Quick Camp Update

  1. With the exception of one (really, I swear, there was only one) call from the director…all’s great.
  2. With the exception of two lost lunch bags….all’s great.
  3. With the exception of the fact that camp is done for the season…all’s great.

Yep, you read that right: Camp.Is.Done.For.The.Season.  (As in: they close their doors til next year, no option to add another week or five, done, over, finished.)

She had a great time.  She made friends.  She wants to go back next summer.  But now I have until September 9th (yes, September 9th) when she goes back to school to try to keep her at least equally happy.

No, I did not sign her up for any other camps.  No, I do not have any real plans in place.  No, I do not know what I was thinking.  Oh, wait…all one needs to do it review the epic fail of last summer and it will all make sense.

Yes, I have poked around for programs here and there, but have come up with nothin’.  Yes, I am in denial that things could turn torturous over these next several hours, I mean days, er, weeks.  Yes, I am more than a little concerned.

But.

She did have five great weeks with only one minor transgression which I have chosen to forget about.  I am going to quit while I’m ahead.

That said: if at any time over the next several weeks you have the urge to spend some quality time with an artistic, funny, quirky, energetic and extraordinarily complicated child (particularly during the hours that I have to, um, go to work) just let me know…I am sure we can work something out.

p.s. You stand forewarned: any and all joyous postings regarding children at camp, trips abroad or the like will not be welcome around these parts.  What? I am nothing if not honest.

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Camp: Week One

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I will not be so bold as to exhale, but…I will memorialize the fact that the first week of camp was, wait for it, an unmitigated success.  It started and ended without incident.  It was five times (read: five days) better than camp experiences of the past.  A happy child left my house in the morning and returned, still happy, in the afternoon.   And, perhaps of greater note: no calls, emails, texts or smoke signals from camp.  Phew. (Not to be confused with an exhale.)

Throughout the week, however, I have been the recipient of texts, emails, and phone calls checking in on me, um…I mean Jess. (Note: those meant the world to me, friends!) As the week progressed, I’ve responded with slightly greater comfort each day and found myself a little bit surprised when I realized that it was Friday already and not a single scary phone number appeared on my cell, no emails in my inbox and no notes in the backpack.  Bestill my heart.

I am unsure to what I owe this change of events: Is it the camp? Or the additional year of “maturing” (I use the term loosely)? Or a heavenly alignment of the stars? Or G-d’s way of giving me a break after the shitstorm of last summer?  I suppose a better question is: does it even matter?

If I have learned nothing else over these past eighteen months, I have learned to (try like hell to) not over-think every experience, episode and event.  I have (almost) become Zen in my approach to transitions,  tests and tantrums.  I know when to ask questions and when to just take things at face value and run.

To my credit, I resisted the (overwhelming, nearly debilitating) urge to drop a quick email (or phone call or text or smoke signal) to the camp director as a means of confirming that all really is well and am quite confident that, were it not, I’d have heard about it.

Monday starts the second week of camp and while I will not exhale, I will assume (perhaps dangerously) that it will be as great a success as the first week.  Your collective crossed fingers, toes, and genuflection are appreciated as are your respect for my holding my breath.  We can do this.

It’s Summer and the Living’s Easy?

This was written, with the intent of posting it, last night.  Alas, that did not happen.  I am confident that you will understand the use of “today” actually means “yesterday”.  Not that is matters.  Just sayin’.

Here’s the thing about having a blog: people expect you to have something to say and to do so articulately and with some regularity.  Sometimes my ability to do so comes easily, particularly when the incidents and accidents are coming fast and furious at every turn.  Other times, when things seem to be somewhat normal (dare I even use that word?) this blogger finds herself not only at a loss for words, but actually appreciating the fact that there is not a lot to say.

Now, to be perfectly clear, I suspect that will all change as the transition from school to camp goes beyond today, the first day.  I am waiting, with (more than) somewhat bated breath, to see how things unfold in the coming week as camp becomes a routine as opposed to a novelty.  Images and agonies of last summer continue to swirl about in my head, but, until this moment, I have staunchly refused to acknowledge that fact.  My hopes are high for the next five weeks of camp.  I will go so far as to say that I have a gut feeling that it is all going to be okay, but uttering that aloud is far too arrogant quite yet.

You may recall that last summer was an epic and repeated fail.  It undid me.  It undid Jess.  It provided plenty to discuss in therapy until such time as I deemed it no longer worth the energy it took to do so.  The plan was to archive it as deep in the recesses of my brain as was possible, never to revisit ever again.  Until, that is, this week.

