At this point, C.J. isn’t exactly athletic. He’s good with rhythm and movement and loves gymnastics. He especially hated (or hates, depending on the day) riding his bike. He’s more Paul Hamm than Lance Armstrong (doping or not).
Last week we were outside riding bikes with the neighbor boys. C.J. is new to riding his bike with training wheels and just recently agreed to get on the thing without yelling “Too high! Too scary!” in rapid succession until removed.
The four boys were enjoying the freedom of the open road when C.J. crashed (it was more of a tip, but we’ll call it a crash here for dramatic purposes). I ran over to him and he lay, on his side in the same bike-riding position, hands on handlebars, feet on pedals. He did not try to break his fall. The thought, apparently, didn’t even cross his mind.
I got him and his bike to the curb as the tears stopped and he told me that he needed to lie down on the couch. Okay, easy enough, I laid him on the couch, turned on the T.V. and went to check on his brother. A few minutes later C.J. came out of the house with his right arm hanging lifeless at his side looking like Bob Dole. I joked with my neighbor that for preschool the next day I would dress him in a suit and put a pen in his hand.
An hour later we were at the hospital. And me, the wise-cracker, was being told that my son, Bob Dole Jr., had a dislocated elbow that needed to be popped back into place. Jokes over I guess.
Three hours of specialists, x-rays and C.J. strutting his stuff around the hospital in his favorite Viking hat with long blonde braids and an unzipped hoodie (I couldn’t get his t-shirt back on him after taking it off to evaluate him at home). We got lots of stares, as usual. And, C.J.’s brother’s irritability was increasing. The combination of seeing his brother in pain, waiting patiently in an uncomfortable chair for hours on end and people staring at us was more than he could take.
As we walked to the x-ray department, C.J. thrust his hips and head from side to side excessively to get his braids in full swing. He was wearing a hospital gown because I couldn’t get him to take it off because it was, after all, a gown. A mom in the x-ray department waiting room nudged her two children, pointed C.J. out to them and the whole family started laughing together. I saw red. I looked down and C.J.’s Brother was giving them an evil look that I didn’t know he had in him. They didn’t even notice. We sat down.
“Those people were pointing and laughing at C.J.,” he said as he went back to playing his Nintendo DS. “He’s so embarrassing sometimes.”
“Today isn’t a good day for us,” I said honestly. “But what is worse, C.J. being himself or those people being rude?”
“Both,” he mumbled without looking up.
I was thinking about how I usually try so hard to balance the wants and feelings of my two very different children but that was hard to do with one in pain and needing some extra attention. The x-ray technician called C.J.’s name.
May you never have to hold your child as they pop one of his/her dislocated bones back into its socket. They gave him an ibuprofen; I needed something stronger. After the cute, I mean qualified, doctor got the bone(s) back into place, he needed to test the range of motion. He grabbed a handful of superhero stickers and held them at different heights for C.J. to grab. C.J. was not about to exert effort for a superhero sticker.
“He doesn’t like superheroes,” I said. The doctor got up to leave the room in search of different stickers. “Get girl stickers,” I shouted after him.
“Who’s he going to give them to?” he asked as he turned back to me, like I thought that now was a good time to collect free stickers for the girls in our life.
“He likes girl stuff,” I said and motioned for the doctor to continue out of the room to get the stickers.
The next day I took C.J. to Target to get some meds and splinting supplies.
“Can I get a toy?” he asked, as he does every time he gets into the red shopping cart.
I usually say no, but, hell, this time the kid deserved a toy. After careful consideration, he selected a pink satin cheerleader uniform with silver sequins and a pink and white pom-pom. If C.J.’s brother thought that the blonde braids and hospital gown were embarrassing, he might not want to come home from the second grade today.
If you were to ask C.J., he might say that the cheerleader uniform was worth the dislocated elbow. He wore that uniform every minute that he was in the house for four days straight. Then it ripped and fell apart, because 15 dollar happiness only lasts so long.
You are doing the right thing. Do not ever doubt that, even though you may be stressed at times.
The world may not love what you are doing, but your son sure does.
And as a gay man who was kicked out of his home by his family at 16, and has not heard from a single family member in over 25 years, I do not see what other choice you have.
A parent’s job is to see that their children safely become who they are.
And you are succeeding admirably.
My best to you and your family.
kudos to you for your great parenting and good luck with the tough choices like these.
I am impressed and inspired.
nobossofme, I had the same question. We didn’t see the people laughing, so perhaps it’s easier to incorrectly assume that they weren’t being malicious. However, I could see myself being that mom, pointing out the kid to my girls just because he was dancing around in his hospital gown and a viking helmet with braids. It would have nothing to do with derision or mocking his lack of gender conformity.
I’ve just found your blog and am really enjoying it. However, I have to admit, I laughed out loud at the description of your son swinging his braids and dancing, especially after seeing the pic. I laughed because I pictured it as being pretty adorable. Did the mother and her children laugh in a sarcastic way? I’m not asking to be rude. I would think that seeing a kid in a viking helmet dancing in a hospital gown would make quite a few people smile. I’m not sure homophobic derision is what I would assume in that situation. I’m not defending them, of course, because I wasn’t there. I guess I just didn’t understand what it was about the laughter that made you and your son so upset…when I read about your reactions (right after giggling), I felt a little guilty for finding joy in your son’s joyousness.
may i say, i love all you rainbow moms! more poor parents had to deal with me back in the forties. it wasn’t so much my dressing girly, but i had my own ideas of fun, and they had nothing to do with sports or athleticism of any kind, although if their had been gymnastics around back then i TOTALLY would have gone for it. somewhere in a trunk of photos there is a picture of a chubby 6 year old boy in a striped tee shirt (the style of which has thankfully disappeared) a cre cut and jeans with a huge grin holding his real twirler’s baton. i got pretty damn good with it too. again, i was born too soon and in the wrong neighborhood.
i’m really going to have to start writing my responses in another format and proofing before i cut and paste it in the box. more poor parents should read MY poor parents.
