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.