To George on the eve of her 5th birthday

by Janelle Hanchett

When I started this blog you were 5 months old. You were bald, and your ears kind of curled over at the top. We called them your “elf ears.” This will probably be less amusing when you’re 15.

you see the dimples?

you see the dimples?

When you smiled your face exploded in tiny indentations: A cleft chin, and a dimple on each side.

That still happens. It happened just this morning when you asked me if I’d give you “side spikeys” today. Your hair, that is.

Tomorrow you turn 5.


I thought your birth, my first one at home, was going to roll out and along like soft waves crashing on a foggy ocean shore, because that’s what happened in your brother’s birth a few years before. I envisioned myself dancing you out all calm and quiet and serene, maybe pulling you to the surface of the water with eyes wide open.

Instead I drank castor oil, setting off a 9-hour torture session of me squealing like a hyena and cursing the day I realized children were a possibility.

You were in a funky position. I had to push for approximately 9 years and 27 days.

There was no doubt in my mind I could not do it. When the midwife said “Well you’re the only one that can” and I met my mom’s eyes as her mouth said “Janelle get angry” I knew they were right and I let go and readied myself for the end and pulled all the energy from you, me, the ocean and all the motherfucking hyenas to get your 10-pound body out of me, with your chin not tucked appropriately and head cocked to one side.

Not gonna lie, your head was super jacked up on one side. I didn’t notice.

Your daddy lifted you from the water and the midwife said “cord.” Your older brother and sister gathered close. She flipped you over twice and your body flooded pink right there from the center and I think I cried and broke in elation because neither of us were dead and you were so big and lovely and mine and soft.

Ours, actually: me and daddy and Rocket and Ava.

You hardly cried. I swear it’s true. Through your whole damn infancy. You played and played and laughed and smiled and nursed a lot, but preferred sleeping alone. It was like a dream. You were like a dream.

not making the milk sign, but still damn cute playing with blocks


Your independence was fierce and full right from the beginning, as if you started out knowing, just knowing what you needed to know, already. Like you showed up and said “I’m here, folks.” And started living complete, or mostly so, or more than the rest of us.

On your first day of preschool you stomped up the stairs, threw the door open and said “GEORGIA IS HERE.” And walked in.

That’s kind of how you’ve treated life.


We went camping when you were 10 months old and you already talked quite a bit, which was super weird after your brother, who barely spoke until he was three. You found a rock you loved and named it “owl.”


Georgia and her rock, which she called "owl", because she calls everything "owl", because she's perfect. Oh right. And there's Mac, too. :)

Georgia and “owl”

I think we still have it.

At 18 months you explained you were a “big boy” and for two years were adamant that you were a boy and cried if people called you a girl, so you were our boy and it was fine and damn you were adorable.


You had a “big boy dinosaur monster truck party” when you turned three.

A few months after your 4th birthday you decided you were a girl and then both, but really, you’ve just been you and that’s enough for me. All of us, your family, and the world.

At least I hope it is.

A few months ago you said when you grew up you were going to build a room where nobody asks if you’re a boy or a girl.

I’ll join you there, my love.


GeorgieI hope they’re nice to you in kindergarten. I hope you can just be Georgia there too. I hope your faux hawk (you begged for it for a solid year) and digger shirt paired with a bright floral skirt and red Pumas doesn’t make the other kids wonder.

Some of them are very disturbed by you. It makes me sad to think of the rigidity that must exist in their homes. We have had children yell in our faces “GIRLS DON’T HAVE SHORT HAIR!”

Oh, my heart.

I hope nobody tells me I shouldn’t let my kid look like that if I want people to know how to treat her because I’ll tell that person to kiss my ass seventeen thousand ways before I’ll tell my kid “Sorry. There’s no place for you…and to make other people comfortable, to conform to arbitrary, archaic societal guidelines regarding gender, I’m gonna need you to pretend to be something someone somebody you are not.”

Nope. Kick rocks asshole. You change.

We’re fine. 


Act nice. Proceed with life.


