The other day it arrived in E’s backpack. The letter about the puberty movie. E is in fourth grade and in her school, that’s when they start showing the kids short films about puberty. Here’s how it works: they separate the boys and girls, show the movies and have a short instructional and question and answer period. I had been anticipating this for some time and I figured this wasn’t going to fly with E.
Since we live in a world where most people live as either male or female, I’ll share with you that currently, E is called “she” and is known as a girl. But she absolutely rejects being grouped together with girls. I had been speaking with other moms of girls and they expressed how their daughters did not want to watch the movie. The girls were nervous, unsure, embarrassed. The moms were able to comfort them by telling them that they would be watching with other girls; they were all in the same boat. This bit of information would not comfort E. It would upset her, drawing attention to the fact that she is not in the same boat as anyone she knows.
And as her mom, neither am I. Each hurdle along the way, each situation, brings up a whole host of conflicting emotions.
There is part of me that wanted to just tell her that I would make other arrangements for her – to let her know that I understand her and would not even present to her the possibility of me putting her in the position of sitting in a group of girls talking about breasts and periods. If you knew her, you would know how preposterous that is. But there is another part of me that doesn’t want to push her in one direction or the other. That is conflicted about my own feelings about her gender and doesn’t want that to factor into anything. That sees the rightness in just letting her experience her own emotions on this and countless other issues that come up in the life of kid who lives outside the gender norm.
There’s the part of me that just wants her to be my little girl.
There’s the part of me that just wants to her to settle into a gender box. Complete with all the bells and whistles that go along with that.
These things would make it all easier for me. But it’s not about me. I try to get my roller coaster emotions in check. I try to stay on course. I even out my expression and my voice and ask her about it.
Her face is not even. Her voice crumbles. No, mommy, please no.
This is a not a reaction I would describe as unsure or embarrassed. It is deep and it is scared.
So on that afternoon, I bring her home and give her lunch. We cuddle on the couch and watch a puberty movie of my selection (check out the Procter and Gamble website for good ones.) It covers topics for both boys and girls. She draws in close and watches quietly. And when it’s over, she just stays there a little longer. No questions. Or maybe too many to ask.