"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Monday, August 7, 2017

when the news hits home

I've watched, with anxiety and sadness, as "bathroom bills" have been introduced and defended by people who fear, so hatefully, that which they do not know.

I've also watched business owners around the country and right here in my own little town take part in a quiet counter-protest: thoughtfully removing the His and Hers labels from their single stall restrooms and replacing them with clever signs like the ones adorning the restroom doors in my brother's restaurant: "Either" and "Or."

Or, maybe my personal favorite, this one...

Image result for whatever just wash your hands
Image credit: Redbubble

I knew it was important and I knew it might one day be personally important for my family...but I didn't think the impact of gendered bathrooms would be felt so soon.

It happened several weeks before I even knew it was happening: Max was noticing. He was noticing the "everybody bathrooms," as he calls them, and he was noticing the bathrooms for which he needed to make a choice. He was also noticing (whether real or projected) the curious looks he received when he made the choice that matched his gender identity (boy) but not his clothes. 

He started asking Sam or Evan to accompany him in to the bathroom or for me to wait right outside. He started to "just wait until we get home...it's not an emergency."

And that's when I finally noticed. I noticed that, as comfortable as he is in his own skin, as right as he is in his understanding and expression of self, he's not immune to the effects of a society as gendered as ours is. He is dealing with so much more every day than I give him credit for and, somehow, he is still, literally, the happiest, most joyful and creative child I have ever met.

Society hasn't taken that from him yet and I'll be damned if it does.

A few weeks ago, we were in my brother's restaurant. Max returned from the "Either" bathroom and said, "I just love how Uncle Mike has Everybody Bathrooms in his shop. Then no one has to wonder why you're in there! Everybody should have Everybody Bathrooms.... even schools."

And there it was. Second grade is the first year that the students do not have a single-stall "everybody bathroom" in their classroom. He had projected that, every time he needs to use the restroom, he will be running the risk of having to defend his right to be in the boys' room.

So, I asked him what we could do to solve the problem...because in the grand scheme of things bathrooms are a little deal. There's no sense worrying about a whole awesome school year over something as little as bathrooms.

Max didn't hesitate. "I want you to set up a meeting for me with Mr. C."

Leave it to Max to initiate a meeting with his Principal. Man, I love that kid.

Today was the meeting and it was fantastic.

After expressing his concerns to his Principal, Max explained that a reasonable solution to his problem would be an Everybody Bathroom. Mr. C first confirmed with Max that there hadn't been a situation that made Max feel unsafe in the building. He wanted to make sure that this was a proactive conversation rather than a response to something negative that had already taken place. Max assured him that no, he feels safe in the building, just uncomfortable in the boys' bathroom. 

Mr. C then proceeded to take us on a tour of the school, pointing out the FOUR Everybody Bathrooms in the building that Max, and anyone else, can use whenever they need to. No matter where Max is in the building during his school day, he has a single-stall Everybody Bathroom right at the end of the hall.

What a school. What an administrator. What a lucky mama I am to have landed here with my babes.

Both pleased with how the meeting went, Max and Mr. C shook hands and we left.

As soon as we got in the car, Max breathed a sigh of relief...and then released his inner diva:

"I just feel SO much better, Mommy! It's like, I was SO excited about second grade because some people say it's, like, their favorite grade E-VER...but then I was so nervous about the, ya know, bathroom situation. So now I'm, like, totally fine with everything and I'm, like, LIT-ER-A-LLY counting down the DAYS! ohmygosh...."

I smiled and said, "That's right, babe. Nothing to worry about. It's going to be a great year."

Lesson Learned:
Now that we have the bathroom situation under control, time to work on that valley girl sass. 

As soon as he stepped out of the car, he said, "And you know what else I'm sick of? When people ask if I'm a boy or a girl. From now on, when someone says, 'Max, are you a boy or a girl?' I'm gonna say...[cocks his hip, flips his wrist, struts his stuff]...Whatevs! I'm gender FLUID, baby."

I LIT-ER-A-LLY don't know where he gets it. I'm just so freaking glad he owns it.


  1. For me, one of the wonderful things about this exchange is that Max is confident approaching you about the issue, and is also confident approaching the principal. D tends to keep things to himself and just act out through bad behaviour.

    At school, D uses the boys' facilities: everyone there knows him and has been pretty good about things. It's not all plain-sailing, of course: it took two solid years for his best girl friends to start inviting him to playdates again once he started wearing a dress to school, and one or two have said some cruel things about him.

    As with Max, he is one of the happiest and most creative kids going, and hugely enthusiastic about everything he turns his mind to. Long may that continue.

    And I love that bathroom sign.

    1. In addition to that, I forgot to mention D's usual approach to public toilets:

      I always offer him the choice of which loo to use. He will sometimes go into the ladies on his own and sometimes will come into the gents with me. It really depends on how comfortable he's feeling with each option. When we're all out together, he will usually go into the ladies with his mum, but not always.

    2. We're so lucky to be parenting these kids, aren't we? Thanks, as always, for reading and for truly understanding what it's like to be in our shoes.

  2. Sarah - I'm sorry to say that I'm stumbling on your blog for the first time tonight - and what a beautiful and heartwarming post it is! I look forward to reading more.

    I have also been greatly saddened and disappointed by the "bathroom bills" you referenced, and appreciate how well the photo of the sign you posted depicts the absurdity of the arguments I've heard and read in support of those bills. Furthermore, as a father of now three kids under 5, I admire greatly your efforts to support Max.

    Way to go Max! - this fellow Crozet family supports you. John

    1. Thanks for reading once you stumbled in, John! And thanks for the support. We love our little town and the great people with whom we share it....we're so happy your family is helping it to grow! Can't wait to meet the newest addition to your family.