The kids have been driving me crazy the past couple weeks. They have stopped listening. They have started being little brats. They are stubborn and moody and ugh.
It is time for them to go back to school. I have been saying for the past week that I cannot wait for them to go back to school.
I love them so much. I really do. They are my world. And I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Not even all the money in the world. Because let’s be honest – whoever the highest bidder was – would probably hand them back and pay me even more to take them back.
With that being said, this school year is going to be HUGE. Major changes took place over the summer. And I guess I was in denial, or maybe just ignorant, or blissfully ignoring the potential scary unknowns.
Thing 1 – is entering 3rd grade. We have been working REALLY hard on finding the correct ADHD medication, so that she will be able to focus better this year. We were repeatedly told that if she does not start focusing (without being told 500 times a day) this next school year – she will quickly fall behind (in 3rd grade!). So we have worked really hard on figuring out how to help her recognize what she needs in order to succeed.
Thing 1 is also a bully magnet. Somehow – they always find her. And I really don’t want her to be torn down again. So we have been working EXTREMELY hard on building up her confidence and belief in herself. Which is uber hard when you were born with anxiety and ADHD and OCD and this and that. And on top of it all – she is a worrier about her sibling. She is her protector. We tell her to let us worry. But that doesn’t help any.
So we have been trying our best to make sure she knows that she is surrounded by people that truly and purely love her.
Because last year, for Thing 1, I spent many weeks listening to her painfully recount what happened to her. Day after day. I picked her up from the dojang. We buckled up. And she told me what happened. And week after week – I contacted the teacher, the counselor, and the principal. I threatened to place a body cam on her. I threatened to take it higher.
I was told: Thing 1 is lying and is actually the bully. I was told: it is only bullying if it is repeated, and targeted. I was told: We cannot stop it if we do not know it is happening. I was told: She has never told us anything.
Well duh! Of course! Our daughter has high anxiety and little focus. And (surprisingly) has a hard time speaking up for herself, let alone remembering to tell an adult. It took the principal checking on her daily, for the bullying to cease.
Thing 1 started obsessively combing her hair after the group of girls told her it looked like and stunk like “poo”. She then moved on to taking hr long showers 1x a day, sometimes 2 or 3x’s a day. And then when that didn’t give her the release she was seeking – she started pulling her hair out. We would find clumps everywhere. We had to make the painful decision to chop off her long, beautiful, Native American hair. (on a side note, we have stopped placing so much emphasis on the importance of hair. We just want a happy, healthy child)
Back in Kindergarten – she had a bully for the entire year and we did not know about it until the last 10 days of kinder. At which point – the school told us that it was Thing 1 that was being the bully and starting it. Ok…..if that was the case – why were we NOT notified so that we could nip it in the bud?
I am really hoping I don’t have to spend countless hours this year on listening to our amazing daughter cry at night, or researching how to build confidence, or contacting school staff, or having school meetings. Maybe I might be able to sleep again at night? But I will do it all over again if I need to. Because my #1 job as her mother – is to fight to protect her and show her unconditional love.
But there is another reason, that maybe I am not ready for school to start.
She transitioned the last week of kinder. Kids were asking non-harmful questions, and were confused. After almost pulling her out of school in May due to her escalation in violent outbursts and toileting accidents and running off at school – we discovered what eased the tension. And that was by acknowledging her as a girl.
We wanted to end the school year on a high note. Once I started acknowledging her as who she is – it was as if a light switch was turned on. Tensions eased considerably. Smiles were more abundant. My own PTSD when being alone with her – eased significantly.
We still have had a long road to travel. But certain aspects of our life seemed to ease considerably (other aspects…..got way harder for awhile).
During kinder – either I or another family member picked up, or brought new clothes, to Thing 2 on average – 4 out of 5 days a week. Constant phone calls home. Daily. Every time my phone would ring, whether it was the school or not – my glutes tightened, my stomach rolled, I could feel the hair on my arms stick up and my bones jump out of my skin. My breathing would even momentarily ceased.
Thing 2 officially has SPD, anxiety, and a communication delay. Unofficially, we highly suspect autism due to their lack of understanding social cues (even though they try really hard to interact and make eye contact).
Pre-transition (privately and publicly) – every day I would pick up Thing 2 from school – I prepared myself before I talked to their teacher and got the bad news update. Your child hit another kid. Your child is not wanting to participate. Your child has no clue of boundaries. Your child did x,y,z. Your child is behind.
