School’s out for the summer; it’s more than a cool song, it’s also a parent’s worst nightmare. Seriously though, it’s a mixed blessing. I love being able to plan cool playdates, family field trips, walks and have fun with my kids. But I hate the endless days of boredom that inevitably lie before me. One such a day was today, wherein the kids did nothing but whine, fight and tantrum from 8:20am until 10:10pm when they finally shut up long enough to fall asleep curled in a ball at the foot of Xan’s bed. I’m not even kidding. At least they’re cute. Sometimes.

I’m starting to suspect that Xan may be allergic to wheat. We’re going to call in for a general allergy test for him, as well as a test for celiacs disease just in case. The last month of school he’s come home almost every day with a stomach ache, though it’s difficult to separate that from stress in that instance, I’m concerned enough that I’m going to set up testing soon.
The stress issue is… hard. At the very least it’s on pause for the summer. He’s been teased a lot over the last term of Kindergarten, mostly by older schoolmates about his pink clothes or his long hair or his extroverted personality. The worst incident was while I was walking him home from class (Kindergarten gets out 15 minutes early) and passing by the gym teacher with a group of grade fives playing California Kickball on the side field; hearing a grade five boy whisper, “There’s the fag“. My heart dropped into my stomach. I could say nothing in response, and felt paralyzed with anger, fear and embarrassment. Later it would astound me how powerless I could feel with just a single word from a ten year old I don’t even fucking know.
Xan didn’t appear to notice, and has no idea what the word means. We’ve never, ever used it in this house and would never find reason to so I don’t think he would recognize it even if he had heard clearly… but he knows a tone of contempt from a friendly one. Just after we’d passed the group, he looked up at me. “My tummy hurts again.”
We were four days from the end of the school year, and I could barely bring myself to take him in for the rest of the week in spite of his pleas to go. There were fun days and hot dog days and treat days and class party days to attend, and at the very least I could give him those… but after that incident I felt like I’d waited too long: this has gone too far and I should have done more or pulled him out sooner. I can’t bring him back next year. I can’t knowingly subject him to this over and over again. I had no idea it was like this for him, and I feel overwhelmed and ashamed in my ignorance.

I’ve talked to his teacher repeatedly about the bullying from classmates, at least what I knew about, and she let me know she was making others aware of it and talking to him daily about his experiences. After her intervention, the kids in the class left him alone… but it didn’t stop the older boys. I wasn’t aware that was going on for a long time, because Xan didn’t talk about it and no one seemed to notice. Every so often I’d get a note from his teacher that he’d acted out, but no one was investigating further. 99% of the time when I talked to him about what happened, I found that the incident was instigated by someone else teasing him, telling him he had to do something to be liked, and so on. Xan’s incredibly easily influenced, it’s one of the drawbacks of being a really social extrovert: he gets his energy from other people’s attention, and will go to great lengths to get that attention. So if someone he admires, or believes he needs attention from, tells him he needs to do something to get it… he’ll do it.
No matter how often I made people aware of the fact that you need to push for more information people rarely did. They just took it at face value and he ended up in trouble. He didn’t get in trouble often, in fact the last six months he was totally trouble free other than minor yelling or something… it was just something that constantly bothered me.

There was one really disturbing incident where a grade five boy came onto the Kindergartener’s field, pushed Xan into a thorn bush (he was covered in small scratches) and then made him tear apart a birds nest (in the process convincing him he was killing baby birds) and when suddenly caught by a duty teacher, told the teacher that Xan had pushed him. Xan then got in trouble for pushing. EVEN THOUGH THE KID WAS ON THE WRONG FIELD, over a foot taller, and 6 years older! I mean… what? What the fuck goes through these duty teacher’s heads?
I approached the principal to talk to her about this incident when she was outside the school one morning, and she was extremely dismissive. Before I could even finish the report she cut me off multiple times and just said, “Yeah yeah I’ll talk about it. I’ll talk to the duty.”
“I think her name was Linda.”
“Yeah okay I’ll talk to her.”
A week went by with nothing. No communication, no phone calls, no emails, no nothing. I asked Xan every day if someone had come to talk to him about what happened, but no one had. We were almost done school now, so it sort of seemed pointless to make a fuss with like five days left, but I started preparing a formal letter to send to the principal so there would be evidence of the full complaint. In the past, any time I’ve brought anything to this woman it’s been handled really poorly and it makes me not want to bother with her. I really don’t like to get into confrontations, I’m not very self-assured when it comes to this shit and I get overpowered more easily than I’d care to admit, so my first line of defence is just to drop it and walk away.
About two days from the end of school I was walking Xan to class and she stopped me in the hall. “Oh, I’ve been calling you for days!” she said. Lie – my phone hasn’t rung once from her, and I have no missed calls from the school. None. I didn’t call her on it, and instead just stopped and patiently waited for her explanation.
“The duty wasn’t Linda, she had no idea what you were talking about, but I found out which duty it was and she said that a boy was on the wrong field, but he and Xan were playing! When the duty teacher talked to that boy, he just said ‘Xan is so cool we want to play with him on his field’, so that’s what really happened.”
I was furious. “Xan was covered in scratches, and was very upset.”
“Well maybe he tripped. The boys really just said, ‘oh Xan’s so cool! We just want to play with him!’.”
“I’m sure they did.” I didn’t want to be nice anymore, and my voice was dripping with sarcasm.
“Well I’m so sorry you think our duty teachers are lying!”
“I don’t think the duty teachers are lying, that’s a little absurd to jump to; I think they didn’t see what really happened, and I think the older boys will say anything to get out of trouble.”
“Well, we can’t help that.”
Because that’s the best response for the principal to give to a parent who has come to you with a child bullied to the point of physical injury. Super.

