My child stands on the precipice. He’s been perched there more or less for the past three years but, in a month, most of the last remaining guardrails will be taken down. At 17, a year earlier than expected, my son leaves for college.
Once a sign that you’ve raised your child right, setting him on a path toward a (somewhat) more certain success, the idea of sending your vulnerable, indoctrinated kid to college is now the stuff of nightmares. Perfectly happy children leave, full of excitement and promise, only to return having rejected their bodies and their entire childhood. Or they don’t return at all. University health plans across the country blindly support the self-destruction of their students, providing drugs that introduce illness, and setting them on a path to the surgical removal and mutilation of functioning, healthy body parts. Who could have dreamed up such a dystopian horror show? What parent could have anticipated this heinous level of betrayal from an institution entrusted with your precious child’s well-being?
Instead of enjoying the excitement of your child’s hopeful future, feeling the pride of seeing him or her launched carefully toward adulthood, parents approach college with fear and trepidation. “Don’t send your child to college,” they warn. “Encourage them to take a gap year so you have an extra year of control. So they have another 12 months of neurodevelopment.” Maybe common sense and acceptance of our physical realities will start to sink in. Maybe critical thinking skills will shake loose from their adolescent shackles. Maybe they’ll learn to love themselves as the perfect, authentic beings they are, the way we so clearly see them. Maybe they’ll wake from their internet-induced, ideological sleep. Maybe if we can hold on, if they wait just one more year, the world will shift back on its axis and stop working so hard to destroy them.
My son started high school during the COVID lockdown in Northern California, less than a year past a suicide attempt for which the only explanations were loneliness, self-hatred and an inability to fit in. He had a history of being bullied. He was the gentle kid in a school with a diverse student body, with its deeply troubled cohort, its “restorative justice” practices, it’s Gay-Straight Alliance and its enthusiastic blue-haired advocates. The first year was a worthless disaster. He barely went to his online classes. His second year was hell. A solid year of daily truancy reports, calls from administrators that he was walking out of classes, laying down in the road, wandering off the closed campus, unstable. He was raging, furious that I wouldn’t consent to hormones. But somehow, despite a level of emotional turmoil and upheaval I could never have anticipated, he went from failing most of his classes to eeking out a few Bs and Cs, and then to a smattering of As. The few friends he had were two years older, graduating, so he decided there was nothing at the school for him any longer. He set his mind to graduating a year early and the school was only too eager to accommodate.
His third, and last, year was almost uneventful by comparison - a blur of generalized anxiety and relief, and still regular truancy reports. He owned that school. They played by his rules. And then it was somehow suddenly over. Without bothering to take the SAT, he’d been accepted at a university in the middle of nowhere, 2,400 miles away. He skipped graduation, allowing no celebration.
Given the choice between another year in the Bay Area - with no real friends (despite becoming surprisingly social and well-liked), enabling teachers, in a school district that is introducing gender to elementary school children, in a liberal community so tolerant that my signs supporting Detransition Awareness Day were twice ripped down, in a state determined to rip the seams of childhood and family - college in the middle of nowhere seemed like a safer bet. He’ll be in a program that keeps its students engaged and busy, and he already has friends there (a small group of gaming buddies he’s known for years), somewhat mixed up, but finding their way. And by some miracle, he unwittingly picked a school that doesn’t facilitate sex-reassignment, in a state that is on its way to passing legislation banning these treatments for minors.
Maybe altogether it’s enough to buy me that extra year I lost, but there is no breathing easy. No sigh of relief. I know all too well the range of options available to my wayward child, dark paths I’ve seen my friends’ precious children take. He’s talked about estrangement, “going no-contact” — the words of vile, disturbed activists — on and off for years now. Teen rebellion or ultimate plan? Flip a coin. And even though the school won’t participate in his self-harm, the next state over is eager to help, dotted with poisoned Planned Parenthoods and their lax, dangerous practices. Anything could happen. Having a child lost to this hideous cult teaches you to accept uncertainty. Beats it into you with a brick.
I love him so deeply and I’m so incredibly proud of him. Yes, the school made it too easy for him to graduate, but he set goals and he attained them, largely on his own, through pure determination, despite himself and his worst impulses. He could find tremendous success at college. He could be launching into an adulthood I didn’t know was even possible for him a year ago, couldn’t allow myself the luxury of considering. Or he could implode. Dissolve. Disappear.
I lay awake at 3 am, or I’ve never even made it to peaceful sleep, thinking about what the world is prepared to do to him, to his perfect, healthy, beautiful body. Unimaginable horrors that I can’t shut off. The torture of a beloved child. The torture of a loving parent. This world has gone bad. Become unbelievably cruel. But I have to hold onto my hope for him, if not for the world, that he’ll find his way while he’s 2,400 miles away. And find his way back.