All summer, every summer, I can’t wait for school to start again. When the kids are in school, there are less “I’m bored” complaints, less money spent, less full layers of sunscreen to apply/reapply, less sand everywhere and there’s more time for me to work, write, watch Netflix and Google random things.
But, then, sure as shit, one week before school starts, I start to panic and worry about what the school year holds for gender-nonconforming C.J.
I can clearly remember my worries by grade level – which, as I look back now, are proof that it truly does get better. I’ll take my fourth grade worries over my first grade worries any day. (And, I refuse to think about my middle school worries, so don’t even bring them up. I know it will get worse.)
Preschool: Will the kids make fun of C.J. for wearing girl clothes? Will he get teased?
Kindergarten: Will the kids make fun of him for drawing himself as a girl and wearing girl socks, jewelry and lip gloss? Will he get teased?
First Grade: Will he be comfortable and safe in the boys’ bathroom? Will he get teased?
Second grade: I hope his teacher will be more accepting and thoughtful than his last. Will he get teased?
Third Grade: He’s been at the same school for four years. I hope he has an accepting and supportive friend in his class. Will he get teased?
Fourth Grade: I hope the other kids continue to be cool to him.
This year, the hardest part of going back to school was school supply shopping; it’s when I realized how much of his sparkle C.J. tames and edits for school. I know it feels necessary for him, but it feels sad for me.
I want to tell him “You do you! Who cares what other people think! Screw them!,” but I don’t because he can read the crowd of his peers better than I can. Just like I won’t dye my hair purple and let all of my tattoos show at work, C.J. doesn’t wear a skirt or carry a purse to school.
We hide our authentic selves sometimes, because it seems like the right or easiest thing to do – but we let just enough of our true selves show so that we don’t feel like we’ve surrendered completely.
C.J. needed to get spiral notebooks for school. He wanted these:
The night before, C.J. asked me to help him make sure his French braid was perfect and to paint one of his fingernails blue. If nobody said anything about his nail, he’d paint an additional nail each night until he worked up to two, fully manicured hands. Then, he’d go from blue to a more fabulous color.
The anxiety has started to subside as we settle into the comfortable routine of the school year. From here until summer, we stand ready for what could happen, but we are more joyful than fearful.