The rest of the conversation went equally well. We stood there half an hour while she told me she had no responsibility over this, that if Xan comes to school in pink clothes he should, ‘expect to be teased’ and that the disturbing incident earlier that month was a matter of ‘boys will be boys’. She spent ten continuous minutes talking to me about the weird behaviour of the grade five boys at the end of the year, and how she’s just given up on it because there’s no way to stop it, and it’s just how they are.
When I protested this, she turned it around and said it was my issue for not understanding that teachers don’t talk to the principals about anything, and that I should have called and set up meetings and such – repeatedly – instead of assuming the issue was being discussed after being told it was being discussed. She also knew all about Xan being teased, and referenced incidents well before the one I was talking about, so clearly someone had been discussing it with her all this time in spite of her claims to the contrary. She is really experienced in this brand of manipulative conversation, and after a while every time I opened my mouth it became my fault, so I just stood and listened. The conversation ended when she made the suggestion to put a “chain of command” in the next school newsletter to remind parents to set up repeated meetings and phone calls if their child is getting bullied, and then repeatedly complimented me on what a brilliant idea it was.
I hadn’t said a word in five minutes. See what I mean by an experienced manipulator?
Flabberghasted, I just thanked her and left. I know how that shit works and have no desire to get deeply involved in it; I’ve done that once already.

When I picked up Xan from school I told him he has my permission to fight back if someone restrains him, or physically bullies him. The last time someone went after him, he said he didn’t think he was allowed to tell on them because the bell had already rung. Before that, it was because when he tried to run away they caught him, and since he’d tried it once he didn’t think he could try it again. The teachers do this “WITS” method to bullying (Walk away, something something, Talk it out, Ask for help, or something) and he was under the impression you only did each thing once and gave up if it didn’t work. We’ve talked to him about this repeatedly as well, so I don’t know who keeps giving him this idea other than the bullies themselves.
When Curtis got home that evening we talked about it, and agreed that he couldn’t go back.
I started doing research into the alternative schools in the area, and found one that I really clicked with. It was a K-5 alternative school with a focus on arts and community, with a maximum of 65 students in split classes. I wrote the principal a letter and went into far too much detail about our personal experiences. I was feeling really burned and upset and sort of used it as an opportunity to vent a bit about how disappointed I was with the school system. I felt embarrassed about it afterward, and intended to apologize… but to my surprise she was really awesome and welcoming and immediately wrote back arranging a tour.

I went in a few days later and she met me at the door. The school isn’t that big, so there wasn’t much to see inside, and I was mostly there to talk. We ended up just walking around outside. The kids there seem very at peace with each other. They’re familiar, they’re friends, they’re all part of a family. It reminds me of the alternative school I attended for grades 10-12 (and volunteered in for years afterward), and that place really changed my life for the better. I was really excited by the time we finished.
Unfortunately, the principal was not as positive, and admitted she had a substantial wait list for Kindergarten and grade one classes. The class we wanted him in for this next year was a K/1 split, so his registration would be behind all the new attendees as well as the grade 1 transfers. I was crushed. I talked to her about his bullying, his gender-bending love of pink and dresses and how that’s become more subdued as the year wore on… maybe due to naturally growing out of it, but maybe not. It didn’t seem like it was all about outgrowing it. She was sympathetic, but gave the same answer: there’s not much she can do. By the end of the tour she assured me she’d flag him for priority.
“Keep calling,” she said. “Get his application in by the end of this week-” she handed me a few papers, “-and call again at the end of August, and again in early September to check in. Sometimes we have last minute cancellations and we’ll see what we can do.”
I thanked her sincerely, gathered the papers and left. I felt like I didn’t need to see any other schools: this was the one I wanted for him. It felt right… it wasn’t just the the focus on art and dance and creativity and self-expression, but the welcoming feeling I got from the principal and staff as I told them about Xan’s personality.
The principal was careful with her language, so not to offend, but assured me, “We have many families here with children like Xan. Even some other boys who came to school in pink – or dresses – and you’ll find that the families here are … more accepting. Most of them are raised in homes where differences in gender and expression are normal, or at the very least okay. The few times we’ve had a student who wasn’t comfortable with it, we take the time to educate that student rather than make it a problem with the child who is expressing themselves.”
My heart soared to hear it. But that doesn’t change that the wait list is long enough to assure there’s almost no chance he’ll get in for Kindergarten.
“It’s better to register him for grade two, to get his name in now. The students from grade one will go up into grade two, so if we have no openings now we probably won’t have any openings then either… but at the very least if you get his name in, there’s a better chance. He’ll be first on the list.”

I left deeply disappointed, but at least it’s something. Curtis and I were prepared for this outcome, and agreed to try to homeschool him through grade one if this was the case once September came around. Xan isn’t exactly the best candidate for homeschooling, with his extreme need for social interaction and his crazy extroverted personality, but I’m sure we can fumble our way through when the alternative is sending him back to an environment where he’s going to be called a fag by his peers.
I’ve been bursting with conflicted feelings all week after this. I’m excited for the school: it’s right, but I’m worried he won’t get in and I’m ashamed and angry about his teasing.

