Yeah, I mention my hair, but this isn’t about hair

With one notable exception, everyone on the planet is reveling in the fact that we are nearing the end of the school year which, in turn, indicates the start of summer.  That exception would be me.   Aside from the annoying heat, humidity and need to don a bathing suit, I can now no longer ignore the “what is Jessie going to do all summer” issue which has been plaguing me for months.

My parents (who were brilliant, by the way) sent my brothers and me off to overnight camp for eight weeks every summer.  Even more brilliant, the camps we attended were just across the lake from one another – and were, in fact, marketed as brother/sister camps.  This made everything so much easier: my parents had the summer off (score!), visiting day was coordinated to necessitate just one nearly five-hour drive to the far end of Maine (score!) and someone other than them entertained us from sun-up til sundown for, again, eight weeks all while my parents enjoyed a childless summer with the freedom to do whatever they damn well pleased.   Sounds pretty perfect, right?  Well, I believe it was as evidenced by the gigantic number of friends of mine who have been happily executing the same plan for their little darlings for many summers now.

Having loved my own camp experience, I immediately embraced Harrison’s request, in third grade, to go to overnight camp that summer.  Rich was a bit more reluctant.  Some kids are campers, some are not.  My father was a wild little kid who grew up in an apartment in the Bronx.  The story goes that he was driving my grandparents so crazy that they shipped him off, er, sent him to overnight camp at the tender age of four. Yes, four.  He remained at that camp until he was twenty at which point he closed up shop and mere days later, married my mother.  He went on to assume (correctly) that his children (that would be me and my brothers) would follow suit and love going to camp.  We were “campers”.  Rich, on the other hand, grew up with a family beach house which was, for a whole host of reasons,  more appealing to him and his siblings than going away all summer so, alas, he fell into the “not a camper” category.  To his credit, he supported our sending Harrison away that summer and quieted his concerns when we put him on the bus to camp and realized that neither he, nor we, knew a soul.  So, with a healthy amount of anxiety and neuroses (ours) we waved goodbye with plans to collect him in two weeks.  And then, ten days into his stay we received a call from the camp director informing us that he wanted to stay for an additional two weeks.  Well, okay then: we have ourselves a camper.  The following six summers he returned for eight weeks.  It was awesome.  (For him that is…we, um missed him terribly?)

Jessie, on the other hand, falls comfortably into the “not a camper” category which sucks for, well, everyone… but mostly me.  (Don’t judge me.)  For a whole host of reasons, she was never a particularly good candidate for overnight camp and even the huge selection of day camps have proven to be a challenge, even more so now, in the wake of her transition.  In fairness to her, I really do appreciate her not wanting to go to camps she has attended in the past – if for no other reason than her trepidation over returning to an environment where she was (well) known as George.  Fully comfortable and embraced by her school community, she is, it seems, more than tentative over having to “come out” yet again.  That’s fair.

One can look at this on so many different levels, and trust me, I have.  Does this mean she is just so comfortable in her new life that she doesn’t want to upset the apple cart?  Or conversely, is she not all that comfortable and hesitant to “go wider”?  Is there something else unrelated to the transgender issue which is driving her intense pushback?  What is it?  File this under: yet another situation which is so damned complicated and impossible to explain as to make me want to rip every hair out of my head.

I am sure you are all full of well-meaning suggestions, but before you go there; let me share with you where I am in my quest for a summer activity.  I have explored the following, all of which I have had to eliminate for one reason or another:

  1. Nearby private school(s) which doubles as a Summer Camp(s): Swimming twice a day which sounds good, right?  Wrong.  The second swim necessitates a change of clothing from wet suit to dry clothes and back.  Problem: The “girl with a penis” issue has proven too complicated for most camps to handle.
  2. Nearby rustic, in-the-woods camp: Swimming once a day, at the end of the day: sounds perfect as she can go to camp in her bathing suit.  Problem: Said camp is on a lake which she finds utterly disgusting.  Have to agree with her on that one.
  3. Gymnastics classes: Potentially great idea: different weekly classes, air-conditioned, close by and short-term commitments.  Problem: Um, she now refuses to go to the classes I had signed her up for (which, incidentally, cost a small fortune) – the same classes that she once loved.  Not giving that place another dime unless this child makes a blood promise to me which I am quite sure she will not.
  4. Art studios:  She loves to create in many different mediums and happens to be a talented artist.  Really, she is…that is not a biased opinion.  (I support this proclamation with a reminder of her artist’s temperament!) Problem: Not air-conditioned.  Hotter than hell.  Not happening.
  5. Overnight Camp: In a perfect world… Problem: Duh, too many issues to list.

