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

Thursday, April 25, 2019

My Letter to The Washington Post

I read an opinion piece in The Washington Post a few weeks ago and my broken-hearted, angry-as-hell rebuttal to it came spilling out into an email as soon as I kissed the kids goodbye and sent them off to school. What I wrote in that email was not an official Letter to the Editor and I was not looking for it to be published, but I was hoping to get some sort of a response to it. To be honest, even just an acknowledgement that I had taken the time to respond to the WP editors about an essay I had read in the print edition of the newspaper that I subscribe to in a day and age where print journalism needs all the paying subscribers they can get. Anyway.

I didn't get a response. Because my head and my heart are full of ALL of the thoughts and feelings about this topic right now...I'm copying my email into this space. I need my head clear of these words and to do that, I need acknowledgement that these words, these feelings, are out in the universe. I need people to see this issue from our point of view and to just open their minds and their hearts....and shut their hateful mouths.

[Note: The original opinion piece can be read by clicking the link in the opening paragraph of my letter. The online title has been changed from the print edition I referenced.]

*** 

My heart broke this morning as I read an opinion piece in the Sunday, April 7, 2019 edition of The Washington Post. The transphobic language printed in the essay 'Parents Should Lead on Teaching Children About Gender' touched a nerve because it's exactly what we fear our 9-year old, who identifies as gender-fluid, will encounter as he grows up in this still shockingly close-minded world.

The assertion that exposure to a children's book [I am Jazz] will lead cisgender students to suddenly question their gender identity is naive and suggests that the writer has never spent significant time around a gender-nonconforming child. In our case, which is echoed by every other parent of gender-nonconforming, gender-fluid, or transgender children I've spoken with, our son's gender-fluidity was apparent from the moment he could express an interest in toys, activities, and clothing. He was younger than three years old and certainly not influenced by his environment or caregivers to express a gender-fluid identity. On the contrary, his world, like the worlds of so many American children today, was strictly gendered, though through no intentional design by us, his parents. His preferences surprised us but we were open to his choices and, as he got older, his self-expression and declaration of his gender identity.

The statement that "the working draft of the policy implementation procedure seeks to expose kids at a young age to transgender-themed materials...and risk convincing healthy, normally developing boys and girls that their bodies are wrong and must be altered with hormones and be vandalized by surgical instruments" is downright hateful. First of all, my child's body is developing perfectly normally. So is his gender identity. Obviously, no one--no doctor or therapist or parent--would recommend hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery for a person of any age without careful, thoughtful deliberation on the individual's gender identity. For a child to be considered transgender, he or she must be consistent, insistent, and persistent about their transgender identity for a sustained amount of time. Even then, the first transition that will happen will be strictly social (clothing, pronoun preference, etc.). Most hormone therapy doesn't begin until puberty, and surgical procedures do not occur until after the age of 18. This persistence and insistence of truly transgender children will not come from exposure to a picture book, attending an assembly where a "transgender activist" is speaking, or by allowing other transgender students the right to use the bathroom that matches his or her gender identity.

There is no evidence to suggest that allowing individuals to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity puts women and children at risk of being assaulted. You can read more about that here but the issue has been put to rest so many times during debates over so-called "bathroom bills" that it really isn't new information. There is no evidence that cisgender boys claim to be transgender in order to gain access to the girls' locker room. It just doesn't happen. Boys do not claim to be transgender in order to play on girls' sports teams and to steal girls' scholarships. (And maybe if you were counting on an athletic scholarship for your daughter you should start working on a Plan B anyway, because nothing is guaranteed. What if your daughter sustains an athletic career-ending injury?)

I really can't believe I read this essay in The Washington Post. I know it was just an opinion piece, but it just sickens and saddens me that with all of the real issues and serious concerns facing this country, someone would spend their time picking on our kids by writing (and printing!) this misinformation and hateful rhetoric. Our kids just want to have the right to a public school education where they are free to be themselves, valued by their teachers and communities, and seen for who they are wholly and completely. We're so lucky to raising these beautiful, strong, and resilient children...I just wish the close-minded adults in our community would let them be.

Lesson Learned:
As soon as I hit Publish, my mind and heart will be clear, knowing that these words are out in the universe. Until the next time I read an ignorant opinion piece, anyway...

(But seriously, have you ever heard a more ridiculous argument against transgender students than fear over girls losing sports scholarships to boys posing as transgender girls?! What a world. What a freaking ridiculous world.)

Sunday, April 14, 2019

twelve

He didn't speak until he was two and a half. When he eventually did, it was in full, grammatically complete sentences.

He didn't ride his bike until he was nine. On one of his first rides, he rode down our street, out of our neighborhood, through town, and all the way to the local ice cream parlor.

He didn't try a team sport (willingly) until he was 11. Then, he played three consecutive seasons of three different sports (we're just entering season three, and as far as he's concerned, we're only just beginning his sports career...).


When he's interested in a subject, he becomes an expert on it.

When he reads, he consumes an entire series in a week.