You turn 5 tomorrow. This year it’s a dinosaur astronaut party.

We’ve had some rough patches, you and I. Some days I thought you were too much. The wrestling. Yelling. Jumping. Running. Dancing.1510446_10206802667088298_7890154119994312816_n

No. Not the dancing.

The dancing has never been too much.

At the public pool, if your jam came on, you danced. Within a few moments you had a little audience. “Does she go to dance class?” Some of the kids asked.

“No,” I answered, “That’s just how she moves.”

That’s just how she lives.


Tomorrow you turn 5. It feels huge. It feels heavy and deep and a little

It feels perfect. It feels lucky. It feels the only way I’d ever have it.

I watch you all move along, a day a week a month a year beyond. I wonder if I held on, played enough. I regret the day care and babysitter. I regret every day spent away. I regret the time you were at the doctor’s without me. Every time I’ve yelled.

I remember I can’t do motherhood if I’m never away. I remember I needed to earn money. I remember I did what I could, then, and now. I take a breath and watch your face explode in tiny indentations.  

I remember it all lead us here.

Here. Now. To tomorrow.

Motherhood is a series of letting go. It does not grow easier.

On the first day of school I’ll do your spikes just right, pack your dinosaur lunch box and watch you walk away, holding the hand of the boy who came like the waves.

And watch as you go out with them too.


63 Comments | Posted in Sometimes, I'm all deep and shit..... | August 4, 2015
  • Deirdre Nice

    I love your blog. Have been sharing it with friends. It’s awesome.

  • Bec@GrowingHome

    George rocks that personality of hers like an awesome little human. Happiest of birthdays!

  • Mommysquared

    Love this and wish the best for your soon to be 5 year old and all the world has to offer 🙂

  • Karin

    I remember liking your blog and fb page a long while back. I read posts then and “liked” things and then fb became a big jerkface, and I stopped seeing so many of the blog pages I had come to love. Yours was one of them, it seems, because this post popped up in my feed just now and I thought to myself, “Oh, wow. I remember this blog. I had forgotten all about it! How weird that it’s just randomly popping up in my feed.”
    Then I read it and I cried at how beautiful your love is for your girl and how much you honor and respect her as a human, and I am so very grateful for fb and it’s randomness, because otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten to read this wonderful post.
    Thank you for sharing your life with the world.
    Happy birthday to your George. I hope she never stops dancing. Xoxo

  • Stacey

    Made me cry. Just beautiful.

  • Alana

    Hey lady, it has been a long time. I have been turned inside out once again by the alien invasion of child bearing and birthing and now the three month old and the three year old are finallly taking a nap that I will probably regret but it gave me time to stop and read and catch my breath and be inspired and cry and consider and that stuff is good but its better when done with friends and since they are few and the good ones so far I find myself here seeking you. Old Friend I have never met yet. I stayed up late last night as well looking at the workshop you are offering and wondering when money is no longer going to be that thing that oppresses me and offers me moments of fleeting freedom like when I go to the Target and buy sheets like “FUCK IT” I get 5% off and “I’m worth it” You dont take target charge cards for online writting workshops do you? Did not think so, but you would like to and that is another reason I like you. Anyhow. I finally added you on instagram because you said to (not because I want to stalk you) But because I have finally decided to use social media as a mode of inspiration, not a hungry ghost that feeds off me feeling bad about myself for not being “better” AND because I want to stalk you and pretend we are real life friends already. You inspired me to start writting a blog three years ago when I starting reading your stuff and at the same time I’m lazy and overwhelmed by my reality and you already say so much of it for me. So whatever, like the cleaning out of the garage “I will get to that later” Damn that three month old is making crackling “where is that nipple sounds” gotta go.

  • Becky Gaines

    I’m going to try not to be a dick but still make a point, as a mother who loves her kids as much as any other mother:

    “I hope nobody tells me my kid should understand sarcasm if I want people to know how to treat him because I’ll tell that person fuck off and to kiss my ass seventeen thousand ways before I’ll tell my kid “Sorry. There’s no place for you…and to make other people comfortable, to conform to arbitrary, societal guidelines regarding manners and neurotypical convention, I’m gonna need you to pretend to be something someone somebody you are not.”