Pride was on Sunday, and it’s always been a wonderful day for everyone. When we drove down and parked, I was explaining to Xan that he’d see lots of boys in dresses and makeup and pink and immediately he burst into tears.
“I don’t want to watch. I want to go home. I need to go home.”
I’ve never seen him not enjoy pride, and was taken aback. “Why?”
“Its boring. I hate this parade. I can’t be here. We need to go home.”
We hung back from the rest of the family and quietly talked about what he was feeling. He was completely distraught, and either didn’t have the words or didn’t want to use the words to explain what was going on for him. He didn’t’ want to be seen, and was terrified that by enjoying the parade or being seen having a good time it would make him “less”, or put a sense of realness to what the older boys said about him.
The more we talked, the more he calmed down and admitted that it might be okay… but he told me he was going to hide his face and wait until I told him that the “good parts” were coming, so he could briefly look and then turn away. However, by the time the parade actually started he forgot about that and just had a great time. He acted out in a major way at the fair, but at least he had a good time and forgot about his difficulties. I took time to repeatedly point out men and male-identified people who were breaking gender boundaries, having fun, dressing up. Initially he wouldn’t even look, but by the end of the day he was having more fun with it and feeling excited to see men in skirts and the big, happy smiles of everyone having a good time.

That night I had a complete breakdown with Curtis and sat on the bed crying for an hour. His answer to this is that he’s young enough to get through it, and that getting into the new school will fix things. I don’t think it’s that simple.
“You don’t get it, and you can’t. The bullying and teasing you endured was about your weight, or your glasses or your teenage acne… and that’s very different than being teased about your gender identity, something that is a huge part of your core. This is how he was made, this is who he is, and he can’t change that. Even if he tries, it will just cause him misery. I’m terrified this is going to stick with him, and that we’re too late. I did nothing when that boy called him a fag. I just kept walking. It brought up all this horrible shit for me and I was paralyzed.” ETA: This is extremely poorly worded. Thankfully, Curtis knew what I intended to say, but many readers may not. I apologize for this. My words were not meant to undermine the impact of fatphobia and fat-shaming, but rather point out to Curtis that his experience is not the same as someone who is experiencing homophobia, or racism, or sexism, etc. He cannot relate to that directly, and the attitude I found dismissive is a direct result of that. We can suffer different forms of oppression, but still cannot directly relate or compare to types that we have privilege within.
“Do you really think he’d want to deal with the fact that his mother went and beat up some random kid? Do you think that would make him feel good?”
“I’d rather he remember that his mother boxed the ears of a kid who called him a fag, than he remember that his mother did fucking nothing while someone insulted who he is.”
He had the decency to give me a moment of silence after that. “He doesn’t know what the word means. He probably won’t remember that day.”
“No, he probably won’t. But it doesn’t negate my own guilt over it, and how it’s shit like that which makes me let the principal get to me. She tried really hard to pin this around on me, like it’s my fault he’s being teased because I didn’t raise him right and let him dress in pink, and I know that’s bullshit but she’s… good at manipulating.”
“It isn’t your fault. It isn’t his fault. The very least a school with zero tolerance could do is actually try to enforce that.”
“I know.”
We went to bed with plans about spending more individual time with Xan, and hopefully helping him learn to accept and celebrate what makes him different. It breaks my heart to hear him say things like, “I’m too grown to have nail polish” when literally four months ago he was begging me to do it. I don’t believe it’s an issue of growing up; not when he’s this scared about how it looks to other people. I realize he’ll outgrow a lot of his experimenting as he finds out who he is… but this isn’t the natural way that happens.

A day following this, on Curtis’ day off, we got a phone call part way through the day. It was the kids’ school (Tempest’s current, Xan’s “old” now). They were letting us know about the records and student transfer to the alternative school.
Curtis took the call and I heard him exclaiming in the other room. “What? You mean he’s in the school?! Or are you just getting information?” Long pause. “Oh my god, thank you for calling. No we didn’t know. Thank you.” He hung up the phone.
“Is that what I think it is? Did he get in?”
“… apparently he did. They said he did.”
“That can’t be. I didn’t even hand in the application yet. They are mistaken; the other principal is just getting information.”
“That’s probably right.”
“Let’s go in today and drop off the application and ask about it.”
We went in a few hours later, and the principal met me in the hall with a huge smile. She moved things around, called the other parents on the list personally and found him an opening… before I even put in the application. She’d already sent for his records, had his picture and his file and everything was already set up. I stood there in shock, tearing up, and gave the entire staff a hug. They really came through for him and they don’t even know him yet.
The principal had to run, but the head staff person was still there and stayed behind to set up with me for a while. We ended up having a half hour conversation about trans* students and children, gender identity and expression, she gave me movie recommendations to watch and to show Xan when he’s older… it was amazing. I just wish I could convince Tempest to transfer as well, but she’s adamant about staying and I don’t want to force her.

We’re not even a week into summer vacation and my worst fears about next year are already handled thanks to the amazing staff who actually cares about the welfare of a little boy they don’t even know, only after hearing about his difficulties. Already that’s ten times more than the staff at the other school has ever done for him.
I’m so filled with emotion over his experience I don’t even know how to find the words to express it. I can’t even tell what I’m feeling more. This school is such a huge relief, and takes a lot of weight off me, but I can’t erase all the shit I’m feeling about what’s happened already… what I didn’t know, and what’s already been done. He’s only five, and the best thing I can hope for is that he’s too young to remember or understand the majority of this, since it only seemed to get bad in the last months of school. Maybe Curtis is right and an overwhelmingly positive experience at the new school will help to ‘erase’ the bad one, but I’m very afraid that’s not the case, and this is going to stay with him the rest of his life. Worse still, I’m afraid he’ll internalize this bullying and in his terror, will become homophobic. It’s hard to keep perspective when it’s your own kid; especially when this bullshit is about gender identity, sexuality and things that are such a huge hot button issue. He can’t change who he is and I don’t want him to. I don’t ever want him to. I don’t want him to think for even a second that he needs to change or hide who he is for the sake of pleasing some homophobic dipshits. My own trauma with coming into my sexuality and not understanding what that meant for me until adulthood is still very fresh, and I can’t help but feel a very deep and personal sympathy with him through this. At the same time, I don’t know what to do to fix it. I can just hope that this school is the first step.

