A Simple Gesture,An Amazing Teacher

To say we are nervous about Michael leaving the protective bubble of our current day care/preschool and entering the big world of elementary in a couple short weeks is an understatement. We want our sparkle boy to be accepted and appreciated for who he is and not bullied into hiding his true identity. This story has two parts so bare with me.

When attending kindergarten open house this past spring to register the boys for school and get information we were handed folders with a ton of information. I glanced through it and then put it aside until later in May. One day I decided I should get a jump start on all the things so I pulled out the supply list. Aside from it being long the other thing I noticed was the first item listed: a pronged two pocket plastic folder, pink for girls and green for boys (available for .50 at Target). I felt my chest tighten and explosions happening all around me.  How was I going to handle this?! I quickly stowed the list back in the folder and tucked it away.  I was not ready to deal with this.

I thought about the best approach for weeks. Do I draw attention to us already and ask about this? Do I tell my child he has to have the green one and then figure out how to answer his questions when he comes home and asks why do the girls get pink ones? I knew what I had to do but working up the courage was a whole task in itself.

The weeks quickly went by and school was nearing an end. Working in school administration for over 11 years I know that a majority of teachers do not check their emails in the summer (nor should they). I knew I had to reach out before the end of school so I could shop during the summer as planned. With the deadline looming I was forced to draw up the courage and email the three kindergarten teachers and ask the question.

I was terrified.  I did not want to start my children’s school career being singled out as “THAT” parent. I’ve had enough experience around administrators, teachers, parents, and students to know how I do and do not want to come across. So, I’m sure I babbled. I prefaced my email explaining our situation. We have a boy who likes pink. They would find he likes to wear pink along with “girl” clothing. I am simply seeking to understand. I was very mindful to not take a defensive or accusatory stance. I simply wanted to understand the reasoning between the two different colors for each gender so I could explain it to my child. I held my breath and hit send.

I almost fell over when I received a response within 20 minutes. My heart jumped when the teacher who replied simply said, “Pink would be perfect!” I breathed the largest sigh of relief. Obstacle number one tackled. I was so happy when we were school shopping and I could confidently hold up the two colored folders and ask the boys which they wanted. Shocker, Patrick wanted green and Michael wanted pink.

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Our sparkle boy.

Fast forward to this past weekend. Glancing at my phone between running around the house getting projects done I noticed an email from someone unknown and the first few lines shown almost made me think it was junk mail but something told me to open it. It was an email from the teacher who my boys have been assigned to. (Side note: the one I was secretly hoping for because I could just feel from her and her classroom that it would be a good fit for our family. Very colorful, artsy, and eclectic.)

The teacher mentioned they were not supposed to share the class lists yet but was reaching out to ask whether it was Michael or Patrick who liked pink. She was busy getting name tags and such ready and wanted to make sure his were pink.  My eyes welled with tears and I could literally feel my heart explode. The simple fact that this teacher had remembered my previous email (I’m sure it’s because I’m on some teacher watch list) and took the time to ask this question could not have put me more at ease. I quickly replied thanking her so much and her reply was simply that she wants all of her students happy and thriving.

I still cry thinking about this. I am going to be this teacher’s biggest fan. My child is going to have an advocate, someone supporting him for who he is and I feel so much better about the start of school.

I know there will still be hurdles. I know other children will say things. But knowing there is one adult, one amazing, open minded teacher on his side is indescribable. I’m not sure she will ever understand the depths of my gratitude but I’ll do my best to show her.

 

Michael Goes to Therapy

This past week was Michael’s first therapy session.  I was so nervous for like two days before it I couldn’t stand it.  I don’t even know why!  I guess no one thinks it’s quite “normal” to take a 5 year old to therapy and most parents never think they will need to take their young one to therapy but I felt it was best to be proactive rather than reactive.  So what I didn’t envision until the teen years jumped ahead a bit.

I did a lot of research to find someone who has worked with the type of scenarios we are working through and was thankfully able to find someone close to home.  I explained to Michael we were going to talk to a nice person to help us make sure we are doing all we can to ensure his happiness.  I reminded him that Patrick had to go to therapy a lot, which he certainly remembers, so he would realize there are different types of therapy and everyone needs help sometimes.  Mommy and Daddy have been to therapy too!

