People ask me when I knew something was “different” about Middle.
To tell the truth, she’s always been different. She was my most difficult pregnancy (I was nauseous from about 4 days pregnant until she was born). She was born three weeks early, induced due to low amniotic fluid and intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR). She was impossible to properly name. After she was born (when we thought she was a boy), we picked out a male name that it turns out neither Husband or I every really loved; so much so that we changed it (to another male name) when she was one. Now, of course, she has a very female name. She was a wonderful, but oddly good sleeper as baby; sleeping through the night at six weeks of age. She has always been extremely physical; a lover of cuddles and hugs, but equally fond of wrestling and roughhousing. When she was a toddler, Husband and I used to comment privately to each other about how Middle was such a stereotypical boy (Ha!). She always loved accessorizing. From infancy she would grab any object that remotely resembled a hat, a bracelet, or a necklace and put it on. When she was two I once had to drive her to Husband’s office so that he could cut a tightly wound slinky off of her arm. It wasn’t the last time she tried to wear a slinky and got stuck in one; they are now banned from our house.
Before Baby was born my mother sent me an impressive gift of many her favorite dresses of mine that I had worn from birth until age five or so. Pinned to each dress was a picture of me wearing the dress. She included a note that I should try to take pictures of Baby in each dress and then pass them all the dresses and pictures down to Baby someday for her own children. A very cool idea. I remember putting away those dresses for Baby, eight months pregnant, standing in our bedroom and folding them into a box. Middle, two and half years old, was standing next to me and she (he, at the time) lit up at the sight of a purple gingham dress. She asked to try it on. It was a size 3T; I didn’t even give a second thought to letting her try it. I put it over her clothes and her joy was instantaneous. She tried on other dresses that day and I even took her picture and texted it to Husband jokingly saying that Middle made a pretty cute girl (she did). I put away all the dresses after our little fashion show; all but the purple dress. Middle wouldn’t part with it.
So the affair with the purple dress began. She wore it over her clothes every chance she could get. At first, only at home. Then to the park; to the bank; to the grocery store; to friend’s houses. She acquired a cast-off blue Cinderella gown from one of Older’s friends and that was added to the rotation. She begged for “fun” socks; pink and glitter striped ones. When she needed a pair of sneakers, she requested and received purple ones. She started ballet lessons and was dismayed at the boys’ uniform of a white T-shirt, black pants, and black shoes. At the end of each ballet lesson was a free-dance time where the girls were allowed to wear a tutu. The instructor suggested that Middle might want to bring something fun for that time; a superhero cape perhaps. The look on Middle’s face made it obvious that a cape just wouldn’t do. I asked if Middle could have a tutu instead and the instructor said “sure”. We went out and bought a purple tutu. Middle was a ballerina princess for Halloween and at every house people commented on the pretty little girl. She didn’t correct them; only smiled wider. At home she asked us to call her “Princess Purple”. At some point I tired of calling her “Princess Purple” and called her real name instead; explaining that I sometimes needed to use her real name and not play pretend. She considered that and then told me I should call her [Girl’s Name]. I said I wasn’t going to do that. That she had a great name and that was what we were going to call her. She had a hard time playing at school; all she wanted to play was princess with the other princess obsessed girls. The girls tried to make her the prince. The boys didn’t know how to play with her at all; some teased her. She didn’t fit in either group. She sobbed every school day morning. She stopped playing her old favorite of Hot Wheels cars, stopped climbing and jumping. She moped at home and at school. Her teachers and we used the word “depressed” – to describe a three year old. Despite wearing pink polo shirts and purple jeans she cried that she was ugly. When we went out and people mistook her for a girl (the checker at Trader Joe’s always used to say “Hi Ladies!” to us) she was ecstatic. All she really wanted to wear was her purple dress, but it wasn’t always clean so I went out to Goodwill and found a vintage Hello Kitty t-shirt. That made her so happy that I then picked up a few other girls T-shirts on clearance. While I was at the store I found an cute, comfortable, striped polo dress and on a whim I bought it. If Middle didn’t want to wear it; I could save it for Baby. Of course, Middle wanted to wear it and wore it to a Dodger’s game the very next day. And she was happy that day; normal little kid happy.
A couple weeks after that, just after Middle turned four, I was again putting away clothes in my bedroom. This time I was putting away my clothes. Middle slipped on one of my bras, slipped it off and then turned to me. “You know I am a girl. My name is [Girl’s Name]”. “It is?” “Yes. You need to call me [Girl’s Name] now.” I looked my beautiful, smart child. I thought about all the discussions we had had about how sad she was. She was telling me how to fix it. She was as certain as a four year old could be. It was a Friday and so I said, “OK. Let’s try it for the weekend.” She beamed and followed up, “Now we need to go buy me some girl underwear and a girl swimsuit; because I’m a girl” And so we did. And so she was.