The Heart of the Matter

Earlier in the week, Jessie was getting dressed for school and put on a pair of light gray, jersey lounge pants that she had sewn herself. (Read: they were clingy) As she was pawing through her ever-expanding pile of pink, purple and polka dot shirts, I suggested (okay, insisted) that she wear a shirt that would hang low enough to cover her groin area.  A back and forth ensued, and escalated until I finally blurted, “you are still a boy, you need to cover your penis!”  Big mistake, boys and girls.  Big mistake.

She said nothing at the time, but in hindsight, I am pretty sure she had a stung expression on her face.  She may even have fought back tears.  But, in my feeble defense, it was getting dangerously close to the first school bell ringing and I had lost patience (and time) discussing her outfit for the day.  (I know, I know…it’s only just begun.)  But for my overall exhaustion, I would have (no, should have) taken note, but, alas, did not.

This morning, as I got into the car after my morning workout (if you can call walking in circles for an hour a workout) I checked my phone and saw a missed call from the school nurse.  I responded as I always do when I see her name: “oh crap.”  Prior to her social transition, I would get nearly daily calls from the nurse for one phantom ailment or another. Since George has become Jessie, those calls have all but ceased.  For that reason, I became a bit concerned and opted to swing by the school on my way home.  (The fact that I went there without my staples of shower and mascara on board speaks to my level of angst.)  I arrived to find her sad, sullen and clinging to the little box of Russell Stover candies I had given her for Valentine’s Day.  She said she missed me and wanted to come home which, while sweet on the surface, I knew was code.  Problem was, I had no idea what it was code for.

With the support of the nurse and a teacher, I managed to get her to stay at school only so I could spend the next several hours until pick-up stressing over, well, pick-up.  I had no idea what I was going to get, but took comfort in the fact that I had received no subsequent calls.  Still, I was plagued with concern over what was going on.  My mind raced with what-ifs and other pangs of self-doubt for the duration of the day.  I did, however, make sure to shower and apply mascara for, if no other reason, self-preservation.

She came out to the car subdued but not overtly upset.  She did a little whining, but was, temporarily at least, placated by the bakery-fresh gingerbread man I had purchased as a bribe, er, treat.  In her apparent calm, I grappled with whether or not to even bring up the events of a few hours prior and, with great trepidation, dove in.  I inquired as to what might have happened in several different, non confrontational ways.  She was having none of it.  It was ancient history.  Or was it?

It wasn’t until we’d completed gymnastics, homework, dinner and dessert that she was at all interested in talking.  (And, to be honest, I think her interest lay more in the fact that it meant she could stay up later than anything else.)  It took her many minutes and tangents but she finally looked me square in the eye and reminded me about the comment I had made reminding her that she is still a boy.  And then she said it,

“It’s not what the body parts are, it is the soul inside.  I am a girl.”

It is almost impossible to write anything more powerful than those words that she shared with Rich and me.  Said without drama or fanfare, she further articulated to us that “words are powerful and when you use the wrong ones, it can hurt.”

My heart sank and then it swelled.  Rich and I looked at one another speechless.  Further proof, ladies and gentlemen, that there is a lot we can learn from our kids.


On another note, Harrison, who had been sidelined for the better part of this year’s swim season due to a shoulder injury, arrived home not long ago looking sullen and defeated.  He had just come from the Swim Team Banquet which would bear the announcement of those who had, by vote of the team, been elected Captains for next season.  We knew that he had been nominated and had more than risen to the occasion all season by making his loss of ability to swim the freshmen swimmer’s gain by coaching them from the deck, but his election was not a shoe in. Already feeling depleted from our chat with Jessie, Rich and I exchanged a glance and braced ourselves for the worst.  We moved our gaze from our baby to our eldest who only managed to keep up the charade for mere seconds longer…we were looking at a Swim Team Captain, BHS, 2013 Season.  This time my heart skipped the sinking and just swelled.


28 thoughts on “The Heart of the Matter

  1. Yes, the amazement is over your children, Julie, but c’mon, Jessie and Harrison have been taking lessons from you and Rich since they were born! Jessie is a remarkable girl; Harrison—so glad he “got cha!” You do have so much to proud of, Julie. And they are lucky to have such amazingly articulate, open, honest parents. Ok…that’s it for me—I promise not to rave about you anymore. 🙂

  2. WOW……again! Jessie is amazing. Her comment rings true for everyone……it’s not what you look like on the outside, it’s who you are on the inside. She just said it a lot more eloquently! She, unlike many 10 year olds, knows who she is. She has an unbelievable amount of self-esteem and that will carry her far!

    ***Congrats to Capt. Harrison!!*** I bet his sister will be on the sidelines (or whatever it’s called in swimming) cheering him on next season!