Donned in his new favorite black sequin jeans and his fave pink zip up hoodie with black cats we entered this new season.  Michael is so perceptive and in tune with things.  I knew that no matter what I said he was going to be nervous and unsure.  Thankfully he was still willing to talk but the fidgeting!  Oh the fidgeting.  He was rubbing the sequins back and forth on his pants so much I’m amazed they didn’t all fall off.  Once he was a little more comfortable he dove into the small toy box in the corner and played with everything no matter what it was.  I wanted so bad just to tell him to be still but I am sure he was so nervous and didn’t need a mom nag on top of it.

After we talked some about our concerns and why we were seeking therapy and the therapist got to know Michael a little we stepped out of the room so she could have one on one time with him.  At first Michael was scared but I was so proud of him for being so brave and willing to let mom and dad leave the room.  When we were invited back in she told us that he certainly opened up more when we were gone.  I was a little sad that he wouldn’t say some of the things to us but I’m so happy that at  least he’s talking to someone!  That’s the whole point of this right?  He started opening up about some kids at school who are not very nice to him.  Our biggest fear come to light.  She didn’t elaborate much and I’m sure it’s because she wants to build up that trust with him, I get it.  As we go we will learn more.  Baby steps.

She is going to work on coping skills with him and keep tabs on what’s going on at school and his feelings.  It’s not a situation where he needs to go every week, probably a couple times a month for now.  We just want him to have a safe space.  We want to be ahead of anything that may come up.  We want to know how to handle things as they do come up.  We want to be guided in the best way to handle family and friends who are less than supportive.  He is my beautiful sparkle boy and I do not want anyone to dull his shine.

 

What color is gender?

I went to bed with my soul hurting last night.  Hurt and confused.  Raising a gender non-conforming child is perhaps one of the hardest things a parent can deal with.  I’ve been through so much in the short 5+ years I’ve been a parent, it never seems to end, this one is up there.  I question what I do all the time as a parent.  Am I doing the right thing?  Leading them in the right direction?  Altering the direction too much or not enough?  How much do I let them lead?

Recently, shopping for clothes for my twins has been a personal struggle.  Typically, I do shopping like this without them, parents get that, but more and more I have been finding myself completely unsure of what each will like.  When my boys were born, and ever since, I have dressed them matching or at the very least coordinated.  I said I would always do that until they told me otherwise.  Pat has been good and helpful reminding me of that recently, now that the time has come.

This past weekend armed with my 30% off along with other coupons I went to Kohl’s, with both kids in tow.  I was going to let them guide the shopping process.  Michael was very excited.  Patrick can care less about clothes for the most part and will probably always be that way; I have to laugh about it.  Michael and Patrick both loved a pack of “Hatchimal” socks so we got those.  Michael also picked out a zip up pj with Elsa and Olaf (Frozen, he loves Elsa), a set of Minnie Mouse pjs that were fuzzy and soft (his words) and a pair of black jeans with sequins patches on each leg.  He was so excited and I felt good about these choices.

As we moved to the “boy” department, I was finding items and showing them to Michael and Patrick.  Patrick only liked the character items so we ended up with Mario and whole bunch of Star Wars gear, and of course the beloved Lego Ninjago pjs.  I offered, showed, and tried to coerce Michael into SOMETHING from the boys section.  No go.  I was informed every time that he does not like or want boy things.  I asked.  I did my due-diligence.   I let it be.

As with any child (or adult), Michael was very excited to wear his new gear.  The Frozen pjs went on as soon as we got home and he wanted to wear the jeans and his favorite pink kitty zip up to his Grandma’s birthday party the next day.  Michael was so excited in the morning that he was dressed and ready to go before 9:00 am.  I wish that were always the case!

To my dismay, Pat was upset.  Not with Michael but with me.  Or so he thought.  What he was really upset with was the prospect of his child being bullied.  Being “beat up” or called the derogatory “fag”.  I struggle with this thought.  Half of me wants to believe that we live in a better world than that.  That our children will be growing up in a time when all people are accepted no matter who or what they are.  I’m an optimist.  Pat is not.  He lives in the world that is not nice.  The world that will make fun of and bully someone for being different.  We balance each other in this way.