    And I certainly hope no one tells my kid that he’s a freak and they hate him because he can’t understand sarcasm. I don’t want to beat a dead horse on this one and *I* understand that your post was sarcasm, but my beautiful, sweet, wonderful six year old boy would not. I don’t want him to live in a world that says “If you’re different, that’s too bad; I can’t not offend everyone. I have no room or time to be kind to those who are different.”

    With much love and respect.

    Becky Gaines

    • Kelly

      Who’s making your six year old read this blog?

      • Becca Joy Orcutt

        Oh my goodness don’t even get me started on my 6 year old and his blog reading addiction… ;p

    • Showy

      Dear Becky,
      Renegade Mother would never tell your, or any, 6year old to fuck off and kiss her ass. She would tell you, or any parent who felt the need to comment on her daughter’s appearance, to fuck off and kiss her ass. Please re-read the blog post. Your son’s understanding of sarcasm is not relevant and absolutely has no relation to this blog post.

  • Melissa K.

    My wife and I (2 Moms) moved to Concord from San Francisco in ’99, our son was less than a year. Our kids (19 & 16) have been “coming out” ever since…and they love it. It’s parents like you, like us, like families I’m sure we both know that are not only raising our children to be who they know they are, but raising their friends and those friends’ families to love our children!

    So happy I found your Blog.
    Happy First (and maybe last, fist) day of Kindergarten.

  • Dayna

    been there.
    My happy, happy daughter, Josie was David for quite some time. She never liked girl’s clothes- until she did. Methinks you’ll get that:) I “forced” her to try a lot of things, but never to change who she is. She realized at 18 that she is gay. Now at 21 she has fallen hook, line & sinker for a most wonderful young man. Go figure. Or don’t. She’s still my happy, happy Josie, and that’s all that matters.
    I believe most people are nice. Moms have to, don’t we?

  • Lulu

    Aaahhh, Janelle… I don’t have a bunch of kids, I only have one and we are still in the thick of toddlerhood. Though it seems its been hundreds of miles, I don’t have a tremendous amount of road to look back upon just yet as we are still kind of beginning, my son and I. But this post makes me want to sob big ol’ sobs of love and gratitude for all the beauty and hardship and awe of it all. And goddamn it if you just made me want another baby.
    (Not really just yet – but you just made my ovaries ache.)

    Again, thank you for sharing your life with us. It is such an honor and a gift to be your witness.

  • Alysicia

    Happy Birthday George! We are really going to miss you so much at preschool! You are such an awesome kid. Your short hair is rock’n like your personality. Much love and light sent your way.

  • Danielle Barnsley-Cervo

    “A few months ago you said when you grew up you were going to build a room where nobody asks if you’re a boy or a girl.

    I’ll join you there, my love.”

    Please save a seat for me too.

    Happy Birthday to one of the wisest people I’ve never met. I hope it’s filled with lots of cake and much dinosaur astronaut excitement!

  • heather

    girls have short hair, go into a trade, fall madly in love, have babies (he might be a pterodactyl), and live happy full lives. anyone who says we can’t doesn’t have to help but they better not hinder (fuck ’em).

    I’m so glad you posted this. Georgia is a lucky kid 🙂

  • Maria

    This is just wonderful.

  • Bernie

    Your posts humble me. Happy birthday, George!

  • Jess D.

    Makin’ me cry. Again. Without being a total creep, your family is absolutely gorgeous, and Georgia is my favorite child who is not mine in the world. Thank you for writing.

  • Kathy

    This made me cry. I am expecting my first grandchild. I hope, at some point, people get the sticks out of their asses. That we start to live with more love and acceptance, and less judgement and pissiness. I’ve only recently discovered your blog. Thank you.

    • renegademama

      Oh how I can get behind that stick removal. Haha nice pun.

      I hate puns.

