Starting School With Ms. Sensible

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.

C.J.'s puzzle person named Joey....dressed as a princess.

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.

C.J.'s puzzle person Elise....dressed as a superhero.

“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.

C.J. insisted that his Lalaloopsy doll wanted to go in the "hot tub." And by "hot tub" he meant his lunch.

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.


About raisingmyrainbow is a blog about the adventures in raising a fabulous, gender creative son.
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28 Responses to Starting School With Ms. Sensible

  1. Stella says:

    Do you know what I like absolute best with this blog so far? The joy. Despite all the shit you have to take, and all this planning and checking and informing and warning you do, despite all that, 80% is just joy and happiness. CJ discovered Barbie. CJ got bedazzled shoes. CJ found a new friend (and so did mom) on and on and on!
    When I started reading yesterday I steeled myself for the misery and hate I would have to face through your experiences. I am so glad that I almost always click on the next post with a smile on my face.

  2. Rebecca says:

    I teach Kindergarten and in my experience, 4 year olds (who typically are learning to identify their gender by external measures, another reason it was important to make sure CJ’s teacher knew he was gender nonconforming) are more rigid about boys being with boys and girls being with girls. As his peers become more secure in their own gender identities, they are more open to playing cross gendered… into Kinder and 1st. Then in 3rd and 4th, as they become more socially aware and the preteen years are on the horizon, they break back up again into gendered groups, lest anyone accuse them of “liking” someone. My real point is that if he can make friends in pre-K, Kinder should be even better. I have had a student in the past who wanted to play “house” with the other boys and he wanted the other boy to be the “husband” so he could be the “wife” and no one batted an eye. Currently, the dollhouse is the favored center of the boys… it was last year as well. 5 year olds don’t usually need external measures… clothes, friends, etc. to tell the world they are a “boy” or a “girl.”

  3. Jill says:

    Having the right teacher and school atmosphere makes all the difference. My gender non-conforming son has an openly gay male teacher (with a picture of his husband on his desk) for one of his subject this year and let me tell you my little guy thinks this fellow is a ROCK STAR. Whatever my son’s sexual orientation turns out to be he will have benefitted from having role models who were not uniformly heterosexual. I am convinced of it.

  4. All I can say is ❤ ❤ <3, and thank you for being the mom that you are.

  5. cminca says:

    How’s CJ’s brother doing? All well with the other kids?

  6. Sarah says:

    You are a wonderful mom and I absolutely love your blog.

    The conversation you had with CJ’s teacher today brought tears to my eyes. I’m so happy that she was open and interested in learning more about gender creativity. Wouldn’t it be great if gender creativity was something that was covered in the elementary education curriculum some day?

    I have two small children that at this point are gender typical, but I have always been quick to dispel the notion that there is any such thing as “boy colors/toys” or “girl color/toys.” As far as we are concerned colors belong to everyone and toys should be enjoyed if they are fun.

    I also wanted to let you know that I have shared this blog with my Kindergarten-aged daughter as a teaching tool. Through CJ’s world we’ve talked about gender creative children and how intolerant both grown ups and children can be when they meet a child like CJ. She agrees with me that CJ is perfect just the way he is. So thank you for that – by sharing your family’s experience, please know that at some point you may be making another child’s life in my child’s world a nicer and safer place.

  7. lkeefLindsey says:

    Glad that worked out, I was nervous for you! Glad a OC teacher was so open about it. I’ve been thinking about moving down there once I get a little more settled. I’m in LA now but my family lives in Huntington/Newport area. It’s nice to hear your good experiences, it makes me more comfortable with the idea of heading that way when I have my own family.

    Best of luck 🙂

  8. Vic Anne says:

    Awesome! I think that when you saw her, your brain just knew that everything would be okay and you just blurted it out! Told you C.J. would be fine!

  9. ::hugs::

    You did great, as did Ms. Sensible. And, of course, so did C.J..

    As a gay dad who transracially adopted siblings (2 boys), I have been in a similar situation every year since pre-school. It’s never easy but I applaud you taking the initiative to advocate for your sons. My husband is a teacher and he has confirmed that most teachers prefer a “heads up” about non-typical situations (families, special education needs, health needs, religious accomodations, etc.).

    Please know that the words come more easily as time goes on and that you are gathering allies along the way.

    Much love and good wishes for the school year for your entire family.

  10. catherineoc says:

    This post made my day!