It would be dishonest to say that I had successfully tucked it away.  I have thought about it on (more than) several occasions and prayed to St. Somebody or Other (said the Jewish girl) that this year, with the benefit of another year under our collective belts, we would kick summer’s butt.  I went so far as to not even acknowledge that Friday was the last day of school (for Jess, that is…the rest of the kids, the ones who transition without issue that is (do you happen to know any of those kids, because I certainly do not) remain for the last five mandated days in school, sweltering from the heat and filling the day with anything that is not academic and kills six hours) and that today was the first day of camp.  (Full disclosure: transition issues aside, there was no way on G-d’s green earth that I was going to forfeit the first week of camp given the price tag. The fact that transitions are important was merely a bonus.)  If nothing else, I have learned to tone down my pre-worrying and let things happen ever so slightly more organically.  In this case, that played out as denial.  It works for me.  Don’t judge.

When she left for camp in the morning she was in great spirits.  That did not surprise me.  In fact, it would have thrown me if she had exhibited any anxiety.  That is simply not her style. What I worried about, for a fair portion of the day, was what arrival home would look like.  And here is what I got:

The scene: Jess walks in the door (having been drive home by a friend) with her head drooping down.  Having chosen swimming as her last activity of the day (thus requiring no changing out of a wet suit) her hair was still wet and is long enough to be hanging in her face.  I held my breath.

Me: “So…how was it???”

Jess: “Awful.”

Me: (Holding back the vomit that was rising in my throat), “Um, whaddya mean?  What happened?”

Jess: “Everyone was mean and I hated the classes.”

Me: (Reaching for the nearest receptacle into which I would deposit aforementioned vomit), “Seriously?”

Jess: (Bursting into a huge smile),”IT WAS AWESOME!”

Me: (Thinking of how to kill her and leave the fewest signs of force).  “You stinker.”

And then a shared smile.

Yeah, yeah, I know: it is only the first day.  But (and this is a big one): it is the best first day of anything, ever.

Tune back in for updates.  I hope (and by hope I mean pray like hell) that they will continue to be positive but I make no promises. I almost hope she gives me nothing to write about…

Penis. (Yep, you read it right. I just titled a blog entry “Penis”)

How often do you utter the word penis?  What’s that? Never?  Yeah, well, that is about right for most average adults (urologists and Mohels aside).  For the first seventeen years of my parenting life, I am unsure I ever said it, actually.  Each of my children had one, but aside from the ceremonial Bris on each of their eighth days of life, along with the quickly learned skill of “pointing it down” in the diaper, I cannot say I gave them (the penises, that is) much thought.  I can say, however, that hardly a day goes by now that it doesn’t come up (if you will excuse the pun) in conversation.  Yes, in everyday conversation.

Perhaps it arises in a chat with a well-meaning acquaintance who thinks that along with Jessie’s transition eighteen months ago came a penisectomy.  (Truth: someone asked me if we had had it “removed”.  Um, no.)  It could be with a closer acquaintance inquiring as to what we are going to do about it.  (Wish I knew.) Or it could be the voices in my head fretting over bathing suits, ill-fitting shorts or, truthfully, erections.

Much to my mother’s horror, I have been known to refer to Jessie as “my daughter with a penis”.  Much to my horror I have had to phone the on-call pediatrician to inquire about an issue with said penis all while using the female pronoun.  (Of course the doc on call happened to be the one in our practice’s rotation whom I have never met.  I am sure she figured it out, but awkward…)

Harrison (who might just disown me after this blog post) entered and completed puberty without fanfare.  He got taller, his voice got deeper and he sprouted hair under his arms and on his legs (which, when it first erupts, is gross.  What?  It is.) and, voila, he was done.  In fact, it was completely unremarkable.  Not once did the need to use the word penis arise.  Everything that was supposed to happen happened.  End of story.  Not so with Jessie.  In fact, there has been discussion of all things pubertal: height, hair, Adam’s Apple, hormones, foot and hand size and, oh, yeah, her penis.  Lots and lots of talk about her penis.

A question to all you parents of boys: have you spent a fraction of the time I have thinking (in the least creepy way possible), worrying or talking about your child’s penis?  I am guessing you have not.  I will further surmise that you are grateful that you haven’t had to.  You might even be blushing at the fact that I have used the word “penis” ten times in these five paragraphs.  I can honestly report that a day does not go by without the word penis (that’s eleven) entering into the equation somehow.  It is part of the new normal.  It is not even strange to me anymore.  It is all part of the process…one which, thus far, has not included the word vagina.  Not once.