When he's made up his mind about something, there's no changing it.

Evan is a boy of cautious, deliberate planning and then fierce, stubborn determination.

And now, this boy is 12.

Damn, he's good lookin.
It's been a big year:

He finished elementary school, receiving a very prestigious award in the process...

The History Kid Award!
(Probably not the official name...)
 ...kicked a Milk Allergy's butt in an in-office dairy challenge,

Headed to his first ever REAL ICE CREAM celebratory treat!

...endured more tests, procedures, and blood draws than I have in my whole life...


...had braces taken off and put on again...

...invented the Smookie TM (a cup-shaped chocolate chip cookie that is then filled with chocolate chips and topped with a melted, browned marshmallow)...

...and transformed into a bonafide Middle School Boy right in front of our eyes (with all of the wit, wisdom, sarcasm, rolling of the eyes, lack of self-control, grown-up conversations, lingering potty humor, and occasional full-grown man stink, that comes with this brave new world). 


This sometimes goofball is often serious--curled up neatly in his internal world. I've wanted, since he was a tiny kiddo who watched the world instead of sharing his thoughts, a peek inside that brain. He doesn't reveal much, but I can see the wheels turning and the message sinking in as he sits quietly through our increasingly regular conversations about drugs (WHOSE IDEA WAS IT TO INVENT JUULS ANYWAY?), internet safety, school performance, growing up, and consent.


He watches 60 Minutes, intently, with us on a weekly basis. Last week they aired a segment about the Battle of Attu, WWII's forgotten battle. As the correspondent introduced the segment, he said "We have all heard about Pearl Harbor, Midway, and Iwo Jima, but who among us learned about Attu?" Evan said, "I have!" and proceeded to give us the Cliffs' Notes version of the 15 minute segment we were about to watch. In addition to giving him a chance to show off his smarts, the show has also given us a lot of material to talk about with him and is one of the few "big kid" indulgences he enjoys apart from his younger siblings. These three tend to move as a pack.

...they seek each other out, then spend their quality time together bickering.
Ahhh, siblings. 

Evan approached me the other day with a proposal. For his birthday, he wanted to download a new game for his Xbox. He had researched the cost to download, how the in-game purchases work, and the rating. He presented his proposal to me with this information, along with his wishes (to download the game for free), and the restrictions he would impose upon himself (to refrain from purchasing the add-on "coins" until he determined whether or not the game was worth it).

I was impressed by the calm, measured approach to this ask. Just a year ago, he would have likely come to us begging, saying that "everyone else has it! It's not fair!" before we even had a chance to consider the request. I let him download the game and suggested that money for the "coins" could come from us as part of his birthday gift. He invited me to watch him play his first round...so I could make sure the game, "Rated T for Teen," was "appropriate."

I think I can relax a little about this kid's ability to make good choices.


How can I not worry, though? Middle school is tough. Especially when you, like me, feel like you don't really know what's going on in your kid's life because he, like Evan, keeps so much to himself...

Are the kids nice to him?
Is he nice to them?
What is he being exposed to? Can he handle it?
Will he tell me if there's a problem he can't solve on his own?

Does he know -- like reeeeeeealllly know -- that, no matter what, we'll always have his back?


Because we will.


I've said it before in this space: I want a tiny, temporary glimpse into the crystal ball. I'm not wishing this time away and I don't need to know everything...I just want a peek. Where does he end up? Is he okay? Fulfilled? Inspired? If I were convinced by my glimpse that he winds up in the right place, whatever that place might be, then could I relax and enjoy this ride? Or am I destined to worry my way through parenting this child because of who I am...and who he is?

He's our pancake kid. The one we'll burn a little or undercook slightly before we get the heat setting just right for the next one. He's the one teaching us how to be parents (even though the other two are teaching us how to be parents to them in their own right). He's the one we make mistakes on and the one we learn from. He's the one that, hopefully, will understand why we made the decisions we did when he has his own first born.


That's one thing he knows for certain: he'll definitely be a dad.

He might be in the military or a police officer or (the one I'm holding out for) a history professor, but he'll definitely have kids. Eight, according to him, if he's a billionaire. In that case, he'll have a party bus to drive them all around in. If he's not exorbitantly wealthy, then three or four kids. And a toy poodle.


He's headstrong and opinionated and full of fire.

He's a baby whisperer and a dog snuggler and every toddler's favorite Big Kid. 

He likes cuddles on the couch at night and back tickles at bedtime. 

He's grumpy in the mornings and has the most infectious laugh when he starts giggling.

He can be Max and Molly's biggest nemesis and most favorite companion.

He is everything and anything....and he'll be just fine.

It's time to stop looking for the crystal ball and to start looking straight at this kid. 


He's a keeper.

Lesson Learned:

In lieu of a party this year, Evan has elected to do an Escape Room with his aunts and uncles. After that, dinner and an arcade with the whole family. And for dessert, Smookies, of course.

This growing up thing has its perks! But I still can't believe my baby is 12.