Welcome back learners.
Lunches...wrapped. Coffee...second round brewing.
It's a new school year. A new beginning and a new chance for a great year ahead.
Today I'm not thinking about my own Jr. High and High School kids.
I'm thinking about Rose.
My Jr. High kids start the day earlier than my High School age daughter. She gets to sleep in a whole extra hour, which helps scatter the school bus runs and keep the system flowing smoothly. It's all about the system.
Driving them all to school on their first day has become a bit of a tradition for me.
Let the buses work out their summer break cobwebs without us. I snap the photo, load 'em in the truck and head out.
After my Jr. High run was complete, it's time for my eldest. We drive to pick-up her friend. As we pass the sea of cars outside their old Elementary school she asks, 'What's with all the cars?'.
I think to myself, one of them could belong to Rose's parents.
They fill the carpark and line the road, winding down and around the corner and creating a tight bottle neck of buses and cars. It's 9 a.m. and the bell rang 20 minutes ago.
You only have to look at all the dark sunglasses and see the occasional parent with their arm around their partner's shoulder, to understand why.
The kinder parents. The Jr. Infants or Primary parents.
Those dark sunglasses don't fool me. I've been there, holding it together and reeling between elation at regaining some sense of routine versus the tight fist clenching my heart at the realization of the end of another chapter in parenting.
Enter a new Chapter -- one that relies more on 'The Village' than it ever has since the day their child was born. This is the 'Village' that teaches tolerance, shuns bullying, drives 40 km/hr in a school zone.
I trusted the 'Village' of parents who didn't fill their child's lunches full of gummy bears and fake cookies. They've the Mini Mouse lunch boxes to match their backpacks. They ushered their kids to bed early even though they know no one will fall asleep before 11pm. Like Rose, with her Paw Patrol backpack with the sparkles, polk-a-dot bow and big smile that's missing a front tooth -- these are the Village parents who reminded their kids to be respectful to all and make friends...do onto others. The ones we want our kids to meet. The ones that support us when our kids mess up and make mistakes and remind us we're all in this together.
I didn't realize back then in the early days, it's not what it says on the label.
The Village, I mean. If you're Rose's parents.
We row our own boats and the 'Village' isn't designed to include everyone.
Just the ones who fit. We're working on it - but we've a long way to go - the Invisible Parents Club.
I wish Rose a magical first day of Primary/Jr. Kindergarten.
And hope the school supports her in the gender she prefers and uses the pronouns her and her family have requested. And I hope she makes friends. Many friends.
And that she is safe.
And if one day, her friends discover she is transgender, they will smile and share a laugh and continue to play the games they love. 'Because hey, it's no biggie.'
I hope her friends parents will accept Rose. Include her in the sleepovers and parties.
For now, she will love Mini Mouse and Paw Patrol and wants to be a ballerina...or an astronaut when she grows up.
These 'likes' will eventually change as she grows.
But gender identity is gender identity.
It's with Rose for life. And she knows who she is.
I hope the school will continue to fly the blue, pink and white Trans flag and rainbow striped Pride flag in the main foyer. The flags that were hung the last week in June. We advocated for these flags, after our 11-year-old was badly hurt last Spring for being openly trans. Being trans, supposedly 'created confusion' for another student.
So, I'm hoping even though my child has moved on from this school, his footprints will continue a conversation that fosters inclusion and creates acceptance.
A conversation that works to end any confusion.
I hope that parents will help our teachers teach children that not all families are the same and that gender can have many faces.
And inclusion matters.
Even if you don't think you know a Rose, you know that Rose matters and she's excited to begin her first day of big school.
Want to be ally? Check out some resources here and thanks for reading.
Rose is fictional. Rose is one of more than 240,000 gender diverse and trans kids across Canada. Rose's parents are members of the Invisible Parents Club. But they don't want to be.