C.J.’s first day of pre-k at his new school (the school his older brother attends) started last Monday. The Thursday before school started, I popped into his classroom to see if, by chance, his teacher was there preparing for her students. I opened the classroom door and there she was. I wasn’t really expecting her to be there. I panicked. I had the door open. She was looking at me.
“Hi, are you Ms. Sensible?,” I asked. Suddenly I was short of breath and sweating.
“Yes,” she said looking at me and wondering who I was and what I wanted. I entered the classroom of miniature tables and chairs.
“Hi. I’m C.J.’s Mom and C.J. will be in your class this year and I just wanted to let you know that he is gender nonconforming.”
I’m an idiot. I’m a complete, fumbling moron and now Ms. Sensible knows it.
She was still staring at me with questioning eyes. She was probably thinking that I have Tourettes or some form of awkward social anxiety. Between me and my gender nonconforming son, she, most likely, was instantly formulating a strategy to transfer us out of her class.
I had planned to sound much more pulled together, maybe even intelligent and, at the very least, coherent. For weeks, I had rehearsed the moment a thousand times in my head as I waited for sleep to find me at night (nights when I worried that Ms. Sensible would be super conservative, overly religious and/or totally homophobic). But, in the moment, revealing a huge family secret to a stranger, my brain and mouth failed me. I felt like there could be no small talk because I was bothering her during her private time.
“Okay,” she said.
“So, I just wanted to let you know that we are aware of it and we are okay with it and we are doing our best.” Now I was just trying to fill the silence and wasn’t following my list of key message points at all. And, I had sweat through the armpits of my shirt. A wacky mom with pit stains.
“What exactly does ‘gender nonconforming’ mean?”
I explained; that, I could do. Thankfully, she was keeping this premeditated conversation on track.“What do you want from me? How can I help,” she asked with a sympathetic look and a tilt of her head.
I was fighting back tears and hugs, like I do whenever someone offers to be on our team and help us with C.J.
“Just help him to learn, get him ready for kindergarten, protect him from bullies and have an open heart and open mind.” There, finally something came out as I had practiced.
“I can do that,” she said. “In my 12 years of teaching, I can’t say that I’ve ever had a ‘gender nonconforming’ student. So, there is some research for me to do. And, I may have some questions,” she said thoughtfully.
“I welcome questions. Please don’t hesitate to ask, I really do enjoy answering them,” I said honestly. “And, of course, we really hope that you’ll protect the privacy of our family to the extent that you are able.”
We talked a while longer. We discussed how he might learn differently and doesn’t do well when groups are divided by gender. I think she stopped thinking I was a lunatic and started realizing that I have a unique and, at times, tough parenting situation. As we wrapped up our conversation, she thanked me for telling her about C.J. I walked out smiling, discretely holding my arms out at the sides, trying to get my pit stains to dry.
Three days later it was time for Ms. Sensible to meet C.J. He insisted on picking out his outfit: a polo shirt with large pink stripes; purple and pink girl socks from the dollar spot at Target; and purple sneakers. Ms. Sensible gave C.J.’s Dad and me a knowing nod, bent down and introduced herself to C.J. He was wringing his fingers in nervousness. He waved goodbye to us and walked into the classroom.
The first few days of school C.J. came home and was happy, but not completely thrilled with his academic experience. He said he played with the boys and it was just “okay.” He said that when he tried to play with the girls they ran away and yelled “ewwww, a boy!” Finally a little girl named Daisy came around and decided not to run from C.J., but play with him instead. And, that’s when the girls realized what a fabulous friend C.J. is.
C.J. has settled into a routine at school and found his homegirls to hang with during free time. The crafts are fun, snack time is rockin’, life is good in Ms. Sensible’s pre-k class.