NOTE: As you know, I often include pictures with my posts, although sometimes I am unable to find anything appropriate.  Rest assured: for this one, I did not even look…

Tire Pressure

It all began yesterday.  As I pulled the car out of the driveway, I noticed that the “tire pressure” light was illuminated.  Since it was a cold morning, I went on the assumption that the tires had shrunk (or had they swelled?) and further assumed that the light would go off just as soon as the tires got their groove back.  I went about my day, only cursorily checking to see if any of the tires were blatantly flat (they were not) and considering that I might want to bring it into the dealer given the fact that the last time the light came on it was due to a nail in my tire.  By the time I had this thought, however, it was moments before I was due to collect Jess from school and take her to an appointment.  So, I ignored the light.  The damage was done, however…I was worrying about the damned tires.

Well sonofabitch if the light wasn’t on again this morning.  It became evident that waiting for the temperature to change and restarting the car (what? it works with computers!) were not going to darken the light, so I decided that I would swing by the dealership and have them take a look.

I drive what is considered to be a luxury car and, as such, the dealership is very fancy.  I drove in unannounced and was immediately attended to.  When I say attended to, I mean I was escorted out of my car and over to my personal consultant for a quick assessment of the issue.  From there, I headed to the waiting room where there is a full kitchen, stocked with breakfast, lunch and dinner items, bottles of water, coffee and juices for every taste.  (In fact, I happened to arrive just around noon at which time a bevy of sandwich options were put out for consumption.  I didn’t act quickly enough and missed what was truly akin to feeding time at the zoo.)  I settled in with my Words With Friends, surrounded by the newest “People Magazine” (which I certainly would have read had I not done so yesterday while at the gym), and today’s “Wall Street Journal” and “New York Times.”  It was downright relaxing, actually.

One of the words I played in WWF was “denim.”  It was then that I remembered that I was just a block away from Target and that Jess has outgrown all her jeans, and that we could use toilet paper, oh, and milk and that they might even have this year’s bathing suits out for Jess (that is always fun) and, well, I just had to get to Target.

Shortly thereafter, my consultant (Joe? or maybe it was Jim?) came out to tell me that I indeed had another nail in a different tire than last time and that they were in the process of plugging it.  We just needed to let them finish and then wash the car (another perk of driving a nice car) and I would be on my way.  $21.50 later, I was out the door, headed to Target.

I walked into the store and was assaulted by the display of bikinis and tanks just waiting to be donned poolside.  “Good,” I sort of thought to myself, “I can grab a few new suits for Jess.”  I worked my way further in to the girl’s department: something I am holding onto tight…Jess is really about to outsize the department, but the leap one must take to segue from “girls” to “juniors” department is a bit too much just yet.  (Aside: I count my blessings that I am no longer expected to fit into the little suits that are supposed to pass for swim wear these days.)   This year, in a step up from last, they had cute little quick dry shorts complete with compression shorts underneath which peek out, looking adorable.  I am quite sure this was not the designer’s intent, but they are pretty much the perfect bathing suit bottom for a transgirl!  This might not be so bad.

I moved toward the jeans department (which, arguably, is an easier item than a swim suit) and was a little bit horrified.  Most of the jeans (in the girls’ department, let me remind you) were either super skinny, super low-rise, super tight or super ugly (sparkles and jeans are a big fail in my book). I rummaged through the piles and debated which size and which super fit to buy.  One size looked just a little too snug but the next size up was twice as large.  Crap.  This exercise was becoming increasingly stressful and I really needed to find some jeans…what to do?  And then, in what might well have been a moment of insanity, I meandered over to the boys’ department: a place I’ve not dared to venture in over a year.  I perused their jeans and immediately noted that they looked much more likely to fit Jess’s body than any of the others I had reluctantly dropped in my cart. (Well, duh.) After a deep breath, and some quick soul-searching, I tossed a few pair in the cart with the anxiety that only the parent of a transgender kid can know.  She might flip out.  Then again, she might not care, and just be happy to have a pair of jeans that fit comfortably.  I just don’t know.

As I wiped the thin layer of perspiration that had settled on my upper lip (my sweat spot of choice) I briskly left the clothing area and headed toward the frozen foods to gather a few Key Lime Pies for Harrison.  Something for everyone.

I checked out with only one impulse item (a lip gloss) but a fire in my belly.  I suddenly felt needy and anxious.  I felt the relief of not having to buy a new tire as profoundly as I worried about my jeans decision.  I grappled with whether Jess would appreciate the jeans, regardless of who they were made for, or would she interpret my having purchased a pair from the boys’ department as somehow passive aggressive.  Was it passive aggressive?  Does she know what passive aggressive means?  Welcome to my world.

