Kids know what they’re about

When I was four, I thought I would grow up to be a paleontologist. My preschool teachers were impressed I knew the word. My parents patiently bought me books on dinosaurs and sat through hours of regurgitating dinosaur facts at them. Everybody took it at face value that This Was What I Was All About. I saw this not just as a job I could do, but where I could see myself fitting in. This was the kind of person I was and what I should do.

I did not grow up to be a paleontologist. But that wasn’t important then. It hadn’t happened yet. I honestly believed my future was going to be spent assembling fossilized skeletons like giant, expensive lego sets.

I had a window of understanding into who I was and what I was about. That window grew as I got older, and I started accepting or rejecting different aspects of who I saw myself to be.

When Sprout first identified themselves as nonbinary to Dena and me, they added a rational disclaimer: “I don’t know if I’ll always feel like this, but this is how I feel right now.”

Part of growing up means embracing and exploring different identities.

So if you wouldn’t knee-jerk react to a kid with “You’re never going to be a paleontologist when you grow up,” why is it okay to tell them “You don’t actually know you’re nonbinary/trans?”

Mister Rogers said it best: kids are deeply serious about their inner lives.

Whether or not it’s “a phase” isn’t for other people to say. In a way, everything we see about ourselves is just a temporary phase, but some of those phases last for a long time. Even the discarded self-perceptions have value—They help move us forward in our understanding of who we are.

Listening to what Sprout has to say about themselves is bigger than a conversation about gender. It’s about showing them we take them seriously. We trust them to come to us when they have Big Things to talk about. We love them unconditionally and there’s nothing they can say or think or feel that will change that.

Because no matter how either of our children identify now or in the future, the one constant we want them both to feel is that they are loved, exactly as they are in this and every moment.