Sometimes one mom is all it takes.
Sometimes one mom doesn’t seem like nearly enough.
Sometimes both feel true. (It’s weird when that happens because you feel thankful and disappointed at the same time and that combination of feelings isn’t comfortable.)
C.J.’s fifth grade school year was a dumpster fire. A hot, inextinguishable, shit-smelling dumpster fire. It burned rancid and infuriating for months, until the final bell rang and the school’s PA system blasted “School’s Out.” I dreamt of boldly giving the middle finger to all of the students, parents, buildings and blacktop while tears streamed down my face.
When things get hard, when they are complicated, I get quiet. I curl inward. That doesn’t mean my brain, soul and heart shut off. It means they are working overtime.
I curled inward in February and I haven’t quite returned to my normal self. I’m not sure I ever will. That may not be a bad thing or a good thing. It’s just a thing. And things change us.
February was when my son’s best friend told him that she couldn’t hang out with him anymore because he is gay. That’s when she and two other girls started kicking, pushing, hitting, stabbing and stealing from him at school.
We ended the school year emotionally exhausted, but thankful. Thankful for C.J.’s supportive and protective teacher, because without her, I doubt he would have finished the year in a traditional school setting.
And, we were thankful for one mom whose daughter attends C.J.’s school and is in his grade.
C.J. goes to a school with 999 other students. There are lots of parents and guardians. When I write negatively about the school — say, a PTA meeting during which homophobic and transphobic remarks were made — the moms from school swarm me. They post to my social media platforms and theirs. They seek me out at school. They want to meet off campus to talk. They give me dirty looks and refuse to acknowledge me. They call me a liar (even though I fact checked my work with two sources – one was the principal).
When I wrote about my son being verbally and physically bullied at school, all of those concerned moms went silent. I wonder where they went.
But, one mom saw my Instagram posts about C.J.’s bullying and messaged me. I could feel her heart hurting with mine. She is good, kind, warm, caring and loving.
She said her daughter would wait for C.J. outside of his classroom, both, at recess and lunchtime. He could go with her and play with her and her friends or he could say “hi” and keep going — but he would always know she was there for him. She told me where C.J. could find her daughter if he passed her at his classroom door and, then, changed his mind about needing her.
She helped her daughter make a list of conversation starters in case she and C.J. ran into an awkward silence. She told me her daughter would play handball with C.J., even though she prefers to play tetherball. Her daughter readied her friends to accept C.J. with open arms.
C.J. immediately felt safe knowing that that one mom’s daughter cared about him and wanted to be his friend. He also felt foolish because he knew that she felt sorry for him. In the end, he went with her. They played tetherball. They talked about makeup. They never found an awkward silence.
That one mom checked on C.J. and me every day. And, while she did, I found myself disappointed that more of the moms who knew my child was in pain didn’t care enough to help him. But, that one mom, she was enough.
We couldn’t wait to get to summer. It seemed long and languid before us. When we flipped the calendar to August, we saw the first day of school and a bit of dread fluttered within our family. We caught a faint whiff of that dumpster fire. I curled inward a half a rotation.
I thought of that one mom and instantly felt hopeful, thankful and comforted. Sometimes one mom is all it takes. Sometimes one person is all it takes.
Never doubt how powerful one person can be in another person’s life. Never fail to be that person for someone else. And, never get so jaded by a back alley dumpster fire of a year that you forget to be thankful.
I was so happy to see this update on the bullying situation. What an amazing person that one mom is to think of such an empathetic approach, to make the kids so comfortable with it that their friendship could naturally develop. I know it was a painful journey, but what a blessing that CJ discovered true friendship.
I first came across your family through HuffPost’s story about James Woods’ bullying comments. I’ve become a fan and admirer of C.J.’s spirit and the strength you show. My wife and I are now grandparents to two very young ladies, and I hope they can bring hope and kindness to someone’s life, much as C.J.’s new friend has to him.
My wife teaches 5th grade and I am positive she would have loved to have had C.J. in her class. His creativity, enthusiasm, engagement and thoughtfulness are all things she strives to bring to the classroom and into the lives of her students.
Best wishes for an amazing school year and keep bringing the fierceness!
Hi – I keep checking back for a middle school update. My twins just started middle school and one of them has already had to deal with that adolescent homophobia that most of us are all too familiar with, but was startling and hurtful to my kid (one kid in PE class saying to another, “at least I’m not gay like you!”).
Here’s hoping C.J. and the rest of the family are thriving.
Sending positive thoughts from the internet! Hope things are easier this year
I am so sorry that you and your son had to endure this. Bullying is definitely a hard challenge to overcome. I hope that I can be “that mom” for someone. This is some deep writing, and I love your style of writing.
I can kinda sorta relate, my daughter, who is 5, is starting kinder in a few days. She has alopecia, an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the hair follicles. She’s completely bald, and I am so scared of bullying for her. We have had a few remarks in public. Being a mom is definitely not for the faint of heart! Stay strong!
Thank you for this. For very different reasons than CJ’s, my son’s third grade year was very much a a hot, inextinguishable, shit-smelling dumpster fire. It almost consumed me. He lost his last friend and after a long, painful while, he found one other kid who wants to hang out with him. Thanks for the reminder that sometimes one friend is enough for right now.