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Mine is 7 years old next week. All of his friends (who are all girls, btw) are off their training wheels already. Took mine out yesterday without them…melt down. Partly because it was scary, and partly because he wants a bike with girl stuff all over it.
All I have to say is shame on that mom. If I was one of those kids my mom would have made us stop laughing.
Ouch!! My little rainbow hates his bike too…he is more into twirling and dancing too! This post reads like my life…I try so hard to juggle the needs of my very different boys as well, I know my older son can be embarrassed by his little brother’s gender bending ways as well…but he often says nothing about how he feels and that weighs heavy on me! This is a journey with our children that we would never change but it is a hard and lonely journey! So glad there are more families out there willing to come out of the shadows and talk about what they are going through!! We are off to the pool today with freshly painted bright pink toenails…..I am weary just thinking about all the stares and comments…too bad people just can’t be accepting of our differences!
I can absolutely sympathize with C.J.’s brother, and commend him for restricting himself to rage glares. I’d of been right up in people’s faces if they were mocking my little sister in a hospital. Some people have no class (on the flip side, C.J. gave them something to think about other than their own pain… silver lining?)
When learning how to ride without training wheels my little sister managed to go over the handlebars by hitting the only object in an otherwise empty yard with a low slope. In hindsight it was an awesome launch and she was alright (Dad was right in there, dusted her off and popped her right back on the bike, she learned to steer real quick after that), but one of our cousins thought it was funny to see and I a boy of short fuses gave him a good shove off his own bike for laughing at her.
It’s definitely a tough balancing act when you’ve got an injured kid, siblings tend to feel frustrated that they can’t make it better, especially the big brothers.
My shoulder popped out of it’s socket like ten times as a child. I hope the doctor warned you that once it happens once, it’s more likely to happen again.
I hope C.J. feels better. Now, get him back on that bike asap. Not to be a “boy” but to learn to overcome his fears. Take all the time he needs, but don’t let one fall turn into avoidance of physical challenges or he will regret it. Why? Because if he is gay, and turns into a non-athletic chubby adolescent, he’ll never get a boyfriend.
I speak from my own experience, and because C.J. is my time warp doppelganger.
Furthermore, no one looks good in vintage Halston with a pot belly.
@ Jeffery – Thoughtful advice! It’s like the “ugly” side of the quote, a mind, like a rubber band, once expanded never returns to it’s original shape.
@ Tommy – *Deep sigh* Since these posts are moderated before being shown, I will take some liberties and trust CJ’s Mommy to decide if this is too far from where she wishes the dialogue to go. …In that spirit…
A) There are chub chasers. That is, gay men, contrary to some str8-h8rs fears no more wish to bed every man…than we as a whole like only one type. I’m definitely chubby, and have been all my life… And I have the most wonderful husband. And I have enjoyed an active dating life until I entered into wedded bliss.
B) There are other “risks” in the current homo-body fascism. Was my dating life without scorn? Did I sometimes go to a dating site and see the many “No Fats” need apply? Of course… But there are other risks, and some one would consider a safer bet for Mr. CJ (IF he even is gay)… That is, he could be a “fem guy”… Surely you know the fetishistic focus on “Str8 Acting”, “Thugs”, “Jocks”, etc.
I would hope you wouldn’t for a moment advise CJ’s mom to make sure she butches him up.
C) In closing, your general advise to use this moment as a teaching moment is highly valid. And I think it’s direct reasoning is clear and persuasive enough without evoking some kind of body morphology of “contempt” (and, friend, only you can say for sure, but perhaps a little self-loathing).
Additionally, there is a teaching moment for CJ’s awesome brother too. There is a book by Jodi Picoult titled House Rules. It’s about an autistic older brother and a younger brother. One of the “house rules” (you may know that people with aspergers need / crave clear and non-moving rules). One of the house rules is “Always look after your brother, after all, he’s the only one you’ve got.” And it is really the pivot point for the whole direction of the novel.
The younger brother, like CJ’s older brother, has these very mixed emotions and rightfully so. For CJ’s big bro, this is NOT over. In that way he has his own horse (or bike with training wheels if you prefer) to mount again…
And call me “crazy” a “wishful thinker” or a “loose better” but somehow I think he’s going to be a champion. And along the way, he’s also going to be a boy and the first born and all those other things.
It’s EASY to give advise as a digital Monday QB… And I know that CJ and his brother’s Mommy get’s plenty of praise, love and encouragement. However, I think she also sees a bike to remount in the form of balance, teachable moments, and the like.
Much respect and love to you all.
ALL Power to the People.
When I was preschool aged, I was playing with my older brother and he dislocated my elbow. Worst. Pain. Ever! I was the kind of kid who didn’t cry unless it really hurt. I cried so hard I passed out. My mom thought I’d died. She rushed my to the ER and I can still remember the feeling of my pediatrician popping it back in. Ugh.
Hope he’s feeling better and, I agree, the cheer leading outfit is totally worth the pain. 😉 I don’t think I even got ice cream for mine.