Three years ago, I thought nothing would be more difficult, more heart-wrenching, more anxiety-inducing than sending my oldest son to kindergarten.
Three years ago, I didn't know that I'd be sending my second son to kindergarten in a skirt.
But here we are...one week out from the start of school and the butterflies have taken over my stomach.
I know, I know: He'll be fine.
I know he'll be fine because he's right where he needs to be. I know he'll be fine because he will always, always, have a safe place to land in our family and in our home. I know he'll be fine because he is who he is: confident, charming, bright, and full of life and excitement. To know Max is to love Max, and I'm not just saying that because I'm the one who loves him most of all. (Well, okay, Sam and I share the title.)
I also know, though, that I'm about to send my happy, little rainbow fish off to a great, big pond and I just have to trust that we have prepared him well enough for what he may face in these uncharted waters ahead. I don't want his confidence to falter. I don't want his sparkle to fade.
But, it occurs to me that it's not fair that I should have to prepare HIM for the world ahead. He's done nothing wrong in choosing to wear skirts, magenta leopard-print shoes, and sparkly fingernail polish. He's just living his life and it's a beautiful one.
So this message is not for him. This message is for the Others: the people he will meet who do not Get It, the people he will meet who judge, the people who hurt.
Here we go:
Just don't be a jerk.
Parents, I don't care how you feel about the fact that my boy wears a skirt...but I will care if you share your judgements and discriminations with your kids. Your kids aren't judging him. Kids are not born to point and laugh and make fun of other kids. Kids, generally speaking, are open. They learn that ugly, judgy behavior from you (and from older, more jaded kids). So just don't teach them to be jerks. And if you catch them being jerks, address their behavior. Swiftly.
Your kids may, however, be curious. And that's okay. Max has fielded a lot of questions from other kids about his wardrobe. It typically goes something like this:
Other Kid: Are you a boy or a girl?
Max: A boy.
Other Kid: ...but you're wearing a skirt.
Max: Oh, yeah. I like to wear skirts.
Other Kid: Oh. Okay.
If your kids ask why that boy in their class is wearing a skirt, just say, "Everyone gets to choose which clothes they feel most comfortable in, and he feels comfortable in skirts." If that's too much for you, then you can simply say, "I don't know, but it shouldn't matter to you what other people are wearing. Who'd you play with at recess today?"
Keep your ears open and if you hear a negative word about a child, any child, teach your children that everyone is Different: different colors, different sizes, different strengths, different struggles, different beliefs, different families, different clothes.
Different, because The Same is boring.
It really is that simple.
And then, this is a letter to the people who do get it, who don't judge, and who love him just the way he is...
Thank you. Thank you for loving him. Thank you for asking me when you have questions or when you don't know how to answer the questions of your children. Thank you for accepting him and for protecting him and for welcoming him into your families and your hearts and your homes. Thank you...but also, you're welcome.
He's pretty great, isn't he?
One week. Here we go. We can do this. Are you with us?