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Open Heart


Alison's daughter, Mira
  • Alison's daughter, Mira

On the day my daughter was born almost nine years ago, I remember cradling her in the morning sunlight, feeling her warmth. Looking into her eyes, I wondered so many things. Who is this little person? Who will she grow up to be? So much was unknown, but of one thing I was sure: I just wanted her to be happy and healthy.

Three years later, as I held my newborn son in the middle of the night, my feelings were the same.

Many times over the years, I've confronted the fact that, despite my best efforts, I can't always protect my children — from sadness or sickness. It's one of the many hard truths of being a parent.

But what if your child is deeply distraught because they feel they were born into the wrong body? What if, from the day he could talk, your son identified as a girl? What if your teenage daughter unwaveringly identifies as male? How do you help your child feel comfortable in their own skin?

This month's cover story explores these very difficult questions. Contributor Sarah Yahm talks to two Vermont families with transgender kids. Nine-year-old "Willow" was designated male at birth and now lives as a girl. When she was 7, she "socially transitioned" in school with a party, complete with an "It's a Girl!" cake. Since then, she's legally changed the gender on her birth certificate to female. Marcus, 17, is making the transition as a teenager, a process that involves taking hormones.

We're grateful that Willow, Marcus and their parents spoke candidly with us about the transitioning process. Their stories gave me a better understanding of what it means to be transgender, to parent a transgender child, and to parent with compassion.

Love and understanding leads us to another topic: Valentine's Day. In "Use Your Words," Autumn Engroff Spencer writes about how a birth, and a death, shaped the holiday for her, and about loving without judgment.

For parents, Valentine's Day may bring with it the pressure to get crafty. I visited Megan Humphrey, owner of Sweet Basil Cards, to loosen up about making homemade valentines for our "Art Of" column. And Erinn Simon brings the love with recipes for two kinds of heart-shaped cookies in "Mealtime."

You'll also find articles that embrace the winter season. Sarah Galbraith writes about a fat-biking family who tear through the snow on two wheels. If skiing is more your speed, check out this month's "Habitat," about a Bethel family who built a rope tow in their front yard so they can hit the slopes whenever they please.

Finally, Girl Scout cookie season is upon us. Read about the regional Cookie Rally, the new online-ordering feature, and how proceeds benefit troops and send girls to camp. Speaking of which — don't panic, but the time to plan for summer is now. The Kids VT annual Camp and School Fair takes place Saturday, February 6, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hilton Burlington. Stop by to learn about the many camps out there, and to find the best one for your child.

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.