  • Mary Runion

    A voice from the past! I remember the delightfully happy baby that came with Mommy or Daddy to pick up her big brother, Rocket. I love the family picture that you posted with this article. It was fun to see Rocket and Ava the way they were when Rocket was in our class! How old is he now? I’ll bet that his confidence and personality have served him well! Happy birthday to your youngest joy. She sounds as amazing as her brother and sister!

  • Molly

    Oh my god! I. Love. You. Thank you for putting your beautiful and humbling ideas out into the world.

  • Debbie

    I think your post is lovely.
    It reminded me of when my youngest daughter started school. She had short hair, in her case recommended by the hairdresser to help thicken her thin hair. The other girls all had long hair and to alienate my daughter they decided that ‘only girls with long hair’ could join in their games. I was amazed and horrified that 5 year old girls could be so awful.
    I hope your daughter has a more positive experience. She is blessed to have such an understanding and supportive mother as yourself.

  • Sam Pereira

    I wish I lived near you guys. I would be joining Georgia dancing at the pool. I assume there’s dancing in the supermarket too..? Excellent. What an awesome person to have in the world. Rock on Georgia, and happy birthday.

  • Kelly

    This is beautiful.
    It’s sad that we have to worry about our children going to kindergarten and other kids hurting their feeling just for being who they are. When my daughter went to kindergarten last year, all I wanted was for her to just continue being the amazing person she is no matter what the other kids thought or said about it. I hope your daughter continues through life being the strong, amazing person she is and no asshole says or does anything to change the way she feels about herself.
    You’re a great mama and because of your love and acceptance your children have the confidence to be who they want to be and not let other people define them.

  • Zoe

    Crying… You’re wonderful. Thank you for sharing.

  • Megan

    This was absolutely beautiful. I think every kid would be blessed to have a mom who felt this way about them.

    This girl sounds like a force to be reckoned with and we could use a lot more kids like her nowdays.

  • Shauna

    Oh my heart, that dancing!!! I would watch that video every day if I was her momma. What a seriously amazing kid.

  • Michael

    You have restored my faith in humanity

  • Celia Campbell

    Lovely blog post and thank you so much for sharing! I have one young son and awaiting our second and I like to think that no matter what we love our children and all other children just as they are and their individualities is what makes them so special and bring something different to this world. Thank you again for sharing a beautiful story!

  • Mary

    How do you do it? Every time I read what you write, it hits this been-a-mom-for-a-million-years hard and in the right place. One of my favorite students is transgendered, or gender fluid, or not entirely sure (his words), but it matters not one fucking bit to me (probably because this kid is an artist after my jaded art teacher’s heart). That this teenager finds more support at school and in my art room than at home with mom is what hurts me to the core. It is truly mind boggling that there are people who only love their kids conditionally. Janelle, you’re a gift not only to your own kids, but to the rest of the world. (Now if I could just say What The Fuck when that mom insists on using female pronouns with her kid against his wishes and tells him to “just get over this”!)

  • Lauren

    Happy birthday sweet Georgia! My husband and I make sure that we teach our kids that everyone is different, and that different is fucking awesome! I’ve shown my daughter (she’s six) all the recent pics of Georgia on Instagram and she says “mom, that little girl is so cute, I want my hair cut like hers!” Thank you so much for sharing, your words are always comforting and remind me that I’m not alone in my head in this parenting business. Much love to you and your amazing family!

  • Karen R

    Your child is beautiful, a gift to you and to the world! I hope George continues to rock her style and be who she was meant to be. She is so lucky to have parents who will just let her be.

  • Heidi

    Crying. Thanks for being an example of what to “do” when dealing outside of social norms. I love the freedom you gve her to be herself without worry or manipulation. That’s inspiring.

  • Windmill8

    Love this blog – the first I’ve ever subscribed to.

    Firstly, happy birthday George! So great to hear big humans treating fellow, smaller humans with respect, curiosity and admiration. Here’s to more of that in the world.

  • Cassey

    Happy birthday to George. I hope she always dances when she hears a song she likes.

