C.J.’s graduation from pre-kindergarten was overflowing with all of the pomp and circumstance that you’d expect to accompany the age-old right of passage marking the end of preschool (with its wait lists and tuition higher than a car payment) and the start of elementary school (with its nearly 2,000 students who span the ages of five to 12).
C.J.’s last days of the school year were so themed that Walt Disney might have learned a thing or two. The culmination was a Hawaiian-themed graduation ceremony featuring a multi-song performance by the graduates, the crossing of the stage to accept diplomas and a potluck BBQ that offered no less than three different types of salad.
When C.J. learned that graduation was a themed event, he immediately threw himself into planning his outfit. Duh.
He went searching through his dress-up bins looking for his grass skirt that I brought back from Hawaii last summer. He couldn’t find it. Maybe because it had morphed into a tangled, grassy mess with at least one piece of gum in it and it ended up in the trash. Maybe.
“But I NEED a grass skirt for my Hawaii graduation. I NEED to look like a hula girl,” C.J. informed me.
I, in turn, emailed Ms. Sensible to let her know that my son would be wearing at least some portion of a hula girl get-up to the graduation ceremony. We were going out of pre-k with a bang.
I let him look for the long-gone grass skirt for two days, because it kept him busy. And because I would never admit to purging it.
Ms. Sensible replied to my hi-my-son-wants-to-wear-a-skirt-to-graduation email. She let me know that a few of the girls in class planned on wearing grass skirts to graduation and that C.J. should feel free to do the same if he wanted to.
We set off to Party City to replace the lost/trashed/missing grass skirt. As luck would have it, they were just setting up three aisles of luau party supplies that will remain intact until they are converted to the costume aisles for Halloween.
C.J. had his pick of the litter. There were grass skirts in a variety of colors: rainbow, pink, orange, green, brown, natural, blue and yellow. I saw the rainbow colored skirt and knew that that would be the one C.J. would pick. I’d stand there and let him go through the decision-making process. He couldn’t decide and he couldn’t decide and he couldn’t decide.
“I thought you’d want the rainbow one for sure,” I said.
“I think I want the blue one,” he said after some more consideration.
I was speechless, C.J. has never, ever, picked a blue anything. I was afraid he was picking it because, if he was going to wear a skirt for all of his classmates and their families to see he felt like it would be safer to wear a boy-colored one.
“Baby, it’s up to you if you want to wear a grass skirt or not. It’s your choice. And, you can pick any color you want,” I reminded him.
“I want the blue one. I like the blue one.”
“Are you sure? Once we buy it that’s it, no going back, no changing your mind,” I said.
“I’m sure. I want the blue skirt.”
“Alright then, let’s go pay for it.”
We got home and he immediately put the skirt on. He moved throughout the house all evening very carefully, so that he wouldn’t get his grass tangled. Before he went to bed that night, he laid out his outfit for the next day’s graduation ceremony. Light blue and cream plaid shirt, khaki shorts, brown sandals, blue and green grass skirt, rainbow lei and a fake corsage for each wrist — one blue and one red. He put extra leave-in conditioner in his hair because he is convinced that the berry-smelling spray makes his hair grow longer and prettier faster. He got in bed early and didn’t fall asleep until after 11 p.m. Tomorrow he would be a graduate.
The next day, as we walked to his classroom, C.J. was beaming. He was the only one wearing a grass skirt; none of the girls in class had — as they said they would — worn a grass skirt. I was worried that C.J. would want to take his skirt off, that he wouldn’t want to be the only one in a grass skirt. On the contrary, being the only one in a grass skirt and making his girl friends a little envious made him feel even more fabulous. As far as he was concerned he was the star of the graduation.
“I like your hula-girl skirt, C.J.,” Molly said. “My mom wouldn’t let me wear mine. You’re lucky your mom let you wear yours.”
“I know,” C.J. said.
As I watched C.J. on the stage, I was one proud mama.
“Look at the little boy in the skirt!” a woman said behind me and I heard a few laughs.
Yep, that was my son, up on the stage in a skirt for the world to see singing “I’ll Be Going to Kindergarten Next Year” to the tune of “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain.” People could laugh and point all they wanted. I didn’t care. Not today.
After the graduation ceremony, I was in line for the potluck lunch when Ms. Sensible approached me.
“I just wanted to say that it was a such a pleasure having C.J. in my class this year,” she said.
“Oh my gosh, are you kidding me? I was going to thank you for being so amazing. I know that we are high maintenance and you’ve never taught a kid like C.J. and you taught him with an open mind and an open heart and that’s all we ask for,” I gushed.
