Kind of. Kind of not.
Let’s be honest, if you’re the adult who has been home with the kids all summer, that first school bell on a sunny morning is going to sound so sweet. It’s okay, we’re among strangers, you can admit it. I already have my first day-of school planned. It involves speeding home, tackling the couch and watching reality television in my pajamas. It may also include eating large amounts of ice cream for lunch and taking a nap. I’m not going to lie.
My family has done it all. We’ve experienced all that summer has to offer and now, frankly, I’m ready for my boys to hit the reading, writing and arithmetic full-time again.
Even as a young girl I loved back-to-school time, mostly because it meant new outfits. Pink-and-gray argyle for first grade. Red Gap henley shirt and Guess jean skirt for sixth grade. Grungy flannel with a baby-doll tee and Doc Martens for 11th grade. Esprit blazer with white tee shirt and leggings for senior year.
My boys don’t dread going back to school; they have mixed emotions. Oddly enough, so do I. This year it doesn’t hold as much joy for me as it has in the past. Ms. Sunshine has been C.J.’s preschool teacher for nearly two years. She is a special kind of angel that spreads goodness with construction paper, finger paints, and songs that require corresponding hand gestures. We have to say goodbye to Ms. Sunshine. I should be super happy that C.J. has tested out of her preschool program and into a pre-kindergarten program. I have to remind myself of that often.
I usually don’t have a hard time saying goodbye to people. But, saying goodbye to Ms. Sunshine feels like I’m saying goodbye to a protective layer that we had wrapped around our gender-nonconforming child. He’s been thoughtfully protected and shielded….until now.
I have never met his teacher. That’ll probably happen on the first day of school; or the day before if we’re lucky. I’ve talked with her briefly on the phone and I’ve heard good things about her. Again, though, I’m left to wonder what the proper etiquette is for raising a gender-nonconforming child.
Part of me feels like I should tell her that C.J. is gender creative. But, then I feel a little uncomfortable labeling him to someone new before they’ve even had the chance to meet him. I could let her figure it out on her own, but then I worry that during her learning process she might not be tuned in to the teasing and bullying that C.J. attracts. I know that kids will be kids and part of growing up is being teased. But C.J.’s gender nonconformity opens him up to even more harassment and I feel like his teacher needs to know this sooner rather than later so she can be a little extra sensitive. Would telling her that he is gender nonconforming help or hinder? What’s best for C.J.?
What will make the first few days of school better for him, so that he continues to be excited about learning and feels safe in his new environment? And what will make the first days of school better for me, so that I can nap and run errands peacefully without children or worry?