And then we privately transitioned. We only told the teacher and principle. And whenever I was in the same space as her – I could feel her anxiety lessen a little. The anger she was holding inside (bc she did not have the words to express how she was feeling) – started melting away. At school (pre name change) – the main teacher started whispering in her ear, acknowledging her as she/her. The teacher was amazed that a happy child existed underneath all the anger.
After a couple weeks of this, we decided to let all her support staff know. And they too, acknowledged her privately. And they too, saw how much more she came alive and interacted (in a healthy and socially appropriate manner).
And then the kids started having questions. Bc Thing 2 wanted to use the girls restroom. Thing 2 would nonchalantly tell us that the other girls told her she couldn’t use the girls bathroom bc she was a boy.
After about the 4th time of her telling us this, I decided to talk to the principal. The husband and I were still on different sections in this journey. But I made an executive decision that I do not regret one bit (even though it did cause some marital strife). But I decided that we would publicly transition her at school for the last week.
The counselor sat down with all the kids. And in very basic terms – explained to them about how Thing 2 is the same Thing 2 on the inside as they have always been, but the outside apperances are changing to match her inner apperances. All the kids were understanding (heck, they have seen her transition this whole year).
I decided this was the right time to transition for a couple of reasons. After a tumultuous year, Thing 2 needed to end on a positive note so that the beginning of 1st grade would go as smoothly as possible. Heck, Thing 2 just needed small wins and major confidence boosters. And by acknowledging her as a her, and by telling all of her friends – that is exactly what she needed.
She is so much more – alive. But that could not have happened – until we walked thru the depths of hell for quite a few months. I spent hours awake at night. I spent hours researching; finding counselors; talking to her doctors; questioning myself over, and over and over again. I spent so much energy debating with family and friends on why this was the next logical step. And I strengthened my bond, my commitment, to Thing 2.
She has spent this entire summer – fully transitioned.
This entire summer – I know she has been in safe places, surrounded by people that love her unconditionally. That accept her for her.
But this school year – she is not going to be surrounded daily by people that love her unconditionally.
I must have been in denial. Or ignorant. Or maybe I was blissfully hopeful. Whatever I was, I have spent the past 2 months – completely fine and at peace with Thing 2 being fully transitioned come the beginning of the school year.
And then I read about the story of Maddie. And my heart forking hurts. It made me realize, that our life – is going to be so hard. We will get thru it together, and stronger. But it is still going to be hard.
And now we have to figure out and be aware of how this social transition at school – is going to affect Thing 2’s fiercest supporter – Thing 1.
Some kids will have no problems with hanging out with their friends. We have to worry about whether or not that friend, and the parents of that friend – are accepting of our child.
Some kids do not need to worry about proudly being themselves – out loud. We have to figure out what the fine line is between how many people know, who knows, and how much information we should divulge. If it were up to Thing 2 – she would be wearing so much glitter, the International Space Station could see her.
Some kids get to use the bathroom that matches the gender they were born as, with not a second thought. We are hoping someone from kindergarten doesn’t out her as she walks in to the girls bathroom. She can definitely use the nurses room. In June – we decided that would be the best option. But after thinking about it – that would isolate her, and its farther away from her classroom. Due to her SPD, she is just now learning how to recognize when she needs to go, and oftentimes – she needs to go right as she is going. So any delay will result in an accident.
Some kids only have to worry about subs mispronouncing their names. We have to hope that a sub does not misgender our child, or call them by their dead name, in front of a room full of kids that may not have known otherwise and therefore open a can of worms we don’t need.
Some kids don’t have to worry about being divided in groups of boys v. girls. We have to hope that the adult in the room realizes that our child is a girl, just with boy genitalia.
The list goes on.
I have never had anxiety. Only depression. But I can tell you this – anxiety sucks. It forking sucks.
Thankfully, while the school staff has failed some of my expectations so far, they are VERY supportive of us, and of Thing 2. And they want to make this as easy as possible.
In fact, I e-mailed the principal yesterday, even though they aren’t even back from summer break yet. I just wanted to touch base, not expecting a return e-mail for a few days. I laid out my concerns and my anxieties and told him I was honestly, scared.
He replied within 30 mins. Thing 2 and I have a sit down meeting with her 1st grade teacher, the counselor, AND him in 11 days. It is evident that even though this is his first trans student, he wants to make sure we get it right.
So while my anxieties have eased a tiny bit – I am not going to hold my breath for the daily phone calls. For either of my children. I will always be there for them.
Sometimes we have to carefully leap in to the unknown, the dark, the scary, to remember that we have anchors surrounding us to hold us strong thru the storms.