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Posts Tagged ‘school’

As Q gets older, life becomes more complex (of course). I’ve found that it’s become harder to advocate for him as his challenges have become harder to pin down, more subtle, and sometimes more ambiguous. For instance, Q has expressed a feeling of invisibility at school and the sense that folks just “don’t get” him. But it’s subtle. He’s not down and out there at every turn. And many have said he seems happier this year than last. But something isn’t right for him. He has a hard time articulating it (after all, he’s only just 10), and that leaves me having a hard time trying to rearticulate it. Or to make meaning of it. And then, harder still, to try to help others make meaning of all of this. It’s no longer just watching out for my little boy in a dress. With growth comes change, and complexity, and navigating the more complex layers of life with and for Q has been quite something (something of a challenge? something of a heartbreak at times?).

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Taking a cue from Lesbian Dad, whose back-to-school post can be found here and Mombian, whose post can be found here. This post is more of a reflection and perhaps a few “instructive” thoughts than these other two, as I don’t know that we have tons of expertise around here, but I wanted to take this turning point as a moment to reflect.

Q is starting 4th grade tomorrow, and I’ve written here already about his sweet, sweet school. A school that embraces difference and many identities. A place he’s usually quite happy to be. So, we are so very lucky that this is the place he’s going off to tomorrow. That I’m handing him off into the arms (literally and figuratively) of people who know, respect, and love all parts of our whole (queer) family and our boy.

But, Q has been anxious about the start of school this year. Not happy for the transition from lazy summer days to days full of others. Though he loves it, we know, on some level, that school is hard for Q. As a wise person in our lives said recently, “It’s hard to be Q out in the world.” And that challenge includes school. It’s hard to swim upstream when those around you are easily moving downstream. Even if those around you are more than happy for you to swim against the current, it’s still different. And takes a whole heck of a lot of work. I’ve been working to have lots of compassion for this aspect of Q’s identity and life. And for the fact that he’s still a bit too young to fully understand it, in spite of how wise-beyond-his-years he can be in certain domains.

So tomorrow, he goes off. I’m certain he’ll be okay. And that it will be hard. On levels he can identify and on those he can’t. So were I to give any advice, provide any guidelines, I’d say to look for those levels of comfort and discomfort that your children have — those that they can name and those they can’t. Know that the tears at the end of the day may not be about the fact that your kiddo can’t find her book but may in fact be about the emotional let-down necessary after a long day of just being herself.

I know there will be a whole bunch of conversations we’ll have again tomorrow and in the days to come. Conversations we have a lot. “Do you want us to talk to anyone about it being okay for you to use the single stall bathrooms?” “Do you need any help talking to the kids in your class who are new to the school?” “Is there anything we can tell your teachers to help you feel more comfortable?” Conversations like that, plus a whole lot of waiting, watching, hoping, and then trusting ourselves that we can be a safe and rejuvenating place to come back to. To recharge, feel at home, and then go back out and tackle the world all over again the next day.

I’m looking towards tomorrow with hope and trust….and a wee bit of anxiety, awaiting how things turn out “on the other side.” Hoping that all of your back to schools have been full — of love, acceptance, understanding, and support — really, whatever it is that you need and hope. For you, your families, your kids.

Random Summer Stylin’ (plus “cool” attitude)

Image

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To celebrate Blogging for LGBT Families this year, I’m blogging with/about gratitude.

This occasion crept up on me, as I’m not quite ready for June. And, it reminded me about how neglected this blog is. It’s been complicated, thinking about what to share here, what to write, what to keep private. As Q gets older, he continues to navigate the world in complicated ways. And, at the same time, he is so purely himself — a true stereotype breaker. The identity he grabbed onto with such zeal at 4, and the one that still sticks with him today, at 9.

For a kiddo like him, it can be hard to be in the world. Heck, it’s not always easy to be in the world as a queer family (connecting back here, to the purpose of this post). So finding places where it is easy to be? Well…it fills me with gratitude. We are so lucky to live in a community among many other queer families. To have allies around us.

As I thought about this post, though, I thought about how lucky Q is for the school he attends. I’ve been in a bit of a muddle about Q and school lately for a number of reasons. But at the end of the day, my kiddo is known there. He is loved for who he is. And he can shine.

Beyond that, our family is known, loved, and not alone. And that is rare. All too rare. For queer families, queer kids, gender non-conforming kids. Every year, Q takes the stage as co-MC at his school in order to lead the annual LGBT pride celebration assembly. I see his chest swell with pride. He plans his outfit with care (this year it included a rainbow ribbon braided into his hair), and he proclaims it, every year “one of the best days of my life.”

How can I not be grateful for that? As an educator, I think that schools need to take the best in every child and bring that out. Celebrate it. And for Q, that’s what happens at that assembly. He beams with pride. And in those moments, I can feel nothing but gratitude.

The MC in action

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Thanks for all the congratulatory wishes on W’s arrival. More on that in days and weeks to come, I’m sure.

A few of you asked if Q is excited for the start of school, and the answer is a resounding YES! He is a school lover. In spite of the extra social pressures he feels there and the insipid need to monitor himself, he loves his school, his teachers, his friends, and, most importantly, the routine of it (he is a seven-year old, after all!). So, luckily, he’s excited.

We’ve been talking a lot about back-to-school. For us, we talk about non-traditional things, though. It’s not the type of pencils to buy, who he hopes to sit next to, or what he’ll learn in science but rather how he might respond to a kid who teases him about his newly-achieved ponytail. Or how he might respond to other children who, we learned over the summer, persisted in making him feel unsafe and uncomfortable (not just for what he chose to wear, mind you).