  3. I can’t tell you how many times I check to see if there’s been another brilliant post from your journey. I am beyond excited when I get an email that a new post has been added. Jessie is wise beyond her years, that’s for sure. But who, at 10 years old, can say they actually know themselves … Jessie can! And she does it so eloquently. I am trying to remember conversations I had with mom at that age and though I can’t remember them exactly I can honestly say I probably did a lot of non-sensical, to me, yelling. You cannot argue, ever, with a child, no matter the age, when they speak so beautifully from the heart and/or when they are right. As a preschool teacher I am always learning from the children I spend my days with. I feel fortunate because they teach me so much about who they are, the world we live in and more importantly, about myself. You have opened your life up to us and I feel so honored. I love hearing about, you, Rich, Harrison and Jessie. Congrats to Harrison on two fonts – on becoming a captain of the swim team and for the humorous and touching way he delivered the news. The apples do not fall from the trees. I know you don’t relish the accolades Julie, but the life lessons your children are learning through you and Rich are monumental and will be with them for their lifetime. Xo

    • Wow, Caren – this is so beautiful and eloquent. I think that a good 75% of how our kids turn out is dumb luck…and the other 25% is up for grabs. My father always used to remind me that in parenting if you are going to take the credit, you best be prepared to take the blame. This is all getting started and, based upon the way Jessie started the day (it took her an hour to come downstairs and then she looked like that??!?) we face bumps in the road aplenty! love to you!

      • Yes, while that all might be true, environment and feeling a sense of safety and protection play an important role in the life of a child as well. Jessie and Harrison live in a home where their thoughts and feelings are validated – they are fortunate kids. Sure there will be battles, mean words will be spoken, and feelings will be hurt, but at the end of the day, the foundation of love and support, the safety net if you will, is there to catch all of you. Sounds like a family to me 🙂

  4. Congrats to H — that is awesome and well deserved! As far as your “slip of the tongue” with Jessie…find me one parent at one time or another hasn’t said something hurtful to their kids in the throes of frustration. I certainly have, more than once — sometimes on consecutive days! Granted, I recognize the heightened sensitivities at play for you and Jessie. But regardless, I think it is important for our kids to understand that parents are human and it is ok to show that now and again. Plus, I find the “post-conflict talks” we have in our house are some of the best conversations and learning experiences for us all. You rock! XO

    • Consecutive days? Oh, please…I’ve done it more than once in an hour! And, I can assure you (and you know this to be true) I have made it abundantly clear to my children that I am a person. A person who can take a lot, but G-d help you if you are the one to push me over the edge. Love you, my bestie.

  5. My turn to send the accolades, Julie, because you *need* them so badly. I, like everyone else who read this post, was blown away by Jesse’s simple but eloquent words. She is amazing and i wonder what she might do with a pen in her hand. You and she have so much that is worth saying and, even more, worth listening to. I’ll eagerly look forward to the next installment. Thank you for sharing this journey with us mere mortals. By the way, how DO you get the time to write???

    • Oh, Andie! My sincerest thanks. I am writing in my head a lot…the worst, however, is when I wake up in the middle of the night with a great opening line and am too bleary eyed to write it down and then get up in the morning with a vivid memory of the line, but in theory only. Note to self: get a pen and paper for next to the bed! Love to you.

  6. Favorite post so far. You have me laughing and then minutes later crying. My all time favorite line: “She said she missed me and wanted to come home which, while sweet on the surface, I knew was code. Problem was, I had no idea what it was code for.”

    Congratulations to Harrison! You must be so proud of these two. I know I am only in the beginning stages of this parenting stuff… but listening to your adventures, makes me look forward of whats to come for us : ) Life really is like a roller coaster!

  7. Jessie is so articulate, it’s amazing. That she realizes that words can hurt is an excellent opening for talking about when she (and/or Harrison) say things that hurt you or Rich or her (his) friends.

    You know you’re going to say the “wrong” thing a lot (as you know); have you told Jessie this? I’m sure on some level she knows, but this is a huge transition for you and your family, as well.

    As an aisde, if Jessie were a biological girl who was developing early (or a bit older and devloping big), you wouldn’t allow her to wear clothes that showed off her breasts too much. We’re past “the bigger, the better / the tighter the sweater / the boys depend on us!”


  8. Hi – This was a heart grabber……out of the mouths of babes ! My daughter Katie (old friend of Jessie’s since preschool) heard me laughing/crying over your blog post recently and asked what I was reading. When I told her that you were writing a blog on Jessie’s transition she said “what transition? Georgie is now Jessie. Done. End of story!” It’s been so amazing that for all the kids at school and in the neighborhood, this has been a natural and acceptable change that Jessie has made. It’s the grown ups who are the ones dealing with the transition. Of course, as parents you never stop worrying about the what ifs for your kids. But it reinforces what Jessie said about her now being a girl. The kids have accepted this and moved on. I’m so proud of all of them ! Also don’t forget what Joanne said the other night – all moms ask their kids to cover up with long tunics over leggings to cover their bums. Now we can use that as our common rule for all our girls and cite, rightly so, that other moms have the rule !

  9. I am totally amazed by Jessie. She is so articulate in the choosing of her words. I commend you as well Julie as I know the journey can be quite difficult at times. Tears are always near by as I read your blog.


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