I know it's not just me. I'm always learning from my kids.
Growing. Trying to become better.
Since the start of a new school year in a brand new school, this September has been quiet. And I like quiet. It's safe.
My son has stuck closely to his very best buddy, we'll call him Mark. They're both in the same class and together they're a giggling dynamic duo. And sometimes that's just enough.
They were enough to make a full 12th birthday party. They were enough to make a fun pizza and movie night. For him, this one special, accepting friend is enough to fill the room with fun and good times.
Who says you need a whole hand of friends?
He has another amazing buddy too who looks out for him and teaches him how to cheat levels on Playstation. They play football and eat chips. But he's a couple years older and will be gone to a different school next year.
And so I worry.
"Why don't you invite Mark over this weekend along with a few others?"
I ask this often.
I'm not one for 'keeping 'em all in one basket'. I see friendships change and grow and begin and end; especially in Jr. High.
And when you only have one friend in your Grade, that can be risky.
"Nah, I don't feel like it," is the common reply.
We're etching into October as days get cooler and winds blustery.
Playstation Ark is overtaking lake swims, kayaking and outdoor play in its popularity. And limiting 'tech time' in my house is a losing battle thanks to Mother Nature slipping on her cozy socks and making us all want to hibernate.
When I spoke to my son's Guidance Counsellor this past week, I was surprised to hear she's seen him a few times. Ms. J says he's nervous about making new friends; torn between wanting to be excepted for the person he is; but worried about (from his perspective) being honest.
"What if they find out?"
I'm currently enthralled with this book, 'This Is How it Always Is', that tells the story of a family and their young trans child and the secret they all hold together.
And I wonder, what would that be like?
...To be able to start off stealth. So your child is on an even playing field and simply accepted at face value.
We moved here from over seas when our youngest was only 5-years-old and starting Grade Primary. He'd come from an Irish Catholic public school where uniforms were worn. Ties and pinafores. If he had transitioned earlier, would it have all been easier? I believe there was really no way for him to put feelings like these to words back then. And knowing other parents of trans and gender creative children, no matter the age, there is No Easy. Only different.
Our son told us matter-of-fact, 'he is a boy on the inside - he is a boy,' at the end of Grade 5. And he was super brave despite being terrified, to make his transition openly to us and his classmates. He hoped for the best with regard to friendships and acceptance. The teacher was teaching about transgender, so it must be ok, right? Healthy Living and all that...
'The best' didn't exactly happen but that's another story.
Now, in his new school, sandwiched between friends from old who know he is transgender, and a new population of kids who don't - or act like they don't, he's navigating new waters.
So, when he came home this week with a list of names for a pizza and scary movie night on Saturday, I did an inner victory cry (the silent kind). Mark of course, was top of the list. But now there were two more. Two girls from his elementary school.
What about forgiveness?
One of these girls happens to be the girl who 'trans-erased' him last year.
She came to school one day full of venom and judgement and a bold acclamation:
'Teaching about transgender in schools is just confusing, and they shouldn't do it. And ... when I'm a mom, I will not be allowing my daughter to 'change to a boy if she wanted too. They would have to wait until they are older to be able to make these kinds of decisions.'
There was actually more. But what is important is the tone came more from a parental opinion than from one of an 11-year-old child. And well... ouch.
Someone was talking about our parenting choices and had an opinion on how it could be done better. I wonder if it'd be different if their child shared a similar experience?
If they wore our shoes? Or even had feet?
This day, last Spring, was enough to make me sit down and type a full 2-pager for the girl's mother explaining what it actually means to BE gender non-conforming or transgender. I told her how much my child had looked up to her daughter and considered her a friend. I spoke about Human Rights and said her opinions essentially erased my child.
The letter is still sealed in an envelope. In a folder. In my office. Never sent.
Forgiveness is a funny thing.
I don't ever reread this letter. But I feel it in the house.
Something hovering. Unresolved.
The girl had apologized later that week. He called her out on her actions. I think/hope she reflected that the words she was saying weren't hers and they didn't make her feel good.
I wonder if her parents had a chance to learn from her about any of this?
This young child has been apologizing ever since; a few times before school let out last June; a few times this past September.
And now they're in the same class and they are friends again. He doesn't think of it as forgiveness. He's just let it go. Light as a feather.
Me, well, it took me a bit longer.
I still store this disappointment-fuelled letter.
But in a couple of days this child will be here, in our house for a movie night. And I'm thinking perhaps it's time the shredder takes this painful moment in time. And perhaps I'll be able to look her parents in the eyes and they will see us for who we are.
Seeing a friendship grow and acceptance happen in spite of a preconceived judgement; in spite of opinions passed down from parent to child or society to child; it brings me hope. I never thought I'd be welcoming this child into our home, because I thought they'd made up their mind. Turns out, this generation IS doing better.
I am stocking up the chips, plumping the pillows (no, not really) and cooking the pizza; as an unlikely movie night happens.
'When you forgive, you in no way change the past - but you sure do change the future.'