Picture This

I am a tremendous and loyal fan of Jessie’s school.  To a person, they have handled her (and me, frankly) with a perfect balance of support and  love (some tough, but mostly straight up).  They have made what could have been a disastrous transition as seamless as I could ever have hoped for.  The administrators, teachers and professionals clearly have our backs and for that, I will forever be appreciative.  This week, however, school is killin’ me.

For starters, after two “hurricane days” last week, one professional day (which also happened to be election day) (and also happened to focus on just how seriously our town takes anti-bullying!) and one (unbeknownst to me – my bad) early release this week, I am desperately seeking more than a few hours during the day to accomplish something.   I found out about the early release the hard way when I received a call ten minutes after the bell, smack dab in the middle of a torrential rainstorm (thereby making the, “you can walk home” response just plain mean) while I was at the market.  (Points for me: not only was I getting ingredients for a hearty, delicious and nutritious dinner, I even texted Harrison to see if he would prefer lasagna or chili.  He chose chili.  Please don’t be the one to tell Jessie that while I was forgetting to pick her up, I was simultaneously not seeking her input on dinner choices.  Doesn’t she have enough to talk about in therapy?)  So, yes, I think we can all agree that all those “no school” hours are tiresome when they come one on top of another.

Second, and more troubling, is Jessie’s role as Student of the Week.  Yeah, I didn’t think that they still had that in fifth grade, either, but alas they do.  She arrived home with a poster board sized sheet of paper designed to share more about herself with her classmates.  (I know, what’s left to share?…).  It is all fairly benign with one notable exception: the 4” x 6” blanks calling for photographs.  Aw, crap.

One of the many issues that families of transgender kids (or adults, for that matter) deal with is the past.  Many of them want to pretend the past never happened as it was often a painful, unhappy time for them.  Having transitioned, they have found a freedom and comfort in their own skin which eluded them before…so why would they want to be reminded?  Well, I totally get that.  I also totally get that of the three photographs being requested, one is entitled: Travel Guide.  Because the audience is made up of ten-year olds, the word “travel” can be construed in less rigid terms than we adults might deem; one would think that a “trip” apple picking could be considered appropriate.  However…Jessie’s school is made up of children from all over the world.  As such, it is not unusual for the trips they discuss to include, (with great regularity, actually) places like Israel, Korea, Pakistan or Argentina.  I feel for Jessie, therefore, in her desire to showcase something a little more exciting than splashing in the neighborhood pool last summer.  Well, guess what?  With all that has been going on around here, we haven’t gone anywhere that could pass as travel.  She (desperately?) suggested using a snapshot from a trip to Disney World (when she was six!) but halted when she realized (remembered?) that in all of those shots, she is George.  Let that wash over you for a moment.

Okay, so now you see my point and the quandary we face; either leave the space glaringly blank, or fill it with an outdated (oh, so outdated) shot of Jessie younger, smaller and, yep, a boy.  File under: things you never think you will have to think about, but wind up thinking about all the time.  Now I know full well that it is a fair and (one could argue) fun activity for the average kid.  But, oh, wait…my kid doesn’t fall into that category, so what is meant to be a rah-rah, self-esteem building activity (who doesn’t want to be the Student of the Week?  Or Parent of the Week?  Or Spouse of the Week? Hell, I would take Best Hair of the Week!) is now stressing us out.  Hate that.

I still love our school and perhaps, had we had a full week of full days of classes I would be less traumatized by this little blip, but, alas, we have not had a full week of full days of classes so I am seeing this blip as more monumental than I (intellectually, anyway) know it is.  We will figure something out.  Just not sure what.

p.s. Since this is my blog and you have chosen to read it, I will assume you will allow me a little indulgence in showing off a drawing that Jessie did the other day.  (Many of you have seen it already on Facebook.  Sorry ’bout that!) She is as proud of it as she should be and has decided to include it on her “Student of the Week” poster in the one untitled photograph box.  She may look vaguely familiar (full disclosure: Jess had to tell me who it was), particularly if you are a fan of “Twilight”.  Dear readers, this is Jessie’s interpretation of Kristen Stewart, aka Bella, with whom she is mildly obsessed.  If only she had drawn her travelling somewhere!

26 thoughts on “Picture This

  1. Do you have any Disney pictures that do not have the family in the picture? Like the Epcot ball or Cinderella’s Castle? Shows where she’s been – just doesn’t show WHO she’s been 🙂

    Good luck – it’s the silly little things that trip us up and make us think WAY too hard 🙂

  2. Julie,

    I’m no longer in the classroom, but I used to teach high school social studies (5 years ago). I was always very, very flexible when it came to students talking about themselves, which, in Social Studies, happens all the time. If I were lucky enough to have Jessie as a student, I would let her put whatever images of herself she wanted in those spots. They wouldn’t have to be photos of her someplace she went to. They could be photoshopped images of where she wishes she was now. Or wishes she had been. Or, even better, drawn self-portraits (show off that talent!). IMHO, if she is truly “Student of the Week,” she gets to bring in a poster that demonstrates exactly who she is, instead of what her outside used to look like. In fact, her teacher just might appreciate a presentation like that, instead of one that looks exactly like every other one for the past X number of years.

