Category Archives: Parenting

VI

Today I have a six year old. Charlotte Clayton is six.

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Charlotte is each and every one of the following at any given time of day:

  • fierce
  • quiet
  • patient
  • kind
  • sassy
  • loud
  • snuggly
  • chill
  • creative
  • cheerful
  • wiggly

Charlotte is so many things at so many different times of the day or week and sometimes lots of things at once. She is smart and she is SO. FREAKING. HILARIOUS. If you look too deep in her eyes, she’ll keep you there, so be careful. She’s striking, the epitome of fashion and her androgynous style and the way she pulls it off is pretty rad.

She’s our number four, our loudest girl, the most daring and the most confident. She is a really good friend and she’s such a sweet soul – she’s empathetic towards others’ situations and sometimes she catches me by surprise with the way she understands some really hard things.

She’s named after one of our favorite people and his spirit shows through her all the time. She’s fun and she’s full of stories and she wants to be friends with everyone.

Without Charlotte, our lives would be quieter and more boring. We’d laugh a little less and we’d probably use 1/2 as many Bandaids.

Happiest, happiest of days to our sweet, fun, and sassy Charlotte Clayton.

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Name change parties and a happy boy.

Kids are funny, yeah? Unless you teach them something isn’t quite right, they roll with it. Unless you teach them that one is better than another, they think everyone is equal. Unless you teach them that a little girl who never felt like a girl at all, but more like a boy who is now living his true self is sick and wrong, they’ll think it’s the most logical thing to do. Be who you are, don’t worry about what others think.

I asked Luke what he would say to someone who didn’t support him, who thought it wasn’t right for someone with girl parts to really be a boy and live like a boy. He said, “I would tell them that it’s okay to be who you are and you should just accept people for who they are.”

Kids get it.

So when I went to Luke’s school and spoke to the principal, the school psychologist, and his classroom teacher, we all pretty much agreed that this would be a smooth transition, that children would be accepting. Because that’s how things should be. Treat others how you would like to be treated. Call me crazy, but I think maybe that even includes transgender children and adults. So imagine my surprise when one of the teachers refused to be supportive (not Luke’s classroom teacher and not the school psychologist or principal…they were and are so amazing. My kids are so lucky to be at that school). She refused to take this as an opportunity to teach her students that Alice isn’t transforming into another person completely, she’s just changing her name to Luke and would like to live as a boy…that same friend is still there, just with shorter hair and a different spelling of the name. Imagine my surprise when she not only put his name change party invites into a sealed white envelope for her class, but also posted about it on Facebook, telling parents that the kids have no idea what’s in the envelope and she wanted them to see it before making a decision. The invite literally just said, “name change party.” I didn’t use words like transgender or queer or go into detail about our situation.  There wasn’t even a rainbow on the invite for God’s sake. It was a simple invitation to all of Luke’s friends to come and celebrate this huge change.

I shouldn’t have been too surprised. Some adults will make a big deal out of things no matter what. Even when it makes it harder for children, harder for families, adults still feel like they  need to insert themselves into every situation and try and take charge. This isn’t something that anyone can really take charge of. It’s not something that can change. This is just the way it is, and if you know Luke, you know it’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.

This weekend was Luke’s name change party and how lucky are we that so many people came?

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All these people were here for Luke. Parents I had never met, close friends, kids from the other class, siblings…all of these friends were here to tell Luke that he’s great. That this change is one that will be met with love and support more often than judgment and hate. These are the people who will be his allies, his helpers, the people he can go to when things get hard.

Oh, these friends of ours (and so many that weren’t able to come and aren’t pictured, too!)

I think I took more Polaroid photos than I did normal ones, but this is a pretty good representation. Luke’s face never quit smiling.

We had food and goodies and such a great time.

Gifts. People brought Luke gifts.

What’s one way that someone can show you they love you? By traveling hours and hours for an event that they know is almost as important as a birth to you. (It was. That might sound crazy but this was so important.)

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These guys know life isn’t easy and they know it’s going to be even harder for Luke. They know that the one teacher who isn’t supportive is just a tiny taste of what we’ll be met with for years and years. They know that one thing that a child can never get enough of is love. My kids have no doubt about who they can turn to when they need it.

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These are my people. And all the ones on the other side of the camera. And all the ones to the side and behind us. All the people who see Luke for who he is, what his heart shows, how he treats others, how he loves and how we love him. These are our people, whether they were at the party or not, those who show us love and respect and compassion – those are our people.

 

There’s a song in Hamilton (I know, I know) and the lyrics make me tear up every time.

 

“…you will come of age with our young nation.

We’ll bleed and fight for you.

We’ll make it right for you.

If we lay a strong enough foundation,

We’ll pass it on to you,

We’ll give the world to you

And you’ll blow us all away

Someday, someday.”

Every time I sing this song, I think of what I’m doing for my kids. How hard I’m working, how hard my family is working, how hard my friends are working. It’s not always easy to speak out when you know something is wrong. It’s not always easy to be who you truly are, especially when so many people so loudly disagree. It’s heartbreaking to see someone hate your child when they don’t even know them.

But if we lay a strong enough foundation, we’ll give the world to our children. And they’ll blow us all away. That, I know, and that’s why I’m willing to fight and make it right.

The Danish Way

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I’m particular. Shocking, I know.

I know exactly the type of people I want my children to be (not specifically, like their professions, looks, sexuality, that kind of thing — but generally). I want them to be loving, kind, patient, accepting, helpful. I want my children to be freaking happy.

In my constant quest for my children’s happiness I come across lots and lots of parenting books. This isn’t fair for me to say and there’s no reason really that I should think this, but any American-based parenting guide or book is something I walk right past. Why? I feel like America, as a culture, doesn’t do the very best in raising happy, empathetic, well-adjusted kids. Don’t confuse this with me saying I don’t know any Americans who are great parents. That’s not true at all. I know lots and lots of really great American parents. But like I said, I’m particular. We all look for things that tailor to our own belief system and when it comes to parenting books, I tend to lean towards un-American. I did it, I said it.

Before reading this book (“The Danish Way of Parenting”) my favorite was “Bringing up Bebe” by Pamela Druckerman. She’s funny and real and I loved how she gave real-life experiences with French mothers to back up what she was saying. I loved it. But then I saw this book at Book People in Moscow and didn’t even read the back cover before putting it on the checkout desk. I read it in one sitting and it’s now my favorite.

The Danes are happy and there must be a reason why. It’s not just a coincidence that all the happiest people were born there, am I right? I am, I’ll answer that for you. I’m right. The Danes know how to parent and now that I’m privy to some of their secrets  parenting ways, I feel like a dumbass. It’s all so obvious. It’s so common sense and easy.

Don’t resort to automatically telling your children they are the best and smartest.

Teach empathy.

Look on the bright side of things.

Help your child find their own solutions to their own problems, don’t do it for them.

Let kids play – imaginative, fun, creative, non-electronic play.

These are all things I know but have a hard time executing. I don’t spank, but I do sometimes yell. Not good. I turn the TV on when I just want peace and quiet. I sometimes dwell on things I’m bad at, not the things I’m great at. I force my kids to share their toys at the first hint of another child’s jealousy instead of letting them figure it out for themselves and coming up with a solution.

You guys, buy this book. Or borrow it from me. Or check it out from the library. Just get your hands on a copy and read it.