This school year has been a shitty one and I really just want it to be over.
But, before that can happen we have a lot to get through. Two open houses. Three potlucks. A play. A class science experiment. A football game. A field trip. Oh, and a violin recital.
“I HAVE GOT to write a letter!” C.J. proclaimed as he slammed a piece of paper down on the table in front of me.
It was a flier for the violin recital. The top read “Performance Assembly and Parent Show Details.”
He pointed to the words of concern.
I wanted to bang my head on the table. At this point the school should know better than to send anything to my house that isn’t inclusive of the LGBTQ community or that enforces traditional gender norms and/or society’s expectations of “normal.” Because my son will reply with (in his opinion) a strongly worded letter.
“Are you sure you want to write a letter?” I asked. I was tired and not being as supportive of his advocate spirit as I should have been. Here’s why. I’ll admit it. The violin recital was the next evening and I really just wanted to attend as drama-free as possible. We’d have to see his bullies and their parents and it felt easier to me to just send the letter after the recital – or, hell, not at all. (We are SO CLOSE to the end of the school year.)
“Yes! Tonight!” he insisted. Then, he explained that days earlier, the music teacher was talking about the suggested attire and told the boys that they couldn’t wear blouses because blouses are for girls.
And, so, later that night we sat down and I put my fingers to the keyboard while he paced the room and dictated a letter to the music teacher and principal. (Somehow, over the last year, I’ve become his secretary. A good summer project will be bettering his typing skills.)
Here’s the final version of the letter he sent.
Dear Mrs. Principal and Mr. Music,
I was looking over the “Assembly and Parent Show Details” flier that was sent home for our violin concert.
When I got to the part about “Suggested Concert Attire,” I noticed something that upset me. It says “Boys, you know what would really make mom happy? Wear long pants instead of shorts.”
This upset me because some kids don’t have a mom. Their mom might have passed away or left them. Or, maybe their family never had a mom because they have two dads. Having two dads is okay. Any kind of family is okay, as long as you have someone who loves you.
Also, it implies that boys only wear shorts and don’t like to get dressed up or wear pants. That’s not true. I like to get dressed up. The flier could have just said no shorts for anyone.
A few weeks ago in class, you said to the class that boys couldn’t wear blouses during the violin performance because blouses are for girls. That’s not true or fair. Clothes are for everyone. Boys can wear blouses if they want. The dress code at our school even says that. Our school’s dress code is gender non-specific. And our state’s Safe School Laws and Title IX say that boys can wear blouses, skirts and dresses, just like girls can wear pants, shorts and polo shirts. People can wear anything to school they want as long as it’s appropriate and safe.
I hope you’ll change your flier for next year to be more considerate of different kinds of families and kids’ gender expression.
C.J. Duron, Fifth Grade
Although I initially had a lazy reaction influenced by avoidance, I went to bed that night proud of my son. When he sees (what he considers to be) a wrong, he wants it righted. Immediately.
The next evening he was in his room getting dressed for his violin recital, for which students were asked to wear white collared shirts.
C.J. had this shirt on.
“That shirt isn’t white,” I said.
“I know. I don’t have a nice, collared white shirt. So I’m wearing this one. It makes a statement,” he said.
“It sure does,” I said. “You never fail to make a statement.”
And off we went, to listen to fifth grade violin novices play songs from The Greatest Showman for 30 minutes. (God rest my ears.)
God bless your son. I grew up playing viola, slightly different instramrament that normally I would fight someone over the diffrances but for the point of the story same thing as violin, and until my junior year of high school when my teacher finally insisted on uniforms this was my battle every quarter. I was on the other side of the deal though, as a girl my teachers always wanted us in long skirts or dresses and if we wore slacks they had to be femenin with flats or heels not Oxford dress shoes. Girls were not aloud collared shirts or ties, and all I wanted to wear was a comfortable pair of dress shoes, sorry CJ heels are not my thing, some slacks, a nice dress shirt and tie. Wyoming state law is still very different from California and sadly even though on a day to day bases I could dress however I pleased concert nights always sucked. I wish I would have had a class mate as cheeky as CJ willing to stand up for what is right, maybe I would have been braver then myself.
CJ is wise beyond his years and we sure learn so much from you all. Bravo.
Did the school get the irony of playing songs from “he Greatest Showman” while being so conformist?
It worries me that our children are still being “taught” by stupid, ignorant and bigoted teachers who are not half as smart as their pupils! CJ you are a star.
I really wanted to link to Grace Petrie’s new song Black Tie, which is about her experience of being a girl who wanted to wear a suit to events, but it’s so new I don’t think it’s been recorded yet. Anyway, if you come across it I think CJ would like it 🙂
Ah, I was wrong! It will be out on a CD in September and in the meantime you can hear it on a podcast http://guiltyfeminist.libsyn.com/103-the-power-of-music?tdest_id=348135 (I can’t get it to work for me but hopefully it will for you!)
I lost my mother in elementary school many decades ago and I guess I grew so numb to things like this that I assumed his letter was just going to be about the clothing. I didn’t expect him to also address the reference to mothers! Wow! I got choked up. Great catch C.J. and Thank you! C.J. should never stop writing these type of letters even if he has to type them himself going forth 🙂 His astuteness even got me thinking about kids who may be color blind and perhaps shouldn’t be asked to wear certain colors or refrain from wearing certain colors. I mean… what does it really matter what they wear to a violin recital? Aren’t people there to LISTEN with their ears not judge clothes with their eyes? In fact it may be a bit more bearable if the kids were allowed to express themselves through their outfit choices as well.