    My 6 year old daughter with Down syndrome had to teach her classmates something today as part of a weekly public speaking assignment. Her developmental delays mean the other kids likely already know how to do what she does. Solution? We spent the week teaching her something new (how to shoot a marble) and are now keeping our fingers crossed that she can demonstrate it on her own. She might not do it as well as she does at home, but I’m hoping against all hope that at least several other students have never seen someone shoot marbles before so that she’s at least introduced something new to her classmates. And I’m hoping to get a good report back, even if it’s a lie that all went well.

    Apologies for the drawn out post, but my point is, I hope it all goes well for Jessie. I’m sure her teacher had the best intentions, but I’m sure you’ll be glad, as I will be, when this week is over!


    • All good suggestions. Jessie’s teacher is phenomenal (and I am not just saying that because she might read this!) and I am sure she will handle it without issue. Please let me (all of us, actually) know how the marble shoot goes!

  3. Hi Julie! I get your blog updates via email and if I remember correctly, you only live a state away from me. I was wondering if a short trip up to the Nubble lighthouse may be a fun way to snag a new pic for “travel guide”? Just thinking of what would make a nice picture without breaking the bank/making you crazy 🙂

  4. Let me at this poster board…’tis right up my alley. Yeah, one could spend endless hours searching high and low for that perfect self-portrait taken years ago next to some well-known (boring) landmark, or some may even take the last-minute day trip just for the pretty coastal scene. Or, the real wackos probably Photoshop in the perfect background and look all fancy and exotic somewhere. But my style and suggestion? Keep it simple; keep it real, but be ‘way-out-there’ creative. A trip, or travel does not have to be some scenic spot halfway across the universe. It can be local. It can be in the back yard. Hell, it can be at Chipotle. I got a whole office here full of art crap and a few computer and photo skills to make the most kick-ass ‘All About Me – Student of the Week’ poster that 5th Grade team has ever seen. So, come ‘cross town and let’s craft. Destination Jen.

    Oh, and…another short week of school coming up. Monday is a holiday. You best enter it into your calendar now.

  5. So glad I took a minute to stop my running around tonight to read your blog. Not only did you put a smile on my face (as always) but I was educated by so many smart creative mothers with great ideas how to handle a situation that probably would have thrown me over the edge.

  6. Ummmmm………..I seem to remember a trip to Florida with Rich to her grandmother’s in Florida last December after the transition had taken place. Were there any pictures from that trip?

  7. This reminded me of a hilarious story from a 6th grade project I had to do once. We all had to bring in a photo from a trip we’d taken. My family didn’t travel much when I was younger because we didn’t have a ton of money. There were photos of me at the beach from years earlier, but it didn’t feel “cool” enough. Eventually my mom came up with a brilliant idea. The previous year, when I was in 5th grade, I’d been dutifully doing my homework at the dining room table as my 8 year old sister sat in the den watching TV. At 7:30pm on the dot, right as I finished the last question on a worksheet, my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE OHMYGOD tv show (Full House) came on, and the opening credits/song came on. In my excitement, I jumped up from the table and bolted to the stairs to the den. On my way down, I gracefully TRIPPED and landed horribly on my ankle, breaking it. This led to a TRIP to the hospital to get a cast. The photo I brought with me that day? Me in my bright pink cast, with a great story about a “trip” I had taken. 😉 Good luck with the project! I’m sure whatever Jessie decides on will be fantastic.

  8. I glanced and saw someone had my same idea about using a photo of Disney, that didn’t include her body at all, and saw you don’t have any… SO would it be cheating to just print out a photo of Disney? Their facebook page is always littered with amazing photos of their landmarks. The point of the photos is to go with the dialog she’s included…so I would think that could count. From what I gather, she is pretty good at talking, she can talk/write her way through that I’m sure. I have some amazing photos of Disney famous landmarks if you are interested as well. But I bet the ones from Disney’s fb page would be a more professional shot. You could even have it printed at a photo place to be an actual photograph don’t forget. Good Luck to you both ❤

  9. I don’t want to come off as insensitive 😦
    Well, doesn’t everyone at school know who she used to be? What’s wrong with looking back at Disneyworld pics and saying yeah, I was a boy. Now I’m a girl, what of it?? It’s not like she has to talk about who she was (unless that’s what she wants to do). Yeah, she looked a lot different at age 6, but so did everyone.
    I just mean maybe its not a bad idea to include the past; there’s just no reason to make a big deal of it.

  10. Hi, I just found your blog a few months ago and have been keeping up with your journey. I’m super impressed with you.

    I can sort of relate to you with Jessie needing photographs and how painful it is to figure something out. My children’s father/my husband passed away almost 7 years ago. When special presents are being made for Father’s Day, we have to scramble and become resourceful.

    Good luck!

  11. Wish I had time to real through and see if this has been suggested already, but why not have Jesse draw herself instead of using a picture? In fact, she could draw herself in Disney at 6, as she would have liked to appear. I get the impression she has felt this way her whole life, so maybe it would help make those memories more inclusive of how she was feeling, despite those feelings not yet being recognized.

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