  • Renee

    You are the mother I wish I was. I don’t feel comfortable enough to fit outside the “norms” as dictated by our society. Bravo Janelle, just bravo for being so brave!!! And Happy Birthday Georgia – you is entering a brand new time in you life and it will be excellent for you!

  • Charlotte

    So much love for this. (And your description of labor. OMG. So right.)
    Happy birthday, George!

    When I was six, everyone told me I was a boy because I liked blue best and I asked my mom to buy me a pair of blue tennis shoes. And when they wore out, I asked her to buy me another goddam pair because I freaking liked blue.

    Suck it, idiots.

  • Denise B

    This made me cry so much. I wish I had a mom like you! As my little hyper-gender-conforming almost-5 year-old enters kindergarten, I remind her to be kind to people who are different and we think that people who are themselves are beautiful, and we always talk about how anyone of any gender can wear anything. Come sit with us!

  • Linda

    I look forward to your blog every day!!! It makes me smile and cry sometimes!! But in the end its all good and thats what matters is you help me because i feel EVERYTHING you write and its awesome to hear others feel the same! if i never read your blog i would of probably shot myself a long time ago (sarcasm) THank you and keep at it…Youre one of the best!!!! Real and True!!!! (thats going to be my last name soon (“True”)thats for real!!!!

    • Wendy S.

      Georgia is blessed to have you as her mom.

  • Diane

    I used to think that the novel that you will eventually write about Georgia would fall into the category of magical realism, now I think the more appropriate genre would be surrealism.

  • Becky

    Man, I’ve been reading this blog a long time!!
    Happy Birthday, mama. Georgia has been a joy to read about since my son was a baby – he’s turning 4 this month!
    I hope the world has shifted enough to be supportive and loving more than hateful to such a bright light of a child.

  • Susan

    I have an almost five year old girl. She loves to wear dresses and put bows in her hair while playing with dinosaurs and matchbox cars. She carries a pink and purple sparkly evening bag filled with action figures. Last night, she went to her big brother’s football practice, and now she can’t stop talking about when she gets big and can play football too. Her grandmother, a 73 year old Southern lady, told her, “you don’t want to do that, football is for boys”. My 14 year old daughter got up and left the room. She told me later that it made her so mad she couldn’t just sit there, but she didn’t want to offend grandma. And I realized that maybe, just maybe, I’m doing something right!

  • Miranda

    Fantastic! Happy Birthday to both of you!

  • Ellen

    Thank you for this, thank you. Tears.

  • Natalie

    Love reading your blog. But I have to share . . . I am actually the mom of a three-year old who insisted a boy with long hair was a girl while we are at the pool a few weeks ago. My daughter kept using the pronoun, “she.” I was mortified and explained to my three-year old daughter that boys can have long hair and girls can have short hair. She screamed at me, “No, that’s a girl! I say all of this to say — just because a kid makes a certain statement doesn’t make her parents a-holes. Sometimes kids just say shit despite their parents best intentions.

  • Karyn

    I always find what I’m looking for when I come to read your blog. Thank you again for sharing with us, I’m so glad you’re back.

    Happy Birthday Georgia!

  • Kari

    Happy Birthday Georgia! 5 is huge. Tell your mamma she’s wrong people do give a shit. Have a fantastic birthday.

  • Ren

    Your post made me think of this song by Cacie Sears, whose music I’ve been “indoctrinating” my little niece with–because concepts like tolerance of people regardless of gender are Feminist and, as such, Evil. (Weirdly enough, her album also has a drawing of a dinosaur in a space suit on the cover.)

    Happy belated birthday to Georgia!

  • Liz

    Awesome! Well written. My nearly 5 year old son has been wearing dresses for a year and a half. My oldest daughter passed herself off as a boy in public successfully for a year in preschool before changing her mind. This is a prime time for them to explore who they are and it is so lovely that you are providing them with the ability to do so without judgment.