Comments

comments

62 Comments

  • sylvanna says:

    Even I teared up over this fabulous news!

  • chem_nerd says:

    I was totally just gonna dig up that link for you! Great minds:-)

  • chem_nerd says:

    The principal and the jerkface bullies all need to learn that pink is just a color. Specifically, it’s what happens when a substance reflects both red light and blue light. You can wear red, you can wear blue, or you can wear pink and be wearing both at once – which is just awesome.

    I think you actually made the right call by not confronting the bullies – they would have likely considered it reason to harass him more. By transferring him out of that school, you’ve shown him that you will listen to him when he tells you there is a problem, and that getting him into an environment where he is safe and happy is your number one priority and everything else is secondary to that. That is the best thing you can possibly do for him.

    Oh, and one other bit of color trivia that Xan might find interesting. Pink… is historically a ‘boy’s color.’ Prior to the 1960s, it was thought that pink, being a more aggressive color, was better for boys (or, in some cases, that it was more flattering to dark-haired or brown-eyed babies), while blue was prettier and more delicate, and thus better for girls (or blonde and/or blue-eyed babies). When the feminist movement rolled around, those women (quite reasonably) resented being told that they couldn’t wear pink as children, and started dressing their daughters in pink, which then caused a complete 180. All of which goes to show that declaring any color to be for only one group of people is ridiculous, and if pink (or blue… or orange polka dot… or rainbow tie-dye) makes you happy, you should wear it and rock on with your bad self:-)

    • admin says:

      When this first became an issue at the beginning of the year, we did the historical pink lesson. 🙂 It was our first response to it. I was shocked by how many people didn’t know it, as well as the fact that many boys wore dresses for their first few years.

      Also, on your light reflecting thing… I just watched this a bit ago and have now learned that pink light does not actually exist at all! Totally fascinating.

      • chem_nerd says:

        It’s crazy the way some people get bent out of shape about this kind of thing. I have a coworker – he’s got a daughter who’s my age, so he’s gotta be over fifty, and far too old for the ‘fifth graders being ignorant’ nonsense – who has a ridiculous loathing for the color pink. He and I actually have a running bet – he has the obsession with Big Mac cheeseburgers, which I think are revolting, but I’ve told him I will eat one if he wears a hot pink shirt to work. It’s been five years, and I haven’t had to pay up yet. Which in and of itself is fine – if you don’t like the color, you shouldn’t be expected to wear it, office jokes not withstanding. What pushes me over the edge is that the other day, I came into the lab wearing a pink shirt, just because I happen to like the color and it was clean, and he was all like ‘ack, get that pink out of here’ and worse, he’s pretty well said that he will have a cow if he ever has a grandson who he catches wearing pink or taking ballet. I pray to God he is exaggerating. I think his issue is having grown up with three much older, and thus much bigger, sisters who occasionally forced him into dresses as a kid…

        Meanwhile, I’m over with the pink flowered fleece blanket from my dorm when I was in college, and wearing a blue t-shirt with a T. rex on it and a pair of blue shorts that are actually a pair of guy’s swim trunks, because I’m tall, and it’s the only way I can find elastic shorts that do more than (barely) cover my ass. I don’t give a damn who they were marketed to, they’re comfy, they’re not hurting anyone, shorts that go down to my knees are hardly indecent, and they make me happy – that’s all that matters. My husband, on the other hand, I have occasionally come home from work to find wearing one of my skirts, simply because he’s curious and it amuses him, and that’s reason enough for both of us – I laugh with him and tell him it’s a good color on him. Last I checked, clothing (and the colors thereof) was irrelevant to defining gender or gender roles. Sometimes I wish I could go on a world rampage with my trusty clue-by-four to get that through people’s heads.

  • As someone who has experienced friends, figures of authority and family discouraging me from stepping outside of a normative identity — I overcame any intolerance bred of it by wide reading and an open mind, by myself. I never saw a pride fair or understood non normative people weren’t mentally handicapped til my 20s, more or less. If Xan is an an environment where at the very least his immediate family accepts him…let alone forming friendships, seeing other adults, having teachers encourage this…he has some damn fine positive influences around him. He is a good person, he’ll be okay, I think. But well fucking done for finding him a place away from where he’s being bullied.

  • bluealoe says:

    I just got to NY state last week and am trying to get settled in, while being sick with some kind of infection, so I’ve been out of touch (will email you soon, I promise!), but I read this entry and I LOVE YOU SO MUCH. You are an amazing parent, Curtis is amazing, and your kids are so lucky to have both of you. I’ll write a longer comment when I get a chance. 🙂

  • 😀

    Yay, the world hasnt completely gone to crap!