What is a girl to do in this situation?  I was stressed, despite having taken care of the two things which needed to be attended to.  I even remembered to buy milk, for crying out loud!  I was knotted up with the knowledge that I might have managed to create a potentially volatile situation.  I was feeling the sweat bead up on my upper lip again.  I needed to fix this somehow.  So I went shoe shopping.

I didn’t mean to, really.  I had good intentions of just heading home and taking care of some things there.  But somehow, I wound up trolling the never-ending aisles of DSW which, in and of itself would make me happy, but even more so when I recalled that $10 off coupon burning a hole in my wallet.  I could turn this around.  And I did.

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It is still too cold in these parts to wear them, but soon enough it will be warm and they will come out of hiding.  Knowing that they are at the ready gives me peace and strength to deal with whatever reaction Jess will have upon discovering her new jeans.  Never underestimate the power of a new pair of shoes.

Congratulations! It’s a ….

Damn if it didn’t happen again.  There I was, preparing to cheer Harrison on at his swim meet (during which he collected two first place finishes) when another mom and I struck up a conversation.  It began when I noticed the opposing team’s swim caps and questioned aloud which “W” team we were swimming against as there are two “W” towns nearby.  The woman sitting next to me clarified for me, as she was the mom of a swimmer from said “W” town.  As tends to happen (to me, in particular) in situations such as this, we began to chat: about swimming, the time commitment, the pros of swimming (there are no cons) and whether my son was planning on swimming at college (undecided).

Since the only captivating part of any swim meet are the races that your child is in, there is plenty of downtime during which all that happens is you become acutely aware of not only how damned hot it is in the pool area but also the probability that your hair is curling from the humidity.  As such, it is always a bonus to be seated next to someone who is not face down in their iPhone or wrapped up in whatever is on their Kindle.  (Disclosure: I did have my Kindle with me on the off-chance that there was no one to chat with.)

“W” mom and I were discussing how kids who swim tend to be a nice group and she, for some reason that I cannot recall, mentioned something about the Temple they belong to. (Random, I know.) Nothing like handing me an instant opening for a conversation!  We played a little Jewish geography (for the uninformed, this is the Semitic version of “Six Degrees of Separation.”  Put any two or more Jewish people together and they are guaranteed to know folks in common.  In fact, there is a great likelihood that you are somehow related or used to be related or some such.)  We went back and forth, establishing a few commonalities and then came a pause.  It was for no reason, really, just a lull in the conversation…or one of our kids was in the pool.

After our respective cheering duties had passed, she turned to me and asked if Harrison was my only child.  I knew right then what was coming next; by all accounts a fair and reasonable question: “is your other child a boy or a girl?”  Damn.  Saw it coming, but still, over a year into the process, I never quite know how to answer.  I gave birth to and saw through for the first ten years, two boys.  I’ve been through two circumcisions, on the receiving end (more than once) of a shower of urine from the changing table, bought countless superman underpants and boxer shorts and been informed by both of my children of the joys of being able to pee outside.  Despite the year of longer hair, ear piercings and shoe shopping, I still hesitate to say I have a daughter.

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I am aware that admitting this is probably going to sound as though I am not on-board. (I am.)  Or perhaps it will come across as my being mean. (I’m not.) It may even compel some of you to no longer “admire” my approach to parenting my transgender child. (Up to you.) I get that.  But I, perhaps more importantly, appreciate the need to be honest not only with the general you, but with myself.  While I do not think of Jessie as my daughter, I don’t think of her as my son, either.  I just think of her as my child; my second born, my wonderful, quirky, artistic, creative, hysterically funny and challenging child.  Whether she is my son or my daughter matters little.  What matters more is that I know how she ticks.  I know that there is no point in buying her decent mittens as she is sure to lose them somewhere between the kitchen and the car.  I know that unless I viciously and repeatedly flush the toilet in the bathroom, she isn’t going to get out of the shower until she has been asked a minimum of seven times.   I know that she needs a snack in the car on the ride home from school – not when she arrives at the house.  I know that she is capable of making me laugh and cry within the same hour.  And I know that I wouldn’t trade her…most of the time.