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I’ve been thinking about CJ a lot this month as everyone gears up for school. I’ve spent my 15 year teaching career in grades 5-8, so I know where he’s been and where he’s going (grade-wise). I am praying for him to find good friends, bold and loving teachers and a principal who understands that not everyone fits in a box. It can’t always be easy for you to share your personal dumpster-fire stories, but please know how much your whole family is loved all over the world. I live in Texas and I’ve followed this blog since CJ was 4. Your vulnerability allows us to know where the work needs to be done to educate people. Your triumphs are our celebrations (i.e. CJ meeting his favorite drag queen, CJ becoming Grand Marshall for the Pride Parade). Thank you Duron family for sharing your life with us!!
Beautifully and wonderfully said. All the feels
OMG this is just all amazing.
I’m sorry to say I would not have been able to be that mom’s daughter. I was too insecure myself, and maybe still am. But I love that that daughter is there for you and CJ.
Also, please please talk to CJ about what “feeling sorry for someone” means. See, sometimes it could mean you think that person is somehow weak or unskilled or in some way lacking. BUT often it means the opposite: you think the person is strong and awesome but you are so sorry they are in such a bad situation.
This happened to me recently: a new-ish friend told me painful things about her life, including that she didn’t want people to feel sorry for her. I said that I envy her strength and am sorry for the bad things that happened to her. (Really awful stuff has happened to her. We GLBTQQIAA people still have a long long way to go. Heartbreaking.) It’s an odd mix: I’m so so sorry about what happened to her. And her strength in the face of it is AMAZING.
I would guess that CJ’s friend may feel similarly. Yes, sorry that bad things happened to CJ. Painful things. But she may well also be able to see the admirable qualities if CJ that show up in this story. Like that he’s a good and trusting friend who cares. That he’s different and knows it and is able to stand in the world with that difference. That he has a mom who is fierce and tender and looks for resources to help him. Thise are all enviable and awesome things.
I’m so glad you have that one mom who supports you and C.J. I agree too that sometimes that one person you meet in life can instantly change it, sometimes for better or worse. But I’m glad it was for the better with this one.
Thank you for the important reminder to speak up, step up, and be the change we want to see in the world.
I love this. Fingers crossed for kind, empathetic kids this school year who get how truly fabulous CJ is. ❤
That one mom is an angel and my prayers are with her and you and your family. It’s sad what CJ is going through. He has much more courage than I did at that age or even in my 20’s. I still was hiding my true self then. God bless your family and that mom and her family.
While I am so sorry you had to deal with all the people who are close minded bullies and who are too cowardly to speak up, I am so so glad you found a support system. This is a beautiful testament to what the world could be like if we were all loving and accepting to one another. I will be keeping you guys in my thoughts as the new school year starts!
What an inspiring blog – “One” can sometimes be all it takes. I’m hoping you and CJ have a 2018/2019 school year that is so awesome that it snuffs out the pain of last year!
From the time I heard about your family I have been in awe of your strength and love for your children. I am now in awe of this one mom. The world needs more kindness like hers. Hope y’all have a great school year!
Such a wonderful message of hope in a wasteland of negativity. Reminds me of the old bishop sheen TV show where it starts off in darkness, but the light of one small candle banishes the dark. Be that one small candle. Thanks for this post Lori, as a reminder.
I’m so sorry you and C.J. went through this and are feeling fears of school starting up. I understand stand. I have 3 boys and one was bullied, never that bad but I know how school can stink. I hope this year is wonderful for him. I think he is the most amazing child. Your post are always great. Thanks for writing.
Hitler’s first public office was mayor. He won by ONE vote. One person CAN and DOES change the world. Always try and change it for the better.
Nice and deep
I’m here from Dawn Autumn’s page and I’m so glad I visited! Been loving scrolling through your blog. This post melted my heart!
Love and hugs to you, Lori and your family. I hope this school year is better. I love reading your posts and hearing your story even when tears are running down my face. Judy
Reblogged this on Proud Trans lady.
I’m sorry CJ and you had to go throw all that tho times are changing ignorance is still running a muck in this world, hopefully this year will be better for all of you.
Wonderful lesson in this post for all to remember !!!
BY FOR NOW
Reblogged this on Literature Life and Lattes.
So glad you have that one Mom.
Wish my daughter had that in grade 5 and then again in high school. Only hearing how bad it was now at 25.
I hope your family has a better year.
You and C.J. (and the rest of your family) are beautiful and such an inspiration. You give me hope.
Sending you best wishes this new school year.
Well you have one mom over here waiting for C.J. to get to OCSA but whole tribe of kids await him. My son still follows CJ’s story and has said if C.J. chooses OCSA he will be there waiting at orientation for him. And while we feel sorry for what he went through we feel more sorry for the group of kids who turned their backs on him and missed out on a friend for life. I’m sure it was a spectacularly shitty time for him and your family but from your posts it seems he shined and met some amazing people from this. Out of the ashes rises the Phoenix! You go C.J.!