  • Katie

    Wow. Great post. I never comment, but had to here. I get it. I’ve also got 4 kids. And I’ve also got a 5 year old. He’s awesome. Like the most incredible person ever. He’s got crystal blue eyes and platinum blonde hair that just almost reaches his bottom. For no reason really other than the fact that haircuts never made it into our schedule. And now when we talk about even getting his hair trimmed just a little bit…he’s not interested at all! And he wears a tie-dyed T-shirt everyday:) Everywhere we go people think he’s a girl…and when they hear that he’s a boy it’s rather disgusting to watch how uncomfortable that makes most people. A boy with long hair. It makes some people like incredibly uncomfortable. And I just don’t get it. And my son just has no patience for it. He too walks into a room and announces his presence. The other day he was walking around singing that Aha song ‘Take on me.’ He’s just a trip. He just tells people he’s a boy and then looks at them wondering what the hell is wrong with them that they don’t get it. I mean really, what’s the big deal? I too have wondered about the rigidity in other people’s homes. Oh it’s sad. Why would anyone give a rat’s ass about someone else’s hair? Good luck with Kindergarten:)!! I’m sure she will wow them all!

  • SC

    Bit of a necro-comment here. Anyway, you and I disagree more often than not, but I wanted to commend you on your stance regarding George/ia’s appearance and gender identity.

    People have asked me since I was little if I was a boy or a girl. My mom made made me wear my hair a certain way and dress a certain way (at least for fancy occasions) so I would conform to what society expected me to look like.

    Fast-forward… Now that I can dress and present just how I like, I *STILL* get asked if I’m a girl or a boy by little kids who are very curious and still learning to put things in categories.

    So even though kids can be mean about so many things, the supportive and accepting parents (and kids!) I encounter every day make me glad that kids with an unconventional gender identity are going to have it a lot easier than we did 35 years ago.

    Thanks for being one of them and for raising your kids that way too.

  • Amy

    Happy Birthday, George! Keep on being YOU <3 I hope the world is kind; and if it isn't, I hope you change it!

  • Michelle

    Happy 5th birthday George!

    And (((hugs))) from the mother of one gender non-conforming child to another.

    • Michelle

      Only I would put an @ symbol in my own website address. It’s a rare talent, I’m telling you LOL

  • Anne Gray (@zer_netmouse)

    Love this blog and so much love for this post and the one after it.

    My daughter Rosie is going to be five in two days, and starts Kindergarten the week after that. She has met female friends of mine with very short hair and male friends with very long hair (more of which live close to us) and I am an engineer (though I’ve been staying home with her) and her daddy is the primary cook and I still watch her trying to fit people into traditional gender-shaped boxes because she is five and this is that age and I know she will grow out of it but I wish she had someone like your daughter who lived close if that would only help her learn sooner that people do not fit in boxes. People are people and categories are only sometimes useful or helpful and you have to watch out for them because they create blind spots that might bite you on your ass.

    Thank you for trying to fight that uniquely ignorant form of blindness. We see you – your whole family. Thank you for sharing, for being out there. You are amazing and beautiful.

    That’s the way you move. 🙂

  • Cira

    …I gots me one of those kiddos. We are lucky mamas.

  • Jones

    Long time reader but never commented before. This post made me cry. Especially the part about short hair. Because it’s ironic to me.

    When I had short hair, all my dark-skinned friends found it normal. But my light-skinned friends had to ‘adjust’. But I’m in between and I never had someone say right into my face that ‘girls should have long hair’.

    My light-skinned girlfriends have. Which is so weird for me… Because why?

    I will say that open-minded family makes a lot of bad in the world go away. If your peeps don’t care why would you care about the rest of the world?

    And that’s what made me smile because I’m totally sure that whatever happens your George will know that her peeps have her back. (dammit I’m not sure what I should use, her or him? Where is the neutral term for this? For people who won’t conform to no gender? Argh)

    Much positive thinking from the Netherlands!

    p.s. I truly love your way of thinking about the world with your own unique brand of snark.

  • Beck

    Just added George to my official list of lifetime heroes. Love your kid. Just found your blog today, it’s great!!!

  • Laurie

    My first and only child turns two in three weeks and oh my god I just sobbed my face off. This is beautiful.