When “W” mom posed her query, I smiled and said, “Well, I sort of have both” and went on to tell her the Reader’s Digest version of the George/Jessie transformation.  To her credit, she did not visibly react in any way.  She didn’t even look at me as though I had two heads.  Her response made it clear to me (having answered this question innumerable times over the past year) that this was not the first transgender kid she knew of.  With nary a pause she remarked that she knew of a kid at her temple, although hesitated as to whether they were MtF (male to female) or FtM (female to male, duh).  I, in turn, knowing which Temple and, likewise, knowing many other parents of transgender kids, knew precisely who she was referring to and finished her thinking for her by telling her the child was FtM and doing great.  Now there’s a round of Jewish geography that I am fairly certain my parents never had!

I truly appreciated not only the ease with which she accepted my disclosure, but also the fact that this time around, another family paved the way for me.*  I have been doing plenty of my own paving which, truthfully, is difficult, isolating work.  This simple (and fair) question, which has, historically, brought me not-quite-to-my-knees was just that much easier this time.  So, too, is watching Jessie walk out the door bedecked in head to toe pink, head held high, confidence squarely in place at a time when, honestly, her mother’s is not.  It’s a process for me and for my child(ren) – boys and girls alike.  I am wise enough to know that this exchange was more the exception than the rule and wise enough to appreciate it having happened.

So, the next time you meet someone and ask them about their children know that you might not get the answer you were expecting.  Trust me when I tell you…it isn’t the answer they were expecting to give, either.

*Thanks, JP

Swimming Despite the Rain (?)

Last night I attended my tenth (and last – insert sad face here) Swim Team parent meeting.  Harrison has been swimming competitively since he was seven and, as such, I have attended many a season kick-off meeting.   Despite  having graduated from the JCC to the High School team, the information shared in these meetings has stayed virtually identical; commitment to the team, importance of coming to practice, work hard blah blah blah.  The meeting took all of twenty minutes (thirty-five if you take into account driving back and forth to the high school, parking and finding a bathroom in the hallowed halls of academia).  Wham bam, done.

It was not until this morning (while sipping my new love: Trader Joe’s Candy Cane Green Tea) that I glanced over the handout and noticed the final line of the Coach’s “Goals and Expectations”:

I hope you will do things you never thought you could.

Hardly a new sentiment, it managed to jumped off the page and to firmly attach itself to my psyche.  Eleven basic words in a seemingly simple, even trite, formation which have gotten under my skin…in a good way.  Oh, the things I have experienced which I not only never thought I could, but, frankly, never occurred to me to attempt to attempt.  For someone who is not exactly adventuresome, I’ve done (some of) my share of things I never thought I could.  Just last year (at exactly this time) Jessie had already shared her feelings regarding her gender with me and Rich.  At precisely the time she was embracing the sensation of her shoulders dropping from the relief of sharing her “secret” (her words), mine were inching up to my ears at breakneck speed.  I was nearly crippled at the mere thought of how we were going to go wider (read: tell anyone) with the information.  I was quite sure it was nothing I was ever going to be able to manage, for either my child or, frankly, myself.  At the time, I would definitely have filed under: there is absolutely no way I am going to be able to handle this.  But, alas, here we are, a full year later, and everyone is still standing.  Who’d a thunk it?

Perhaps an even greater (not to mention more impressive and less self-serving) is Jessie’s resolve.  I’ve never asked her, but would be willing to bet that for the first several years of her knowing that she needed to transition she never thought it would actually happen.  I suspect that her tortured thinking and desires would have fallen safely (yes, I note the irony of word choice) into the “something I can never do” category, yet here she is, a full year into her transition.  So deep into it, in fact, that yelling “Jessie” (either to or, if we are being honest, at her) has long since ceased sounding strange and my pronoun slip ups are rare.  Truth: referring to my son as “her” and “she” is yet one more thing that I never thought I could do.

The swim coach’s words are, on the surface, meant to encourage the boys to kick, stroke and breathe harder than they ever imagined in the hopes of out-swimming the other teams, but the lesson is so much bigger than that.  Just when you lose hope and think you are going to drown, you might just have a little more kick in you which is all you need to reach the end, perhaps even victoriously.  My legs and arms are tired.  It has been a long and challenging year.  There are hours (I began to assess by the hour when I realized that taking it a full day at a time was often more than I could handle) that I am ready for dead-man’s float, but then I remember that I can do this.  And so can you.

In the past several weeks alone, friends of mine have faced enormous challenges: unexpected deaths, illnesses which were supposed to have gone away but have reared their ugly heads, lost jobs, broken marriages, sick children and financial struggles.  In the words of the swim coach (and my father):  you can do this.  And in my words: if I can do it (whatever “it” may be)…so, too, can you.