“Well, I really enjoyed C.J. He allowed me to learn something new, I love learning new things. And, I’ve watched him grow so much emotionally, socially and academically. I’m just really proud of him. I hope you’ll stop by to visit me next year when he’s in kindergarten,” she said.
“For sure. Of course,” I replied.
Kindergarten. It’s 87 days away and I have no idea what C.J.’s next teacher will be like. I hope that she’ll be a lot like Ms. Sensible, and Ms. Sunshine who came before her.
I love your blog, but I was a bit disappointed that you automatically described his kindy teacher as a ‘she’. I know a large percentage of early childhood teachers are female, but isn’t this the kind of gender norm we want to move away from?
Im reading a lot of your blog posts and i kind of feel like you think he will be gay/gender nonconformed all his life. Who knows, maybe its just a phase, or not? just let him be. dont guide him either way, ya know?
Anyways this was my opinion! Good luck! 🙂
Congrats to you both for a great year! 🙂
Lucky C.J. to have a sensible mom. Lucky mom to be so sensible. Best regards from Jonathan
Congrats CJ have an awesome summer, and have a super awesome time next year! We’ll be waiting to hear how you do, best of luck!
Ms. Sunshine, Ms. Sensible. I wonder who will succeed them. Mr Sympathetic? Ms Supportive? Mx Solicitous?
I guess we know what you’ll be keeping your mind on for these 87 days…
Love. Love. Love. Congrats to CJ!
Congrats to CJ on his graduation. His outfit was adorable. May he continue to have such wonderful and supportive teachers, and grow and thrive, and teach everyone around him something new.
I hope that I will be around some day in the future when CJ writes his memoirs. It will be one of the most entertaining books ever written. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.
When I read these, I often picture CJ as an adult, a famous musician or designer, actor, director talking about how the love and acceptance he received as a kid made it all possible. And I’m with you on the book thing! I would love to see CJ’s mom put together a memoir on raising him myself. Maybe more people can understand how silly it is to be afraid of a sweet, adorable, funny little boy.
Your C.J. cracks me up, and in the good way. He makes me laugh as he picks his outfits so carefully, as he deliberates on leaving in conditioner for longer, he makes me laugh and smile because he seems to be a very happy child, and I can’t help but smile at that.
Thank you for raising him that way.
Love your blog,
WOW! Just. freakin. AWESOME! It would take far too many words to express my feelings after taking a spin around your blog. Thank you!
Congratulations to CJ. You are an amazing mom and Ms. Sensible is awesome too. Thank you for sharing your journey with me. You have had an impact in how I interact with my students (I teach 2nd grade.) I am learning so much from you and your beautiful family. I hope that next year CJ has an equally awesome teacher and that he finds his grade school experience happy and accepting.
Wonderful post! Great mom, great teacher, great skirt! Congratulations to CJ!
This blog made me feel so happy that I almost cried.
Your post has made me cry once again. I hope that Ms Sensible has a word with CJ’s kindergarten teacher to get her started in the right direction. Congrats to everyone!
You must be one proud Mama. Congrats! Your boy’s got some style 🙂
Wishing CJ a wonderful kindergarten year ahead! Congrats on all his preschool accomplishments. Love the grass skirt!
As a former grade-school teacher who has opted to move to pre-school and after school care, I value and treasure any child who is brave enough to be themselves, as I was. I can remember a girl coming up to me in high school, and saying “The intelligentsia of this school really respect you.” I managed not to laugh at the slightly pompous wording on this, since I’d known her in middle school and would’ve died before hurting her feelings. I asked why on earth they even thought about me. She said “Because you are brave enough to be yourself.” I said I’d never thought I had any choice. I never really thought about it before that day, that I was brave. I was just me, and i never had to wonder what that meant. I want all children in my care to be that brave, and to educate the ones who aren’t so that someday it won’t need to be seen as an act of bravery just to put on what you want in the morning, to love who you want, to laugh as loud as you damn well want to. It has to start right there, in pre-school, if that day is ever to come to pass.
Congratulations and hugs to CJ! Here’s hoping his next teacher is another absolute gem!
Can’t help wondering why none of the (other?) girls wore a grass skirt. Seems like a no-brainer, but some parents just can’t seem to let their kids be themselves. Love your posts, they always make me smile!
I’m beyond words, just taking in all the sweet beauty of this story and of the most beloved CJ. You are evidence that positivity has no boundaries, even in the face of adversity. What a blessing!! Congrats to CJ and big brother. Much kudos to Miss Sensible, and much peace to you as one amazing mom!
Congrats to CJ and bro on completing their school year. It’s really to bad that we have such divisible lines for just about everything, logical or not. Too many people just simply do not understand the immortal words of another Californian, Rick nelson, who sang “you see you can’t please everyone, so you got to please yourself”.