  • emilie1024 says:

    I’m so happy Xan was accepted into the new school! It sounds like a very nurturing environment. A few years ago when I taught 1st grade there was a student in a different class who reminds me a bit of Xan. He would wear his sisters clothes and always wanted everything pink. Thankfully the students loved him. But in addition we had a principal who was very pro parent and anti bullying. Students in the upper grades in addition were never allowed to be around the lower grades…even during PE. When there were issues (I had a student that another student called a few choice words that were inappropriate…it was appalling to me, but in addition I never expected to run into that prob in 1st grade. My principal and I worked on appropriate solutions and fully supported the parent and student). My goal has always been to offer an environment for my students that is safe for them to be themselves. I would hope that if my students would want to come to me if they were being bullied & would know I would believe and support them. I also wanted the parents to feel that they can talk to me if they have concerns. I’m now at a different school site teaching mainstream special Ed students, but I took what I learned from my previous principal with me and often go to him when I need advice. It is highly suspected that this principal is gay, but he’s not out publicly. Based on my “gaydar,” I’m sure he is as well. I consider him a friend, but he hasn’t confided in me either…and I’m very forthcoming about my support for the LGBT community. I’m the one friends have come out to when they won’t tell anyone else. Within my district there are principals who are out publicly too.

  • Hallelujah!!! you did a good job, being uncritical, unprotective but loving! Well done!

    Wheat allergies are a different beast than wheat sensitivities and sadly allergists and doctors know very little about nutrition and gut health. The easiest way to test him for sensitivities would be to cut out all gluten from your diet, then add it in slowly after two weeks (fun experiment for th whole family). Start reintroducing wheat with sprouted wheat and go from there.

    The way we process wheat is not what our ancestors did and issues with it are super common, also there is nothing we get from grains that we can’t get elsewhere and grains contribute to inflammation in the body.

    ANY food allergy though is indicative of compromised gut health but never fear you can restore gut health! This is a review/interview I did on ‘No Guts No Glory’ which I wish I could give a copy to everyone I know! http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/06/gut-feelings-book-review/
    Also stress has a really deceptively huge negative impact on digestion and the gut and kills off good bacteria which most of us are already pressed for unless we take a therapeutic grade probiotic or eat fermented foods.

    That said with your families health/behavior challenges, I have been surprised by the posts which feature so many gorgeous photos/stories of standard American diet “food”.

    And I hope you know I only use strong words with strong women. 🙂

  • ozoozol says:

    I think Xan is going to remember that you moved mountains to make it safe and comfortable for him to be himself. If he remembers this, that’s what he’ll take from it, that you took action to protect him in a real, long-term way. That means more than just confronting the offender.

  • Oh, that’s wonderful. I’m so glad he got into the school and I hope it does wonderful things for him.

  • admin says:

    To the other anon: I can’t unscreen your note due to the information you’ve put in it, but you’re right. 🙂 And thank you for sharing your experience!

  • Anonymous says:

    Do you think that you’re too far on the opposite spectrum, like Xan cannot be boyish because you think that he will always have gender identity issues? You said that he doesn’t like to wear nail polish when four months ago he did. He’s five and five year olds can outgrow something in a week. Maybe he’s just outgrowing phases that most little boys go through. But it seems like you desperately want your kids to be different so you’re going to the extreme to force these things on him. Do you think he would still be this way if he didn’t have a sister to borrow clothes and model himself after?

    • admin says:

      You act like everything you’ve said here is somehow startingly new information. I mean, you did know I’m a parent, right?…

      It’s a serious lol that you think Xan isn’t “boyish” just because he likes pink and nail polish. That says far, far more about you than it does about me.

      • Anonymous says:

        I didn’t say Xan was not boyish. I didn’t say he was gay either for having a sister. I meant you seem to be overly concerned that he doesn’t want to do “girly” things anymore like wearing nail polish when maybe he’s just growing out of that phase. I also meant do you think he would ever have developed an interest in wearing dresses or a love of pink if his sister, a role model, didn’t either. I wasn’t implying that those things make him gay because a lot of little boys are like that, maybe not to that extreme, but it is common. I didn’t think you guys thought he was gay. You always make it seem like you definitely think he is straight, but enjoys “girly” things. I’m not sure where the having a sister makes you gay thing came from because I said “have gender identity issues” just like you’ve said, not being gay.

        • admin says:

          I was pretty clear that kids (including him) naturally outgrow phases of interest, and that it’s the sudden turn around into stark fear over these things that is concerning. I have no “concern” over his ‘boy things’ or ‘girl things’, but a sudden and dramatic loss of interest, turned to fear, over things that previously brought him great joy very literally a short time ago is abnormal and not generally a normal “outgrowing” phase… it doesn’t take an expert to tell you that.

          I absolutely think he’d still be “this way” if he did not have a sister. It is not Tempest’s influence that drives it, as she almost never shares the same interests.

        • chem_nerd says:

          Yeah, kids outgrow interests every few hours, but what strikes me here is his reason for not wanting to wear nail polish. I would guess that he probably never used one even as a baby, but if he were to say ‘Oh, I’m too grown up for my pacifier’, that would make sense – every kid knows that pacifiers are for babies, and most kindergarteners do not want to bear even the most passing resemblance to a baby. Furthermore, his dentist would probably agree, given that they’re bad for your teeth after about eighteen months or so. Saying ‘oh, I’m too grown up for my teddy bear’ would surprise me a little more, since plenty of kids still like ’em at that age, and the fifth grade bullies wouldn’t likely know if Xan has a teddy bear or not, but I still wouldn’t think too much of it. But ‘oh, I’m too grown up to wear nail polish’? That doesn’t even make sense – a major reason children like to paint their nails at that age is because it’s grown up – Mommy wears nail polish, and Mommy is definitely not a baby. Five year olds don’t tend to be the greatest at expressing abstracts, but I would guess that ‘I’m too old for this’ is an easier rationale for him to accept than ‘liking this means that there is something wrong with me.’