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Sending special thoughts and love to: RR, BM, ED, MS, JW and everyone else who is struggling with something big, small or somewhere in between. ❤

A Pleasure To Meet You

Yesterday I got a text from an old (and wonderful) friend that said “can I give someone your number?”  My relationship with the sender is such that I was not concerned, rather curious.  I responded by saying “of course…but why?”  People are often offering my contact information (and implied knowledge I might have) for any number of reasons: a breast cancer diagnosis, an issue with a child’s learning disability, a recommendation for a kick-ass hair stylist or, wait for it…a transgender kid.  I am more than willing to speak with anyone about any of the aforementioned, but I do like to have an inkling as to which hat I am expected to be wearing before the conversation begins.  In this case, it was putting another mom trying to traverse the unchartered transgender parenting waters in touch with me – if only because I am a few (baby) steps ahead of her.

Not long after the original text, my phone rang.  On the other end was my friend who, having received my blessing for initiating contact, decided to skip over the email or text introductions and put us in touch immediately.  Turns out she had just met this other mom while they were “chaperoning” a field trip (while on the phone with me, that is) and talk had turned to transgender parenting.  (Note: when you are the parent of the child who arrives at school presenting as the opposite sex from their prior school years, everyone knows who you are.  As such, when these two met, my old friend already knew who the new friend was…transgender announcements have a way of facilitating the process of identifying oneself.  Go figure.)  I answered the call and, with nary an introduction, was speaking to Joanne who I am quite sure will be a friend in short order.

We are a unique sort, us trans-parents and, as such, need to seek one another out and grasp on – sometimes for dear life.  Our parenting challenges are just like everyone else’s; if you were to put those challenges on steroids, that is.  Sure, some of the crap, er, issues, are ones no one ever thinks of (remember the bathing suit quandary of just a few months ago?) but, they are additional and not replacement worries.  In the few short moments that we were chatting we covered about ten of them…and we were just getting started.  (Aside: we each used the “f” word twice.  Just sayin’.)  With a promise to meet for coffee or wine (doh, wine is definitely preferable) we hung up so that she could resume her chaperoning and I my errands.

Here’s the thing: as much as she was happy and relieved to have been put in touch with me, I was equally, if not more, ecstatic to be put in touch with her.  Yes, I have tremendous support and love.  I have become friendly with several other moms from the PFLAG support group who have provided invaluable empathy and “yep, us, too” moments.  But who doesn’t want more support and more empathy??  I know I do.  So, Joanne, if you are reading this – great to speak with you and let’s keep reminding one another that we’ve got this.  And Jen, love you.

Making Points

What seems, at this point, like an eon ago, each day as her Facebook status, my friend Karen posted a cryptic number.  Being as clever as I am, I soon realized that the numbers were in descending order as the days progressed yet I did not know why.  Finally, in a fit of frustration over my inability to determine what exactly the numbers represented, I finally inquired and was told that it was her countdown until school started.  What?!  It was the beginning of August.  Here in the Northeast school is a September through June kind of deal…what is up with those Nebraskans?

From the moment she shared her good fortune with me I have been envious.  There, I said it.  She has already settled comfortably into the school routine and has, in all likelihood, been availed of the opportunity to catch her breath and (at least attempt to) regain her sanity.  No fair.  I am still nearly a full week away and am riddled with  (a healthy dose of ?) anxiety leading into the start of fifth grade, not to mention Harrison’s college applications and senior grades which need to be kept up to (or beyond?) standard fare.  Oh, dear Lord.

As if this summer has not been Herculean enough in its challenges, now I have to manage not only the wait for the start of school but the actual transition itself.  Damn.  While I am counting down, I might just as well count up, too.

 

For example, the fabulous fifth grade team at school was considerate in sending out their supply list on the early side this year (right around the time Karen’s kids were getting on the school bus) and I, in a moment of clarity and thoughtfulness, managed to get to Target before it was overtaken by mob scenes and empty shelves and successfully check off everything on the list.  That’s one point for me.

Jessie’s shoes all fit.  The volume of clothing she owns would put a Kardashian to shame.  Her hair could use a trim, but it is nothing that a well placed headband or hair clip won’t rectify.  However, in a show of pure girl, she is chomping at the bit for a few new outfits for the start of school.  Of course she is.  I still have close to a week in which to find some time to do a little shopping, so no points earned yet.

Harrison is well in control of his college application process having just this morning completed the common application (friends with like age children relax: we’ve not hit the submit button…) and is beginning to get mentally prepared for the start of his senior year of high school with an eye on the prize of acceptances at any of a number of schools that would be a good fit for him.  I get one point if for no other reason than having had the wherewithal to hire a college coach to help us.