Two – two THOUSAND students? My primary school (age 4-11 approximately) had 300 students; my secondary school has 1400 and that’s pretty big. I’m … I’m in shock. (We also don’t have the whole graduation thing except from at uni. We don’t make a big deal of it. You leave school, and that’s it. Of course, we’ve picked up the tradition of prom from America, but that’s all so far.)
Go CJ – and his teacher 🙂 She seems really lovely.
I’ve been to Hawaii and at every lluau we went to, all the men who were dancing wore grass skirts as part of their costume. I don’t know why anyone would find that funny if they were at all familiar with Hawaiian culture or customs.
This is what I was thinking! Jeez, if he were wearing coconut boob covers, I could see it, but grass skirts? And boy do they look good in them 🙂
Oh! So sweet! You should be such a proud mama! More parents should read this and learn to embrace differences in their children rather than oppress them! Amazing
the world is not going to supply an endless lineup of Ms Sensibles – at some point CJ will come up against a less than open minded/hearted soul….. and it is my supreme hope that when this does happen he will have had such strong and empowering support from his family and others like Ms Sensible that he will handle it in his undiminished Rainbow Style and he will rise above and continue shining his Joy and Style for himself and those others ready and waiting to learn a thing or two from a Sweet and kind natured little Soul who cares only to be JOY FILLED and not hurt or diminish anyone else as he does so!!!
Kudos to CJ and his family on his moving up ceremony! May you all enjoy a healthy and adventurous summer….. and as the song from my youth said: See You in September……. for more Adventures in raising Your Rainbow……. 🙂
Fabulous! What a GREAT story…best wishes to you all for a wonderful summer!
Many congrats to CJ and to all of you. May his independent spirit, his sartorial flair, and the joy he brings, all continue into kindergarten. And may his kindergarten teacher appreciate him for exactly who he is.
You are just the most awesome mom I can imagine. Congratulations to CJ. You are inspirational
Go CJ! Good luck in kindergarten. And beyond.
I do have a question and I hope you have a moment to answer it. WHAT would you have done if at any time Ms. Sensible had taken a different tack. What if she had said. “Well, CJ has enjoyed a wide birth throughout the year, but this is a more solemn occasion and it would be better if we settled on a fine lei for CJ sans the skirt.” …It’s been just the BEST possible outcomes all the way. And I wonder if you’ve even pondered what you might do now that the bar is so properly high!
Hi Pablito. I usually don’t comment here, but I realize that I wasn’t clear in my writing. When I learned that C.J. wanted to wear a grass skirt to graduation and I emailed Ms. Sensible, it was mostly to see if the kids (girls and boys) were allowed to wear them to the ceremony. I didn’t want to break any dress code rules that she had established. Had she informed me that grass skirts were forbidden, I would have told C.J. and we would have followed the rules. Had she said that they were allowed for girls only, I would have fought for my son’s right to wear a skirt. Hope that answers your question. Best, C.J.’s Mom
Tears are running down my face. This is not something one should read on their baby’s sixteenth birthday. I told Sophie this morning that the best part of being a parent is the pride. No joke.
Congrats to CJ and family and to Ms. Sensible, thanks all around!
Congratulations CJ and fam!!!!!
The blue skirt matches the blue plaid shirt exceptionally well! Your son can put an outfit together better than I can.
Is it wrong to say that, after feeling like I was kicked in the stomach (seriously?!? The lady in the audience laughed at a little boy?!?) that I wanted to immediately punch her in the face? It never ceases to amaze me….I promise that not everyone in South OC are such douchebags!!
So proud of CJ! I hope that the next school year brings another lovely teacher!!
I was wondering was it a mean laugh or a look at the things kids do laugh? The other mothers did not let their children wear their skirts. Could it have been that silly kid rather than that sill boy wearing a skirt? Just wondering.
I think I would give the laughing audience members the benefit of the doubt on this one. SURPRISE is one of the most important elements of humor (a lesson from comedic actor Dick van Dyke), and I bet they probably thought C.J. looked cute-funny, not inappropriate-funny.
So happy CJ survived this year with his spirit intact. As a mother and a kindergarten teacher both you and Ms. Sensible are an inspiration. My daughter is a free spirit and strong willed and i thanked her teacher for loving her and not trying to change her…to which she replied, “once their spirit is broken they’re gone forever” I respect you doing everything in your power to preserve CJ’s beautiful spirit …. and let it be a lesson to us all
Congratulations!!!! And seriously, he clearly had the best teacher. I hope his kindergarten teacher is just as cool.
Congrats to CJ! His spirit makes me smile. He’s smart to have chosen you for his mom. Love & Light~M*