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.

 

Why We Need To Stop Separating Boys and Girls

Two amazing parents I follow on social media have recently shared their child’s struggles with finding a place in varying daily childhood activities. Personally, I have been struggling with the same concepts as I prepare for my twins to enter kindergarten this fall.

Again and again I see children split into two categories, whether in school, for activity groups, sports, you name it. These categories, more often than not, are “boys” and “girls”. If we stop to think, what are we telling young children?  Separating boys and girls at such a young age is the equivalent of screaming at them “you are different and should be treated that way!”  When I think about this I think about my own son Michael.

While Michael does identify as a boy he relates more to girls and enjoys more “girl” activities.  Telling a gender creative child  like Michael that he must be with the boys is like a giant slap in the face; telling him he shouldn’t like to hang out with the girls and it’s not ok that he relates more to the opposite sex.  The issue is further compounded by having to be around boys that he may not relate well to and who very well may be teasing him.

Gender Split

Splitting children into boy groups and girl groups are not setting our children up for effectively co-existing with the other sex later in life.  Society is incredibly diverse, most women work at some point in her life, even if choosing to stay home at one point to raise babies (same goes for dads too!).

In competitive settings such as sports or spelling bees, separating girls and boys implies that only one gender can be better than the other.  Keeping teams or groups mixed implies to children they must work together for better productivity and cohesiveness both in the workplace and at home.

To obtain a culture that eliminates gender biases and inequality then we must start teaching children at a young age to coexist.  We can not set an example that it’s boys vs girls by always dividing them.

If it’s necessary to split children up into smaller groups just get creative!  Who likes ice cream and who likes cake? Who likes to color who likes to paint?  There are many ways to segregate that isn’t based on gender, race, religion, etc.  In the end our children will learn to be more inclusive and work together in life leading to a society that promotes equality between genders.

 

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.

 

National School Breakfast Week

One of my all-time favorite quotes is from the ever inspiring Dale Hayes in the world of childhood hunger and nutrition.  “When students are listening to their hungry stomach they are not listening to their teachers.”  This resonates.  Think about when you get hungry, so hungry that it’s all you can think about.  Imagine an 8 year old child sitting in class who didn’t have breakfast that morning, they may not have even had dinner or if they did it wasn’t much to speak of.  All they can think of is when is lunch coming.  Not because they are bored, or want to play, or just don’t want to sit in class anymore; because their little tummy will not stop grumbling and they know a full hot meal is waiting for them.

School breakfast helps to solve this problem.  Many do not realize that school breakfast is part of the lunch program.  The same one that offers free or reduced price meals to children also provides breakfast (and in some cases afterschool snack or dinner but we’ll save that for another day).  Unfortunately many schools still do not support this program.  Whether it be cost, labor, stigma, unsupportive faculty, or lack of initiative there are a host of excuses.

National School Breakfast Week allows us to thank those who work so hard to make sure no child is hungry in the morning and is ready to learn.  After all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day isn’t it?  NSBW also allows us to bring focus to the work that still needs to be done.  We need to turn excuses into possibilities and help schools bring breakfast to more students on a daily basis.  The importance of breakfast has been proved time and again through an infinite number of studies, there should not be a question or a reason to why it is not available to all our children every day in our nation’s public school system.  Children in our country should not be going hungry.

For more inspiration I encourage you to watch this video:  https://vimeo.com/195810067

You can take action to make school breakfast a reality! It only takes a minute to email your governor and and urge them to support breakfast programs that help connect more kids with the meals they need: http://bit.ly/2FE1SJa

Or join me and make donations to No Kid Hungry to help their mission:  https://secure.nokidhungry.org/site/Donation2;jsessionid=00000000.app215b?df_id=14444&mfc_pref=T&14444.donation=form1&src=18XWH0000S0&_ga=2.33752865.1685853255.1520276327-691640603.1516723820&NONCE_TOKEN=B68A6AC99FBEE24A6CF8C858CC23E530

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