I’ve put money in both kids’ lunch accounts (yep, I have been known to add to one but not the other…oops), gotten Jessie a new (pink) snack bag with the threat that, should she lose it, she is shit outta luck as I am not buying another one, ever.  I have begun the task of getting everyone to at least consider going to bed before midnight in a (perhaps vain) attempt to make mornings go smoothly.  I have even begun hoarding snack sized snacks to drop in backpacks in the morning.  I will take that as four points.  I need ‘em where I can get ‘em.  That brings me to six which is a stupid number – it isn’t five but it isn’t ten, either.  Where to scrounge up another four points?  Let me see…

Medical and dental check-ups have either been had or are scheduled.  If I were greedy (and desperate) I would could that as two points, but will settle for one.  I’ve thought about disassembling the drying rack from the tub which has served as a bathing suit hanger for the summer.  I have gone as far as to consider where it will be stored during the non-water based season.  In my world, that is worthy of a point.  Two more, two more.  I can do this.  Oh, I know!  I have not done it yet, but I am planning to input into my phone/calendar all the important dates of the coming school year (read: the early release and no school days) so I am not caught unaware…not that that has ever happened to me.  And the final point will be earned when I get a chance to unload on my therapist who has been on a much deserved vacation which will, in turn, relieve both me and my family of the walking ball of stress/anxiety/short temperedness that I have become over these few short summer months which everyone else in the world other than me, hates to see end.

I anxiously await the moment when I can point and shoot the “first day of fifth grade” picture and throw it up on Facebook for all to “like”.  I also have high hopes for reaping the benefits of being in a routine and, if nothing else, having six whole hours to myself during which I will be looking for a job.  (Note: anyone with projects or gigs that you need someone like me to fill, I can be your girl!)  With ten points in my pocket I am well on my way to successfully embarking on another adventure: the school year.  To all of you with kids on the same September – June schedule as I:  Good luck as your children go back to school in the next few days.  For those of you who are already well entrenched in the rhythm of the school year: Time to start counting points again!

And The Beat Goes On

This morning, as I lay awake in the wee hours of the morning, I was thinking back on yesterday: the drop off at Jessie’s weeklong overnight camp.  We have all been looking forward to this since back in January when I learned that a wonderful camp exists which is exactly like any other camp with the exception of the fact that all the kids in attendance define themselves as either transgender or gender variant.  There was something magical and surreal about stepping onto those grounds.  A place that, a mere year ago, never would have been on my radar, was suddenly in my nav.

Early in the afternoon Jessie, Harrison, Rich and I piled into the car to head to camp located just over two hours away.  Speaking for myself (which is all I can ever really do, although I have been criticized for being “me” focused) I will cop to an underlying anxiety over what lay ahead.  I had very little idea what to expect and tried to imagine how it felt for Jessie to be heading away for a week with all new people who were, in a profound way, very much like her.  Just as I was driving into a world I can never completely understand, she was leaving a world that doesn’t quite understand her and heading into one in which they do.  That is something that you and I have the luxury of living in every day.  Stop and think about that for a moment.

When we pulled onto the grounds we were greeted by a team of friendly faces welcoming us to camp and directing us where to pull the car for unloading.  As we parked, another car came in directly next to us and out stepped a beautiful teenage girl and her father.  We parents exchanged immediate “hellos” as did Jessie and the other girl.  It took me a beat to realize that she was the camper.  Had I been in any other locale I would never have thought twice about her gender. Seeing (and not taking a second look at) this tall, beautiful long-haired teenage girl who, I belatedly realized, was a biological boy, was a brief and powerful moment for me.  That could well be Jessie in a few short years.

From there we (and by “we” I mean Rich and Harrison) pulled Jessie’s luggage from the trunk (including a huge, fluffy, bright pink pillow) and worked our way over to the welcome table.  I admit that in my head I was silently trying to determine who was transgender and who was not.  It was not that it mattered as much as it was a peek into the future and an attempt to de-emotionalize the experience and see if I could even tell.  Wanna know something: had I not known that we were at a camp for transgender and gender variant kids, I would never have guessed it.  We were at a rustic (read: RUSTIC) camp, with a volleyball net set up in the middle, kids running to embrace friends from last summer, counselors trying to learn who was who and parents hastily throwing sheets over half-inch thick mattresses.  Sounds like any other camp to me.