    • madrona says:

      Xan is an *awesome* little dude, and if it’s clear even to the relatives of his mom’s internet friends (oh god I’m lame) that he’s got enough personality to pick his own clothes as long as his personal taste isn’t *actively beaten out of him*, which it is, I don’t think we need to worry about mild questioning of an abrupt change in behavior preventing him from being his own person.

  • laynerox says:

    Time travel

    Shoooooot, I want to attend xans new schhol. That place sounds awesome! Kudos to you and curtis for finding a better place for him.

  • uneko says:

    I am so angry for you guys… and I am nearly crying (just a little!) with happiness for your good fortune at the new school! SO happy for you!

    As for the damage done… … The Japanese have a word “Sho ga nai” or “Shikata ga nai” which basically means “It can’t be helped”. The idea of it, in essence, is that bad things happen and sometimes there is nothing that can be done now to take back that happened. Perhaps it was inevitable. But that thing that happened, it’s best to try and push past it as best you can and continue on to make tomorrow better then today. It’s a wonderful idea, I think. AS usual, the Japanese do sometimes take it to extremes, and sometimes, it can be a negative thing, but the principal of it, I think I agree with a lot: Bad things have happened. You can’t ignore them, of course, but dwelling on them, own’t help anything. Just do what you can to fix it. and you’re already doing just that <3

    As for his refusal to do things that he’s “too old for” … my thought is to say something like “If you think so, maybe, but I don’t think so! Besides, part of being older is about deciding when you want to act younger” or “Besides, we can’t act our age every day.” and basically give him permission to be childish. This might mean sometimes making some other awkward decisions when he decides to be ‘younger’ about other things, but maybe it will help. Just keep applying positive pressure. Maybe it would be good to have an occasional “pink day” (or girly day was what I called it the first time the idea passed through my head) where everyone wheres pink, or a dress or what have you. Of course mixing it in with “blue day” and “green day” (which has a lot of music listening in it 😉 ) and yellow day and “overalls” day and “play in the mud (if you want) day” and “pigtails day” and so forth. times and situations where it is okay and encouraged to act ‘differently”

    I don’t have kids or any real experience raising them, but that’s my thoughts. MAybe it can help a little 🙂

    as for tempest… maybe you guys can reserve her a slot of her each year … or maybe arrange for her to go visit for a day or two once Xan is settled in to see… Maybe she’ll fall in love with the school. Do you guys know why she’s refusing? Maybe that should be investigated. I don’t know if it might apply here, but maybe she has the wrong conception about what changing schools might mean — Never getting to see your friends again, etc (as is normally the case one someone leaves a school). I don’t really know what sort of logic she tends to apply to the world, so I cna’t make any real guesses there…. but hopefuly she might decide to change, one year or another.

    In any event, best wisehs to ALL of you <3

  • Anonymous says:

    this is fantastic. I am so happy for you heather!!!

  • crustyshoes says:

    I’m a teacher and have seen situations similar to this (although dealt with appropriately..as in with the kids who were bullying, not being bullied), and this entry had me literally shaking with anger. There are so many initiatives in schools now to address bullying, but they are completely pointless if even the principal won’t practice what they preach. The yard duty situation was bad, but what hurts to read most is the principal saying that if he didn’t dress in pink he wouldn’t be bullied. Way to blame the victim lady! No. Just, no. If anyone has a problem with a boy wearing pink or wearing dresses, THEY are the ones that need to be educated. This principal should use this situation as a reason to implement a better anti-bullying program with a huge focus on acceptance. I am so glad Xan got a spot in this other school and from what it sounds like it will be a much better fit for him and for you too.

    I know you’re upset over what happened in the school yard, but I think what Xan will remember most is his mom believed him even when the teachers didn’t, stood up for who he is, and found him a school that is a better match for him and somewhere he can feel safe. You didn’t take away his pink clothes and tell him to “act more like the other kids” to stop the bullying.

  • Anonymous says:

    I won’t let my aspergian daughter wear the same michael jackson Tshirt to school everyday because I know she will get made fun of. But she can wear it at home. And she can sort and re-sort bottle caps and rocks at home. But not at school. Because I know she will get made fun of. Why not say, you can’t wear pink to school? why would you open up a kindergartner for ridicule? we all know how kids are! just my opinion. i know how cruel kids can be, especially to my autistic-being-raised-by-lesbians daughter. I hope Xan does well in his new school and that he is allowed to be who he is freely. I just think kids are gonna be assholes no matter what and we just have to cushion that blow for our kids.
    rachel

    • admin says:

      By telling my son that he cannot wear pink or else he’ll be teased I enforce the idea that it’s wrong. And it isn’t. Everyone deserves the right to express themselves without hatred, and when I give him the idea that “kids will be kids” I tell him it’s okay for him to be ridiculed, it’s okay to be hated, it’s okay to be teased and it’s okay for adults to stand by and do nothing because he deserves it for no other reason than he’s different. Frankly, I never want to be that kind of parent.

    • I hope you come back and see how closed minded you are. You need to let your children experiment and learn who they are going to be, not who society wants them to be.

      She already explained that if a child starts teasing another child for being different, that child will be taken aside and have things explained to them – and in such a way that it is better for them and their future, to help them be open minded and maybe even help them learn who they are, as they may be repressing it and lashing out at others.

      You’re teaching your kids it’s not ok to be themselves out in society, you’re teaching them to fear society.

