I am always very cautious my blog posts details are vague enough so clients do not recognize themselves or feel their privacy has been violated or a trust broken.
I met with these clients over a year ago and I will not identify the parents as either Mom or Dad, simply as parents. I also will refer to the child as X only.
They had been married almost twenty years and found themselves contemplating divorce. They were still living together and co-parenting their three children. Over the years they had drifted along in their marriage, busy with family demands and work demands. That happens frankly in most marriages with kids. They have not had enough time to focus on their relationship but that does not mean divorce is the best solution in most situations.
I was not picking up a clear sense of their specific relationship challenges and they were very businesslike in all their discussions and exchanges. Separating property and assets was easily worked through with an accountant’s precision.
As I asked about their children I was met with a stony silence. Finally one said simply “We do not agree”. Not agree on custody? Child support?
I asked what did they specifically not agree on. “X claims they are transgender”. The other parent shot back “X is transgender, X is not just claiming it”. It did not improve from there.
The exchange continued with allegations of propping up teenage “fads”, being too close-minded, caring too much what other people think and on and on. They never mentioned their two other children.
Once they had burned off that energy I asked them about their marriage. When had is stopped being supportive and positive? They both looked at each other and gave the same answer. “When X announced they were transgender it soon felt as everything shifted and morphed because we see the issue so differently. It is one thing to have a discussion in general about an issue but an entirely different experience when it is your own child”. Both parents were now crying.
We took a short break and when we all sat down again I asked them if possibly their marriage was not the challenge but rather X’s transgender status and how to parent such an issue, especially when they had very different responses and belief systems.
I suggested they try meeting with a marriage and family therapist before they continued with the divorce. I told them they were always welcome to return to mediation and I would be glad to continue working with them if that was their final decision. I never have heard back from them in over a year.
Parenting is so hard. I have seen couples come almost to blows over whether their child should play traveling hockey, I cannot image trying to parent a delicate and major decision when the parents are so divided. Clearly both parents wanted the best for X, they just had very different ideas of what “best” was.