  11. Gabrielle says:

    Sorry it was so awkward at first, but it sounds like Ms. Sensible will be a great teacher for C.J. Love his puzzle people! I was thinking of C.J. the other day when my daughter’s K teacher wanted all the girls to have a tea party and all the boys to play at camping. I knew my daughter would enjoy both activities, and then I thought that there might be a C.J. in her class who would also prefer a choice, rather than be forced into a “traditional” gendered choice of activities. I left a very gentle note for the teacher, and we think other parents may have, also, because the day of the activities, the teacher found a way for all the kids to try both activities. Slow progress is still progress. Hope C.J. has a great school year!

  12. Also love rainbows! says:

    So much of your writing is just lovely, I don’t really know why this one has me weeping at my desk. I guess I identify with your feeling of…having to cede some control to the world. Hoping and dreading and fearing as you hand your wonderful child over to someone, not knowing yet if they will nurture or crush that beautiful spirit. Arranging life so he spends most of it in places and with people who welcome him and who know that the gender stuff is no big deal and just one small piece of a really cool whole. Sometimes praying there are gay people or good friends of gay people nearby when you’re not so they can stick up for your kid if he needs it. Thank you again for sharing your experiences. We don’t all blog, but we are legion and you always have our love and support.

  13. Rob says:

    That’s great! I’m so glad you got someone flexible and loving enough to care for CJ, and experienced enough to have the skills to effectively introduce him to school. Sounds like he will get a great foundation.

  14. Ellen says:

    So glad you hit the jackpot with Ms Sensible. I loved what you told her when she asked what you wanted from her…an open heart and open mind and keep CJ safe from bullies! As usual you brought tears to my eyes. Hoping the year continues to be a good one for your entire family!

  15. Shannon says:

    This just made me smile. I can understand why you would be anxious about talking to the teacher – not all are so understanding as Ms. Sensible. But it sounds like you hit the jackpot! Really happy for CJ that he is going to have such a great teacher!

  16. Paul says:

    “She was probably thinking that I have turrets or some form of awkward social anxiety.”
    I don’t know, she may have thought you have moats or maybe a portcullis but definitely not turrets! Or did you mean “Tourettes” ? ;-))

    • Rob says:

      I loved it! I was picturing a Mom with a castle body and big turrets on her shoulders, being a protective fortress for her child.

  17. Giselle says:

    So happy about the update, fingers crossed. Thank goodness for Daisy, sounds like Ms Sensible’s class has at least one very sensible girl in it! (Who wouldn’t be honoured to get to play with CJ?). And great to hear that Ms Sensible herself seems open to learning about gender nonconformity. That’s a great start.
    Can’t wait for the next update!

  18. Liz A says:

    So happy that you and CJ lucked out with Ms. Sensible. She sounds wonderful. I hope things continue to go as well – what a great start!

  19. So glad CJ’s doing well in kindergarten. It sounds like his teacher is great.

  20. Stephanie Baker-Harden says:

    That is great news! I am so excited that CJ is doing well in his new class. I was worried as all of your readers were. Heres wishing for continued success.

  21. Tommy says:

    I hope you’re beginning to read those “how to write a screenplay” books now that the kids are back in school. You’re going to pay for both their college educations with the sale proceeds. You’ll also be able to afford dress shields.

  22. Bri says:

    I guess “coming out” is sweat inducing for all of us 🙂

  23. Heather says:

    I know I seemed a bit critical a few posts ago – I did not mean to be seen that way – it just seemed to me that you were predetermining CJ’s possible future sexual preferences.

    Good on you – contacting CJ’s teacher was obviously a good choice, and it seems that he has made friends in the class.

    I will watch developments with interest (and approval of what you are doing).

    Keep loving CJ and his brother.

    • MomOfSimilarChild says:

      Heather – If you are a parent of one of these little boys then you do the research. These kids are 100 times more likely to be homosexual than a boy not displaying this behavior. Yes that is an actual quote from the latest (Wallien/Cohen-Kettenis study) as well as in line with what has been repeatedly studied – 83 studies over the past 25 years. ( psychology today “is your child a pre-homosexual”) That doesn’t mean 100% of them are gay but its a good bet that they will be gay. She has every reason based on science as well as common sense to think her son is probably gay.

  24. Even though I didn’t go to preschool or kindergarten (it wasn’t required of kids when I began in ’84 in Alabama), I do remember distinctly my first day of first grade. I met this nice country girl as soon as I walked into the classroom. We talked, worked on some things together for the teacher, and became good friends. That same girl and I graduated together as friends. These girls that become friends with C.J. will, hopefully, become his lifelong friends and will be there for him when he needs comforting and an understanding heart and mind.

  25. Kat says:

    I am so happy to hear that things are off to a good start. I would also like to say how much I enjoy your photography. The doll in the hot tub is delightful!

  26. Lynn says:

    Thanks for the update! So happy for you and C.J. have gotten off to a good start at this school!

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