There were, however, a few telltale signs that this was a special place. For starters, despite my having made Rich stop at McDonald’s for a Diet Coke on the way up (and having used the bathroom while I was there – which I am telling you for a reason…) upon arrival I had to go to the bathroom (see Diet Coke comment).  I asked a nice young man (hmmm) where the bathrooms were and he pointed to a shack a few hundred feet away.  Out of habit, before entering I took a look to see if it said “girls’” or “boys’” but instead was greeted with a sign that said “everyone’s”.  It was a small, but meaningful sign that we weren’t in Kansas anymore.  (Aside: Having been in that bathroom I think it is safe to say that Jessie is going to be longing for her bathroom at home.  She is my kid, after all.)

We proceeded to her bunk where we were greeted by two counselors who, upon learning her name, handed Jessie a sheet of construction paper which had been adorned with her name and allowed her to choose her bed for the week.  After having discussed it in the car, she (in opposition to my suggestion) opted to take the top bunk, with a window at her head.  (I understand the allure, I just never liked being on the top bunk in anticipation of night-time bathroom needs.  I never said I wasn’t neurotic.)  We put together her bed, turned around and noticed that she was gone.  I went to the door of the bunk and found her, along with a girl from her cabin, wandering across the central lawn to explore the camp.  As she did that first day of school as Jessie, she never looked back.  I took that private moment to inquire as to the make up of the bunk and was told that it was made up of all MTF (Male to Female) children, ages 9-11.  Just a beat off of your kids’ bunk assignments, right?

Rich, Harrison and I then began to wander around ourselves checking out the waterfront, the dining hall and the expanse of the grounds.  Set on a lake on a picture perfect afternoon it felt serene and surreal all at once.  At one point while we were strolling I asked Harrison if this all felt “strange” to him.  Without skipping a beat he responded that, “it would be strange if it didn’t feel strange.”  Amen.

With Jessie nowhere in sight, we hung out chatting with some parents that we have met over the past year as well as meeting new ones.  We are parents with a unique bond, coming from varying walks of life, parts of the country and stages of the process.  About 45 minutes after arriving we attended a parent support meeting for all of us to unload and feel the love of the others who are trying to navigate the same waters.  Some of the stories are strikingly familiar (Barbie dolls!), and others (almost exclusively of people other than the parents) would break your heart in a nanosecond.  Harrison attended the meeting as well and was given the opportunity to share his unique insight with the parents as to how their other children may be feeling.  His comment that “more upsetting than his brother becoming his sister is the fact that she can be irritating” garnered laughter and nods of agreement all around.  (Go, Harrison!)

At the assigned end time of the meeting the powers that be told the families that it was time to go.  I spotted Jessie in the middle of the volleyball court among scads of other kids.  I grappled with getting her attention so I could give her one last squeeze before we left but it was clear that she was comfortable and engaged.  We had said our goodbyes earlier and she was officially at camp.

As we were heading to the car, Rich began a conversation with a gentleman with the name tag “Wayne” (oh, by the way, we were all wearing name tags).  We chatted for a few moments when I realized that this was Wayne Maines who (see if you can follow this…): is the father of the twins who were the focus of the article in The Boston Globe which I was reading on George’s tenth birthday which resulted in his (gender and name choice intended) responding with, “you mean I’m not the only one?” and from which this whole adventure was unleashed.  (Insert exhale here).  I introduced myself and, having read some of my writings, he knew just who I was.  Again: unique bond.  I told him that Jessie will be ecstatic to learn that his daughter is there and that we are grateful to him and his family for their willingness to put themselves out there to make things that much less difficult (I won’t say “easy”) for the rest of us.  It seemed an apropos note on which to take our leave.

In the car heading home, the three of us decided that we would take a detour and enjoy a nice dinner just the three of us – something we seldom get an opportunity to do.  We stopped in Newport, Rhode Island and gorged ourselves on fried clams with ice cream chasers while sitting on a deck overlooking the yachts and energy of the pier.  I found myself looking at people wondering if perhaps they were transgender since I had a new understanding that you really cannot tell…more than you might expect.

As I toyed with getting out of bed this morning (no one needed me to wake them up or make them lunch!)  I reflected on the notion that when camp ended for most kids it was just the moment it started for mine.  I think that pretty well sums up a lot of how things go for this kid (and her mom): being just a beat off.  I wondered if she slept all night in that (icky) cabin and if she will manage to brush her teeth even once in the trough that camps consider a sink.  I hoped that her social connections would come more easily given the fact that every girl in her bunk has a penis and shares many of the same thoughts, concerns and issues that she has.  But mostly, I lay in bed hoping that Jessie is having the time of her life.

p.s. I wish I had a picture to show you but, out of respect for the families and the kids who are stealth in their gender identity, no cameras are allowed at camp.  Again, just a beat off.