“I don’t see your kids playing outside much anymore. Is everything ok?”
“Yes, it’s just those twins down the block. They are such nightmares. I don’t want my kids playing with them so it’s been easier to just stay in.”
I’m listening to this conversation between two moms that I really like. I get what they are saying too. I’ve had a similar situation in the past where my kids and I have sprinted from car to house in an effort to avoid being swarmed by annoying neighbor kids.
The twins are out of control, they say. Mean to everyone. Running wild with no parental supervision or nurture. Then they start talking about the twins’ “weird” older brother. The one who squeezes into his younger sister’s skinny jeans. They don’t fit. He looks ridiculous.
“Because he wears girl’s clothes?” I ask.
You can picture this. These moms know E. And to know E is to know that she dresses everyday in boys clothes. I feel a little bad for them – they are caught by the gender police. They are learning, as I am. I’ve just been lucky enough to have had a crash course in this topic.
Now they are stumbling. He clearly wants to dress in girl’s clothes, but he jams himself into clothes that don’t fit. That is why he looks ridiculous.
I don’t know this kid. He could be a terror. But my heart swells for him. “Let’s think about this,” I offer. “Like you said, he probably just wants to wear girl’s clothes. But his parents won’t buy them for him, so he squeezes into his little sister’s clothes. Without their approval or support. That is a lot to manage for a 5th grader.” I present this scenario to them as a possibility. Something to be considered, with compassion. They are good people, and they take it in. I tell them I know how hard it is to parent in that situation. This kid’s parents may just not be equipped.
It makes me wonder how equipped I am. I think about the mistakes I have made along the way. The ones that I will make in the future. There’s no roadmap for this. And my sympathy broadens, to include this child’s parents as well.
There is one thing I know for sure. There was a time when the conversation would have died in a sea of nods of agreement: this kid is just weird. I would have been silent, complicit. I am proud that now, I am more than that. And I have E to thank.