So it looks like it is going to be Camp Julie this summer.  (O.M.G.) (And, oh crap)  At first blush you might be thinking: “Not so bad – hang out at the beach (neither one of us is a fan of sand) or the pool (sounds good until you remember that until all the kids get out of camp at 4 pm, the pool is populated by “mommies with babies” and I’ve long ago stopped being a mommy – “mom”, or occasional other names prevail in these parts – or had children that could be considered babies.) or take fun day trips (again, for a variety of reasons, this is unlikely to happen).”  Anyone who has ever known another person as well as I know Jessie will back me up on this – sometimes you just know.

I have even fantasized about taking off with her for a few weeks to visit my brother and his family on the opposite coast.  Okay, truth: I fantasize about taking off for a few weeks alone to visit my brother and his family on the opposite coast.  Doesn’t much matter, because neither scenario will play out.  And if you are even considering chastising me for the “woe is me” attitude, let me strongly recommend against that.  It has been a rough and tumble year (well, several years, actually) and I am going to allow myself to indulge in some self-pity for a moment.

Just as there are kids who are campers and kids who are not, there are moms (and dads, and people in general) who were put on this earth to successfully entertain their child all day long all summer long.  I do not happen to be one of those people.  And, although Jessie is blissfully happy in anticipation of this endless summer of nothing, I cannot say the same.  I may indeed follow through on my threat and pull each of my curls out…one by one.

Mini update: A certain fabulous 14-year-old (shout out to JSW…which, she will note, is coming before one to her brother: AJW) has told me that, when she is around  she would love to hang out at the pool in the summer with Jessie.  That makes me happy.  It also makes me happy to know that JSW was among the first people at school that Jessie shared her “secret” with because she (Jessie) knew that she (JSW) would have her back.  And she has.  I heart that girl…

48 thoughts on “Yeah, I mention my hair, but this isn’t about hair

    • She is actually all set to go there in August…just needed to bitch about the many weeks leading up to it!

  1. Oh tricky!
    Unless you get specific signals to the contrary I wouldn’t worry too much about why Jessie resists camping. It could just be a gut feel reaction, based on “just because” she doesn’t feel like it? That could change in a year or two.
    Bless JSW, what a great girl! As for the rest of the time: it would drive you bonkers if you tried to entertain Jessie all summer, she’ll just have to do most of that herself. Maybe stuff like art, reading, jigsaw puzzles? I don’t know if she has patience for crafts but crochet or knitting can take up lots of time (I made a crochet shawl in the brightest colours as a kid, I was so proud of it! Had it for years).
    And how hot is too hot for the art classes? Would you have to stick around until they are over or would you only come back to pick her up? If she enjoys the classes themselves a lot, then Jessie might not even notice the lack of air conditioning?

    • All good points. That said….she will definitely notice the lack of air conditioning. As a hater of the heat, I can relate.

  2. Hey Julie- have you heard about the hingham sewing school? They have summer camp listed on their website. I know it’s a bit of a hike, but you’d be alone in the car for part of the time!

    • I will check it out. However, she fizzled out for the last several weeks of the sewing class she used to take so I am hesitant to schlep her there every morning (and pay for it) if she is going to crump out on me again.

  3. What about one of the museum day camps (MFA, MoS, ICA)? They only run for a week at time, so not a big commitment. No swimming, obviously. Lydia did the MFA one once with a friend.