This year, though, I’m trying to push him a bit in these conversations. We’re talking a lot about power. To this point, Q has talked about ignoring kids who tease him, and I think this is his general M.O. But, the teasing has, in the past year, gotten the upper hand. An example or two: He was teased about wearing clips in his hair, ignored the teasing in the moment, but stopped wearing the clips. He was teased about wearing a bandana, again ignored it in the moment, but then ceased wearing said bandana and anything else pink, for that matter.

So this year, I added the layer of power to our conversation. That the teasing and teaser end up with the power if Q stops doing/wearing the thing he’s teased about. And I think he got it. At least got it on a new level. He declared that if he gets teased for his ponytail, he’ll “wear it every day for at least a week!” In my mind, that’s progress. Standing up for himself in a new way.

So, as we inch towards school, it’s with excitement, some new tools of communication and self-expression, and always with a bit of trepidation about what lies ahead. Thanks to those of you looking out for Q on this part of his journey. As always, I’ll keep you updated!

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Love it!

The scene:

Cubby area in Q’s lovely kindergarten.

The players: Q, boy 2, boy 3

All three boys are huddled together looking at a book about weather. They get up to get on their things to leave.

Boy 2: Q, I really like your necklace.

Q: Yeah (he doesn’t really know how to respond to a compliment). It has dragonflies.

Boy 3: And it sparkles!

How much do I love these kids and this school?!?!? We are lucky, I say.

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Looking, looking

Looking, looking

Yesterday Q wore a skirt to school for the first time this year. I admit that I was glad he held off until after the first week…for many reasons. There are lots of new kids in his class, and I guess I wanted them to know he’s a boy before he wore “non-boy” clothes. I know that one could argue that point, but it was a gut feeling that I had. No matter how pretty or ugly.

So yesterday, it was skirt day. Totally cool. I was, though, intrigued (and yes, nervous) to see how the kids reacted. His teachers embraced him immediately, as did a few of the parents who know him already. It was a great reception. I don’t think it really struck him as great in a different way, as it is pretty much the normal reception he gets every day: warmth, love, and a welcome.

Q then climbed up into a loft where a few kids were playing. He was aiming to join a beloved friend. As he got to the top platform in the loft, a kid Q doesn’t know too well yet flashed him “the look.” It was followed by a poke to another friend. As a mom, I knew the look. It read, “What is he wearing?!?!? That is weird and strange.” Q didn’t notice. So it was just my mama hackles that were raised, my alarm lights blinking wildly. The poked friend didn’t respond, but the newer kiddo did look right at me, since I was there helping Q get up and saying good bye. So, instead of saying anything, I gave my own version of “the look.” Having been a teacher, I have a pretty good one. I think it says, “think about what you’re doing right now; be careful.” I think the kiddo got the message. I didn’t want to talk to him, I didn’t want to call attention to Q, but I wanted to let him know I’d seen his look and give him a tiny bit of feedback.

I do think I could have had a nice chat with that kiddo, but I don’t really know him too well. And I really didn’t want to make too big a deal. And I also don’t think it was a “squash your reaction right now!” kind of look. Who knows how he took it, but he didn’t dissolve into tears or anything. Just kept playing. I think that’s how it mostly is. A kid looks at Q, perhaps has a reaction, maybe says or thinks something, but then gets back to the important stuff of learning and play.

Q’s teacher reported that she had a conversation with a second grader out at recess about Q wearing a skirt and just acknowledged to that kiddo that it’s not something we usually see but that it’s what he likes, and doesn’t he look great?. I thought that was such a great way of handling it. Perhaps that’s what I should have done in the loft. Instead, we communicated through looks. They say a lot, the looks. And often it’s “the looks” that I fear most when I’m out and about with Q and folks know he’s a boy in “girls’” clothes. But it’s me who cares, and it doesn’t seem like he notices too much. Or cares too much. Interesting how that goes.

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Recently in the land of the internet, both on blogs and a message board or two, I’ve read (and sometimes been a part of) conversations about boys who cross the boundaries of social norms. Often, parents are hesitant about what to do.

Do I let my son wear purple to school? Will he be ostracized or made fun of?

What does it mean that my son likes to play with dolls?

Are my relatives right that letting my boy wear a dress will “cause” him to be gay?

Parents worry. I worry. We all worry. And it’s because we want the best for our kids. And it can be a tough world out there, and we just want to protect these small extensions of our hearts.

In these kinds of situations, I do really think that it’s the kids who are the wisest. These boys who buck social norms have the strength to listen to their hearts and to follow them. And often, especially when they are first entering school, their peers, too, have the open-mindedness to embrace the expanded notions of gender that children can play out. When a boy enters a classroom, confidently wearing a dress, he’s taking the lead in changing our world, just one tiny step at a time. And we, as parents, can support him in doing so, thereby taking a step alongside him.

And I know, believe me, that walking alongside “world-changers” is most often harder for us parents than for our children. But I think that the parents asking questions like those above, and all of us, really do know how best to support our kids. If we’ve given them the love and acceptance to develop, for instance, into a boy who loves purple, we will know how to love them through a transition to school, through the small steps that they take to help others expand their ideas about what boys and girls can and should do or be, no matter our fears about how others might accept them.

Just going along for the ride, I am.

Just going along for the ride, I am.

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