    • madrona says:

      You know…the weird kids, it doesn’t really *matter* if they try to “tone it down” and “lay low”. The kind of kids looking for someone to bully, I swear they can smell the weird on you. All you end up with trying to conform to their made-up stupid standards is being miserable, bullied, *and* inauthentic to who you are. And I saw my eldest niece go to a school where it wasn’t accepted that bullying is “the way kids are” and because it wasn’t accepted…the kids weren’t that way. If it’s possible to get children to stop being cruel to each other over stupid things, it seems awfully stupid to shrug your shoulders and let them continue.

      • jenrose1 says:

        This speaks exactly to why it is that I don’t stress about covering up when I nurse in public anymore. Because people who harass moms about nursing in public will do so no matter how discreet they are, if those people think the moms should be nursing somewhere else. If they don’t think breastfeeding in public is wrong (or their business), they won’t care if there’s a flash of boob skin. If they do, all the coverage in the world won’t stop them from being jerks, so why inconvenience myself over a difference between 1 inch of boob skin and 4 inches of boob skin?

      • admin says:

        I’d rather be bullied and be comfortable with who I am, than try desperately to change/hide everything about me that felt good and right… and still be bullied in spite of it. Because you’re right: bullies are bullies no matter what. They really do just smell it on you, and they’ll find something.
        Everyone told me Tempest would be bullied for her name, but not a single solitary kid has ever told her it’s weird.
        Everyone told me Tempest would be bullied for her hair, but not a single person has bugged her about that either.
        People told me Xan would be bullied for liking pink, and some homophobic older kids have indeed bullied him… but the answer isn’t to rid his wardrobe of everything pink, just like the answer wouldn’t be to tell Tempest to start going by her middle name or to dye her hair.

    • jenrose1 says:

      I think there’s a difference between “Don’t wear the exact same shirt to school every day” (because clothing needs to be washed periodically) and “Don’t wear your favorite color to school because other people are assholes.”

      I’ll say to my kid, “NO, you cannot wear worn out pajama bottoms that are older than you are to school”… but I’m not going to tell her that her socks have to match, or that she can’t wear a color because some jerk thinks it’s too masculine. It’s one thing to say, “We need to meet a basic standard of hygiene” by not wearing worn out or dirty clothes to school, and another thing entirely to tell a kid that they can’t wear their favorite color because some narrow minded bigot thinks a color has a sexual orientation.

      I’d rather put my kid in an environment that values treating people with respect. If they aren’t teaching that kind of respect for diversity, I sure as heck don’t want them teaching my kid 30 hours per week.

    • bicrim says:

      And what should people with physical differences, like my son, do? Should he have to wear a prothesis so bullies won’t notice his ear? Or maybe the ducking bullies should, idle, stop being assholes? Good job blaming the victim.

  • Not only do I like the sound of the staff at the new school I already like the parents too…the kind of people who have their kids on the list to go there are apparently the kind who when the principle calls and says ‘there’s a kid who needs to get into this school right now‘ will give up their spot on the list!

  • How beautiful that the school advocated for him like that before he was even a student! That speaks highly in their favor.

    It’s hard, isn’t it? Astrid talks about marrying a girl. I realize it’s too early to make calls on her sexual orientation based on this… but I do have friend who knew at this age that that’s what they wanted, so I’m not discounting it, either. And, while I’m fully supportive should she end up being not-straight, it also breaks my heart for her, because I don’t want her to go through that pain and self-doubt, especially since we live in a conservative area.

    I also agree that the long-term actions of removing him from the situation and giving him permission to fight back are likely to far outweigh any lack-of-action in the short term.

  • comitto says:

    I’m so glad he got in! It sounds like a wonderful environment and school for him.

  • azdesertrose says:

    I’m glad Xan’s got a new school where the teachers and staff don’t put up with that kind of homophobic, trans*phobic, heteronormative bullying bullshit. It’s horrible that Xan ever had to tolerate the kind of horseshit those older boys put him through, and then to get no backup from the teachers/staff/school adults? Hell to the no.

    Don’t worry about freezing up. It happens, and I doubt Xan will even remember the incident in five years. I think Curtis has a point, that the good experiences at the new school will help ameliorate the bad experiences at the old school. I don’t know if I’d say erase, exactly, but being in an environment where he’s allowed to be himself, however that may look, can only be good for Xan.

    Anyway, I’ll shut up now except to say “YAY” for the new school and “BOO HISS” on the old one.

  • real_bethy says:

    I have tears streaming down my face. I’m so glad that Xan has a safe, new school where his interests are going to be nurtured and where he can be free to be the beautiful, amazing soul that he is!

  • noelove says:

    This is the worst and best entry I have ever read. I am SO happy that Xan got into the other school. That’s totally how I felt when I got Aiden into OAS. I feel that this school will be such a great support to him as he grows and discovers who he is.

    I’m literally beaming here at the end.

  • I can’t say how thrilled I am for you to have found a school for Xan that will likely be the right fit… What a load of worry off your shoulders. I do think he’s young enough and has enough other good strong factors in place (like his family) to overcome any negative marks from the bullying this past year. The foundation is not set yet at this young age. A really good year at the new school with all new good memories will be what he remembers!