  4. First I think you are an amazing mom! Have you thought about summer cooking classes, no bathing suits, most kitchen have ac. And you can have a few hrs to your self. Can be very creative.

    • I actually suggested that, but her initial (grumpy) response was no. Perhaps I should remind her that she will get to eat that which she makes!

      And, thanks, Roberta!

      • As do I….plus I went to high school with the owner so know she would be in good hands. Now to convince her to give it a try. I might put you on the case, Jane!

  5. Hi Julie,
    I’ll jump in with my two cents-
    Dayjams is a great program if Jessie is interested in a fun rock and roll camp. It is air conditioned and run out of Solomon Schecter in swimming! It also runs for a week at a time so no bid commitment. She would be put in a band based on her musical interest and which instrument she plays (or if she is a singer). Each band gets lessons in their choice of instrument, does a cover and writes an original song. There is a concert every Friday for the parents. My kids had a blast and made a lot of friends. Lots of those kids also participate in Plugged In teen band program in Needham. They are also running summer programs which will meet twice a week. They also do songwriting workshops. Sandra Rizkallah and her husband Tom are AWESOME and SO inclusive. Both of these groups would be very open to TG kids. Email me directly for more info if you think she would like it and I can tell you more.
    Evan also goes to Camp Nonesuch on the “other side” of the River’s school. No swimming required but there is a pond if Jessie wants to. Kids pick their own activities (all sort of random and fun-not a sporty camp at all) and it runs for 2 weeks at a time. LUNCH INCLUDED!!! It is definitely for the more quirky (and wonderful) of kids. Very inclusive and each block there are different kids of different ages so it doesn’t get boring. Kids who love it go until they are too old! (Lucy went there too)

    • Not a musical kid — in fact, she made it a point to “forget” her flute (which I had to rent for $300) every week when she was supposed to take it to school. WRT camp Nonesuch: she LOVES to swim (and would be happiest in a pool from sun up til sundown every day – which, apparently, is her master plan) it is the changing part which is tricky.

      See? I’m not kidding! There are valid (some more than others) excuses for every conceivable option!

      That said, thanks, Roberta. Thinking of you always.

  6. Maybe you are looking at this the wrong way. Maybe you should leave Jessie home with Harrison and YOU should go find a fun filled camp 😉 JK.
    As a FT out of home working mom whose kids refuse to attend any camp or activity suggested, I leave them home with an older brother and hope no one has beaten another sib by the time I get home. On the plus side, come Sept, they aren’t dreading school quite so much…Good luck finding something!

    • If only Harrison wasn’t so damn responsible and lined himself up a full time lifeguarding gig for the summer I would be all over Camp Harrison as opposed to Camp Julie. I think you and I need to go find our own happy place, Maura!

  7. I feel your pain! Have you considered Charles River Day Camp? I’ve heard it’s a great creative arts program, has AC and swimming optional! Good luck!

    • I have, actually. (Considered it, that is.) It is the same program as Chestnut Hill School, only it is 40 minutes away as opposed to 5. If I am going to go out on a limb and sign her up for a camp of that sort which she may or may not agree (the brat) to go to, it is gonna be the one nearby. Thanks for the thought, though!

  8. Hi there- I went to girl scout camp as a child with gay girls and as a teenager with transgirls and also lesbian girls and everyone was pretty normal about it, like it was no big deal at all. When I was an adult and worked at girl scout camp there were also girls undergoing transition to males working as leaders at the camp, and it was also no big deal. I think the girl scouts may even be more tolerant and “chill” than some of the private camps out there. Might be worth a try! 😀 Good luck!

    • I do know about it and Jessie is all set to attend, but the east coast camp is not until the very last week in August! Thanks for reading and for forwarding this along!

  9. I want to give a plug for the Charles River Creative Arts Program in Dover, A great place and one of the most accepting programs around and it is a place where Jessie could be very comfortable.

    • Thanks, Amy. I know all about that camp – someone else also mentioned it earlier. I am sure she would love it, but it is far enough away from where I live to make it unappealing given her tendency to crump out once I have signed up (and paid!) for stuff. My nieces both went there and loved it!

