through most of the contents of my mind’s locked box. The only thing that remains are pronouns (a topic for another day) and a label. Since Kris came out, I have grown to dislike labels but the one I struggle with most is a label that accurately expresses how I feel for Kris. And this is a biggie for me.

I have been told that son and daughter are just words, that they don’t mean anything, that child means the same thing and it’s just not that big of a deal. But for me, it is. I feel that daughter and son have an emotional attachment to them that is not present in the words child or kid or offspring. Child seems so impersonal and distant. I have been told these words hold the meaning you give to them. But I can’t get past it. It doesn’t mean that I want Kris to be my daughter. It simply means that I wish I had a word for Kris that describes the depth of feeling I have for this kid that matches. And I have been reduced to feeling guilty when calling Michael or Andrew my sons, so I try not to refer to any of my children as anything.

I’m listening to myself as I write this and a little voice keeps screaming- it’s just a label, it doesn’t matter! And the truth is, if this is the biggest problem I am facing with Kris these days, I’ll take it!

My love for my children has only grown stronger as they have grown up. I love the very cool people they have become and I can’t wait to see what their futures hold!

via Daily Prompt: Label