    Rylan most DEFINITELY marches to his own beat, and so far he doesn’t give two shits what any other kids think of him, but I do worry for when he starts to process social norms and realizes that he doesn’t quite fit the mold. There have been several preschool birthday parties this year that I know he hasn’t been invited to when most the other kids have, and this already bothers me, but he doesn’t really know or care at this point that he’s been excluded. I shudder to think of how he will feel in the next year or two to realize he’s not being included because he’s not of the same mold as the other kids. Oh how I wish we could protect their little hearts as they navigate this difficult social world…

  • gardenmama says:

    I teared up over the last part. I’m so happy he got into a school with that kind of attitude. I can’t believe the other school claims to have a zero tolerance policy and then the principal says shit like you can’t expect your child to come to school wearing pink and not be bullied. I would have punched her! If I were you, and this is just me, I would move Tempest too so you never have to go back. Their attitude about your disability would be enough for that, let alone the issues with Xan being bullied. Grrr..

    • admin says:

      We’ve talked a lot to Tempest, but she really wants to stay. She’s not experiencing any bullying or problems at this time and does not see a need to leave… and I believe that forcing her will cause unnecessary strife or trauma. She has a lot of friends there and is becoming popular (imagine that!) so forcibly transferring her to somewhere else is just going to make her resent me for it. I’d rather she come to the choice on her own.
      She’s already said that she might like to come in grade five (she’s going into grade four, and this school only goes up to grade five), so we’ve told her if that’s what she wants she needs to let us know in the next 8 months so we can register her.

      • gardenmama says:

        You don’t need to explain your decision to leave her there. I’m sure you have valid reasons. I’m glad she’s not experiencing bullying there. She might be very happy in the different atmosphere of the new school too. That was really my point. And how they’ve treated you, which you don’t seem to weigh heavily enough. You’re not a doormat.

        • admin says:

          You’re right: I don’t weigh it that heavily… I don’t like to put my own needs above my children, especially if they’re happy. And while I was not treated well by the principal, I’ve had largely great experiences with the individual teachers and Tempest is pretty happy. :-/

    • jenrose1 says:

      I had the same gut reaction about moving Tempest… IMO a school that shows so little concern when parents ask for accommodation is not going to be the kind of environment I want my kid in… but a kid doing well in a school is a very valuable thing… I bent over backwards to keep my kid near her friends through her whole growing up, so I get not wanting to make the switch.

  • I’m so pleased for Xan that the new school reacted like that. The truth is that you made a case for him and it’s obvious that the principal you spoke to heard your heart and that you touched her. Xan is a very blessed little boy to have parents like you and Curtis. Don’t doubt yourself, with parents like you he will grow up strong and confident, even if it happens with growing pains.

  • dwer says:

    I’m glad that he’s going to be in a new school that will be more accepting. That will, at least, give you more time to prepare him for a world that, frankly, isn’t so much.

  • imadoula says:

    You are a beautiful person and a wonderful mother. I have been reading your blog for about a year now and we have many of the same ideals in parenting. I plan on homeschooling my kids, there aren’t any alternative schools in our area, for exactly this kind of setting that I see and hear about in the schools. While my kids aren’t as wonderfully different as Xan, I DO NOT want them to have to witness this kind of pain and bullying being inflicted in whatever school they would end up in.

    I have a gay brother and he endured in silence, pain and suffering all through the last couple years of junior high. I was a teenager myself at the time and never had any idea. I am very glad that he felt comfortable enough to come out to our family when he was a few years older, I just wish I had been more aware earlier.

  • whitsun says:

    Okay, so I don’t know a lot about childhood development, but I imagine that even if Xan doesn’t forget the bullying, he might remember this year as “kids were mean to me at that school, and my parents listened to me and moved me to a different school”. I think it’s really powerful to have your parents validate your feelings and take action. I hope this school turns out great!

    • Anonymous says:

      this is a great way to explain it too – kids were mean, so we listened to you!

      • miripanda says:

        (total lurker, de-lurking)

        My little brother was bullied in 3rd grade after switching to the GT school that I went to, and my parents yanked him back to his elementary school. He was still bullied in middle school, but at least it wasn’t coming directly from the teacher anymore.

        You’re doing a great job of making space for Xan to be himself. He might find he grows in and out of his identity over the next few years; just from this outsider’s perspective, some of the experimentation he may be done with, other parts he may come back to with more confidence once he finds friends who share his interests.

        This was an inspiring post to read, as a queer person and an aspiring parent myself 🙂

  • the_wanlorn says:

    asjdf;kl Holy shit I am so happy for Xan!! That school sounds utterly amazing, and I hope it turns out to be as amazing as it sounds. Also, I’d guess that in this particular instance, with him transferring to that school and all, then all of the shit from his old school will roll off him more than you think it will, because not only is he still young, he’s being moved to a positive environment.

  • sandokai says:

    That principal sounds awesome!

  • jenrose1 says:

    Thank god he’s in at the new school.

    1. The old school is fucked up. Bullying is something you address with THE BULLY. It is idiots like that principal glossing it over and boys will be boys and bullshit like that that allows bullying to continue. That school needs a NO HARASSMENT policy. Period.

    2. Freezing in the short term is far less important than getting it right in the long term. And if the school he’s transferring to walks the talk? You nailed it.

    3. That kid of yours is amazing and I adore you for being a lioness in defending his free spirit. And you ARE a lioness defending him, even if that doesnt’ look the way you think it should look in the split second.

    4. A lot of people don’t figure this shit out until they’re well into adulthood. He’s still so little, I think the damage will be transitory and far less than you fear. If you’d left him in place? Sure, I’d worry. But you’re moving him. It will be well.

  • robynz says:

    Oh my god, up until the second to last paragraph I was seething inside, now I’m screaming inside with joy for you guys! SO Happy for you!! I could seriously cry a little.

    I’m really attached to your children, as I have been reading for their whole lives, but never met any of you. 🙂

    Wow, I’m sorry if that sounded creepy.

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