      • crcap is an amazing and accepting place. their sister camps are at the park school and cambridge school of weston. definitely would encourage you to speak with the directors at each place. lots of interesting activities, swimming not required and a very diverse population.

      • Thanks, Amy. You are correct that they are all great programs, but for a variety of different (and boring) reasons, none is going to work this summer. Some is scheduling, some is location. To be clear – this is a kid who is happiest being in a pool from sunrise til sunset, so the swimming is both a draw and a drawback! Welcome to my world and many thanks for the suggestions!

  10. Exxcel camp is different from Exxcel classes and they go outside on water slides every day and thursday is field frip day. In the past they have gone canoeing, miniature golf, Fenway Park, laser tag….I would check it out.

  11. The Clay Room in Coolidge Corner has daily or weekly pottery camp, looked interesting for a creative soul! Air conditioned too.
    Good luck!

  12. You are getting great information about things for Jessie, so may I add something for you? We have a son with some special issues (he’s 11), as well as a 17 and 14 yr old. My husband is extremely supportive, but the majority of school/therapy/kid behavior related interaction falls to me, because I “get it”. Last spring, I went to Mexico for a week with a couple of friends … no family, no husband, no kids, no work. It was beyond necessary, both mentally and physically, which I knew; I just didn’t realize quite how needed. I still remember the first breath I took, sitting on the beach. I went again this spring. My point is that while you are making all of the plans for Jessie and your family, you need to do something for yourself, such as sneak away to your brother’s for a week. Don’t wait until you have a couple of doc’s telling you you are exhausted (like I did), because you will already know it. Look ahead, get things scheduled out as you need to, and then GO. It’s a healthy thing to do.

    • OMG, Jodi..Jessie’s therapist made the same suggestion, but when I asked him to write a ‘script for it he replied that doing so might be a bit provocative. I am still asking him to write it!

      • I have a question I use when I’m not sure about something … “Is this a healthy thing for me to do?” You are doing an incredible job for your daughter, and you will continue to do so for as long as she needs you. You will be the brick wall that stands behind her, and you will be the person out front, sword in hand, fighting your way through the crowd and defending her to your death. Who is going to do that for you?

        You have ALL sorts of incredible support, but you need to pick up that sword, cut back a few brambles and forge a way for yourself. If you aren’t around, who will fight for Jessie as well as you? It’s only a few days, but you will be amazed at your new-found ability to breathe.

      • You are 1,000% correct…and I know that it will be invaluable. I just have to figure out how to make it happen!

      • For: Julie Ross

        Prescription: One week (7 days) leave of absence from all responsibilities and activities (immediate) family related. Said liberty is to be taken no closer than 50 miles from home. Personal focus is to be on taking and feeling of breaths, looking at and enjoying the sky, sunshine and surrounding scenery, napping as needed, and taking part only in those activities deemed enjoyable. Decisions are limited to choice of food & beverage, clothing and immediate amusing actions. Smiles and laughter are encouraged in order to receive maximum benefits.

        Phone calls, texts and emails home to “check up” or provide directions are prohibited.

        Signed: Those of us who have been there
        Therapists At-Large

      • Wait! You forgot to write in the part where I am supposed to watch all things Bravo until I can no longer see straight! That is an important addition!

      • For: Julie Ross

        (Revised) Prescription: One week (7 days) leave of absence from all responsibilities and activities (immediate) family related. Said liberty is to be taken no closer than 50 miles from home. Personal focus is to be on taking and feeling of breaths, looking at and enjoying the sky, sunshine and surrounding scenery, napping as needed, and taking part only in those activities deemed enjoyable. Decisions are limited to choice of food & beverage, clothing and immediate amusing actions. Smiles and laughter are encouraged in order to receive maximum benefits. This therapeutic leave of absence will be considered complete when Ms. Ross has watched all things Bravo until she can no longer see straight. An additional day of recovery may be needed.

        Phone calls, texts and emails home to “check up” or provide directions are prohibited.

        Signed: Those of us who have been there
        Therapists At-Large

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