Great wonderful CJ for kids
I love that CJ’s letter is not just about why the flier is hurtful for him and kids like him, but that it covers a variety of other families and situations – kids who don’t live with moms, kids whose moms don’t get fussed about dressing up, boys who like to dress up, girls who don’t, and so on. What a thoughtful compassionate justice-seeking kid.
You are a great mom! I have a young son and it is important to teach openness and acceptance in the world. One size does not fit all. But so many people just can’t handle something or someone different. Your son is being he who he wants to be without apology. I wish more people felt comfortable being true to themselves rather than following a script that their family or friends gave them.
Bravo to CJ for keeping the school on their toes. You must be so proud of CJ. He is following in your footsteps! Love the shirt! I hope the end of the school year is now completed probably this week and then hope the next school year is a much more positive one for CJ and your entire family!
C.J., you are truly brave heartfelt warrior. Your combination of compassion and fearlessness light up the world. Thanks for reminding all of us to care for others as well as ourselves, and to never give up.
Lori, you have two awesome kids and a great husband. And probably one hell of a headache. Hope the headache changes and the family doesn’t.
The music teacher needs to be educated. For one thing hundreds of men wear blouses every day as part of their military uniform. They are called blouses in the military uniform regulations.
It may seem like a small thing to quibble over, but I bet they’ll think twice about sending something like that next time around! Kudos to C.J. for standing firm on sound principles! ❤
C.J. is a role model for kids and ADULTS alike. I love his tireless spirit and his won’t-back-down attitude. He has made some excellent points that are inclusive of Everyone. Just as it should be. Keep up the inspiring work, C.J.!
Where did you get this shirt for C.J.?
We saw several people wearing this shirt at Boston pride and we love it and trying to find where to purchase one.
Tell C.J. it’s a great shirt. 🙂
Target! They have it for kids and adults!
CJ never fails to amaze me, this time it is not about what to wear. The first thing he mention was his concern that some of the kids might not have Moms and that statement might hurt their feelings. He thinks of others first and then himself, what a great kid. One lucky Mom you are!
I am so impressed by the wonderful child you are raising. Thank you for sharing your journey.
I LOVE his advocate spirit! I am always composing “strongly worded letters” in my head. Good for him for speaking up. But I HEAR you about the end of school… it’s exhausting even when it’s drama free. ❤
Well. He makes really good points! The school policy does say all attire is fine as long as it’s safe and appropriate. They could’ve just said no shorts instead of specifically calling out 5he boys. And yeah, some kids don’t have a mom. And even if 5hey do it’s very presumptuous to say ALL moms would be happy to see their little men in long pants. So there is that.
I love you as a Mom and you are raising your child very well! My own birth Mother is very much anti gay and a racist. C.J. is a lovely child and I am so glad he has a support system there in place. 🙂
CJ I love that you stand up for what’s right. Never lose that spirit.
Oh noes! Short sleeves! What IS the world coming to? 🙂
Seriously, that looks like a great shirt. I’m sure the music was uplifting too.
C.J. – “BRAVO ZULU”
I hope C.J. develops an awesome friend group, but in the meantime I feel your exhaustion. I had hoped high school would be better than middle school, but so far this has not been the case. Struggling through the school year with a child who is miserable and has no safe place at school is agony. I love that C.J. is an such a terrific advocate!
I learn so much from C.J. I hope he has a fabulous summer and that next year is 1000 times better.
Well done both of you! Also, this is an good way to learn to touch type http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/z3c6tfr
Always fighting the good fight. Keep it up CJ.
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What an awesome kid!
You go, CJ! I love your choice, and your letter too. Keep educating people!
You go, CJ! I live your choice, and your letter too. Keep educating people!
The shirt and the letter are amazing. Colin’s idea of “doing something” is venting to me. I’m working on this but his response is “I am doing something, I’m talking to you”. Next we’ll work on the concept of “useful” LOL. Passing you a cyber Advil!
I’m a professional writer. I’ve published over a dozen books, and more than 8,000 blog posts. CJ’s words are better than anything I’ve ever written in my life!
Seriously! C.J. is one eloquent kiddo. Rock on, and never stop saying something when you see something that’s not right!
DUDE. CJ. I needed you as a friend 30 years ago. PS I wore pants to both my proms and shorts (that looked kinda like a skirt) to at least one of my choir concerts in high school 20 years ago. Now, I own two suits and can always feel like myself when I dress up.
LOVE!! CJ is amazing!
How is it seeing his bullies and their parents, especially since you must’ve had a relationship before this (since she was his best friend for so long)? Although as a side note, just typing this, I completely understand if you’re not talking/writing about it because it would make it even more awkward. I’m so glad the school year is so close to being over, and go CJ for sticking up for himself and others! 🙂
Prior to the bullying, we communicated with the parents, but never became friends with them. I’d rather not see them and I’m aware when they are in the room. Mostly I ignore them and prefer they do the same.
Kids like C.J. give me hope for this tired world. Great shirt, too!
C.J. is my hero. I wish my 4th grade son were as courageous. And I here you about a shitty year!
I must say, I admire his fighting spirit! And that shirt is pretty awesome, too!