It started out like any normal conversation that I would have with Azcal and Wolfie on the way home from school. I asked Azcal how her day at school had gone and she shook her head and rolled her eyes. Knowing Azcal, this wasn’t enough for me to be alarmed. It was the conversation that followed that had me questioning my parenting skills.
“So, mom, I wish for you to know that today I fought with a friend at school.”
“Ok, Azcal, but why are you fighting? You have four days left of school and you feel like you need to fight with your friends before summer vacation?”
“Well, for your information, her name is Ashley and she tried to tell me that I couldn’t stand in the line that I was standing in.”
Before I began to judge who was right and who was wrong, I asked Azcal if maybe she didn’t hear the directions that the teacher gave and maybe WAS standing in the wrong line. So I asked, “Do you think that Ashley was just trying to tell you which line to be in so you didn’t get in trouble?”
WRONG QUESTION TO ASK A HEAD-STRONG CHILD!
“For your information, mother, I was standing in the boys line because it was shorter. The teacher put us in lines based on gender and I didn’t feel that I needed to define my gender to anyone. I chose the shorter line. That’s all.”
At this point I was driving on auto-pilot and missed my left turn. I know that I am a progressive mom and keep lines of communication open with my children, but this one blew me out of the water. I stayed quiet for about half a block because I was trying to get the right words together. I couldn’t even speak fast enough when Wolfie hits me with this one…
“I know what you mean, Azcal. It’s like when people say that girls can’t wear boy clothes or that boys can’t wear girl clothes. Why CAN’T I wear a skirt? Is there something wrong with that? I am proud of you, Azcal, for standing in the line.”
I just about lost my mind at that moment. I said, “No, Wolfie, you shouldn’t wear a skirt unless you will be playing the bagpipes. And maybe the teacher was trying to separate the class because the boys didn’t behave as well as the girls.”
Azcal said, “Mom, you have no idea what even happened. The teacher said there was a boys line and a girls line. The girls got in the girls line and the boys got in the boys line.”
“Ok, then it was clear. Why didn’t you get in the girls line?” I asked. (Because I don’t know any better, I guess!)
“And there you go, mom, trying to define my gender. UGH, you are just like my teacher. I am going to stand in the shortest line, ok, are you happy?”
At this point I knew that I couldn’t say anything right. It was easier to keep my mouth shut and let the two of them talk it out in the backseat. Wolfie and Azcal fight like dogs and cats half the time, and are fist-pumping allies the other half. This was definitely an ally moment for the pair.
The conversation continued between them about the outfits that they can share from their closets. Wolfie promised Azcal that she could wear all of his Star Wars shirts AND his neckties, while Azcal was promising Wolfie that he can wear her leggings because they would look good with his cowboy boots.
I must admit that I was a bit surprised by the way the conversation continued for over a mile and a half before we got to my mom’s house. Then all of a sudden Azcal whispers, “Ok, baby chubby, just remember that if anyone judges us, we have to tell them that we can be whoever we want to be.”
I dropped them off a few minutes later and sat alone in my car processing the conversation. I questioned both my response and the responses that I didn’t say out loud.
· Should I have told Azcal that it was rude not to follow the teacher’s instructions for the line she was supposed to stand in?
· Should I have told Wolfie that wearing a skirt will undoubtedly cause others to judge him…and to judge me?
· Should I have reminded Azcal that her gender is female and reminded her that her closet only reflects the girly-girl we all know she is?
· Should I have started with the question to Wolfie about how his day went and possibly avoided this conversation with my children?
The answer to these questions is a resounding NO. So maybe I won’t be named the parent of the year by the Westboro Baptist Church. Maybe Azcal’s teachers will be calling me in the future to let me know she isn’t fitting into their prescribed boxes. Maybe there are days that Azcal feels like a boy more than she feels like a girl—who am I to determine that? And maybe, just maybe, I need to relax and not overthink the conversation. Right?
All I know is that I didn’t have these conversations with my mom when I was 9. I don’t even have these conversations with my mom at 43. But if you ask my sister, Claudia, if I believed I was a boy when I was younger, she will probably ask you which day of the week you are asking about…the apples do not fall far from the tree!