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This next part gets hard.  It is hard because your family is supposed to support you and uplift you.  Accept you for who you are.  We do not always have that support with some of our family.  I hate to say it but I was not surprised when we walked into the birthday party and Michael was quickly asked “what is that on your pants?” and I couldn’t have been prouder when Pat chimed right in and said enthusiastically that they are sparkly pants!  I love that man.

Michael’s favorite colors are pink and purple.  Everyone who knows him knows that.  He was very excited when Grandma’s cake had pink icing, as was she because my husband’s family is very boy heavy and there is just not much pink!  All of the girl’s names were being rattled off insinuating they could have pink cakes then too and Michael added he wants pink as well.  Then I heard it, “no you can have blue.”  I’m pretty sure my head lifted off my shoulders, spun around, and steam came out from my ears.  I firmly reminded this person that pink is his favorite color and he could have a pink cake if he wanted.  C’mon people!  It’s a color! A freaking color!  I want to know who it was however many years ago that decided “blue is for boys” and “pink is for girls” because I just do not understand the logic or reasoning. Mental note to research this.

After a number of other comments and conversations, not all regarding Michael, just things in general, I was so happy to leave the toxic “party” environment.  So happy we were heading to Costco where I could get some retail therapy.  That or I was going to need a drink.

The rest of the day was beautiful.  It was family, it was love, and it was everything.  All I need.  I snuggled with my sweet boy in his cozy Frozen jammies and my other sweet boy in his Ninjago jammies as we watched Frozen and I tucked in two happy 5 year olds.

But when I went to bed that night.  When I stopped to think and reflect the emotions came flowing back.  I was so upset with how our own family can be so unaccepting.  Strangers were nicer to Michael.  How do I keep this sweet child happy?  How do I protect him?  How do we know we are guiding him in the right way and doing the right things?  I almost got up to start writing down all of my thoughts but I knew I was too emotional and needed things to digest in my mind overnight.  So today I wrote and I made a counseling appointment.

 

One Way I Relate to “This Is Us”

I could not even begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard phrases like “wow twins, you must be busy”, “I couldn’t imagine twins”, or “they must keep you busy”.  I usually just smile politely and say yes but know it my mind that no matter what my heart is full and that’s what matters.  After all I went through to have my babies I will never ever think of anything but gratefulness and love.

I will however admit though that parenting multiples has its own set of struggles.  While watching Tuesday’s episode of This Is Us last night my heart just ached watching Mandy Moore’s character Rebecca struggle with raising her multiples because I could completely relate.

Raising little humans is hard.  Add in little humans who are the same age and you have a whole new world complications open up to you.  When your children are going through the stages of life at the same time it becomes easy to compare them, have the same expectations, and generally treat them like they are one.  It is hard to separate these two individuals and treat them differently when they are going through all the motions together.

How do I make sure each is getting their necessary amount of attention?  Am I giving them enough space to be the amazing individuals they are?  Am I empowering them to be those individuals?  Do both feel equally loved or do they feel like the other gets more attention?

Having one child with special needs has certainly compounded these thoughts.  All the times Patrick was picked up from school and Michael left behind because he had to go to therapy or Patrick getting special attention and treatment because of his needs, has this affected Michael?

I know my boys love each other fiercely and will defend the other against anyone no matter what but I do not want them resenting the other or me because I have failed to give them what they need.

Pat and I do our best to allow their personalities to shine.  To have special one on one time with each apart from the other.  We also try to help our family and friends understand that they are individuals as well with different likes and dislikes.  I know when we enter the world of elementary school a whole new obstacle course will come before us.

At the end of the day we all do our best.  We love the best we can.  We discipline the best we know.  Parenting is hard.  There is no rule book or guideline.  To top it off every circumstance and child is different.  I have to balance raising them together at the same time while also making sure they get what they need individually.  I just hope I don’t mess them up too much. 🙂