The Back to School Basics of Transition
by U. A. Nigro
One, I always love having the girls home from school. Two, the sunshine, warm temperatures and baseball games. Three, the days are longer and more productive. Four, throwing our schedules out the window and being spontaneous. Five, getting outdoors and appreciating just how beautiful our earth is. Oh how I hate to see the summer go, but it’s September. That means notebooks, pencils, lunch boxes and book bags. You have new teachers, classes, and bus drivers. Then it is back to waking up before the sun and doing homework late into the night.
“THINKING BACK TO TWO YEARS AGO, MY GIRLS FINISHED UP SCHOOL IN JUNE WITH A MOM AND A DAD AND RETURNED TO SCHOOL IN SEPTEMBER WITH TWO MOMS.”
For some children the transition from summer back to school is easy. In our house we always walk around like zombies for the first two weeks of school. That is usually how long it takes us to get back on a school schedule. Thinking back to two years ago, my girls finished up school in June with a mom and a dad and returned to school in September with two moms. What a strange thing for a child to have to experience and navigate. I have tried to put myself in their shoes and look at the situation through their eyes. What would I have said to my friends, acquaintances and teachers? Would I have had the courage to just come out with it? My “dad” is transgender and is now living as a woman. Or would I have hidden it like a dirty family secret?
Our three girls are so different. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that they have the same parents. Each of them took the news about my wife’s transition differently. Our number one seemed to take it well, but privately struggled a little. Mostly because of all the attention that she said I was giving to my wife at the time. In a way it made her feel excluded. Our number two is super sensitive. She had the hardest time of all. Her feeling was that my wife was moving through transition faster than she would have liked. So we tried to be mindful of her feelings and take it slow. Our number three took the news effortlessly. It was as if you asked her to pass the gravy. Thankfully my wife found a fantastic gender therapist who runs an office of about ten therapists. All the girls went separately and we did family sessions as well. I couldn’t be happier with the results as we are closer than ever before as a family.
“BIGOTRY AND RACISM ARE NOT SOMETHING THAT WE ARE BORN WITH. THEY ARE LEARNED BEHAVIORS THAT CHILDREN PICK UP FROM THE ADULTS IN THEIR LIVES.”
Fortunately for us, our girls were out of elementary and middle school when my wife came out. From what I have witnessed, it is harder on the adults of young children than the children themselves dealing with this. All of our nephews were nine and under when my wife came out. All of their parents worried about telling them and obsessed about finding just the right words and just the right time. It was starting to drive me nuts. All the boys took the news exceptionally well. Kids are great. They don’t see the world in black and white the way adults do. To them, everyone is equal. Bigotry and racism are not something that we are born with. They are learned behaviors that children pick up from the adults in their lives. When they get into middle school is when you start to see them get judgmental of their piers.
I remember at the beginning of every year in elementary school the girls having an “all about my family” or an “all about me” assignment to do. They always looked forward to them. So here you are going through transition with your spouse and your children, and you need to find a way to tell the world without taking out an ad in the newspaper. In the past I have found that honesty is always the best policy. At any time in our girl’s lives when we were going through something big at home, I always spoke to their teachers to let them know. A note is ok, but a phone conversation is best. Our children spend so much of their day at school. I think it’s important for parents and teachers to all be on the same page. If they are struggling with something that could distract them at school, most teachers would want to know about it.
I will never forget when my youngest, who was in the first grade at the time, came home from school with a story. She was telling me about a girl she met who was so super funny. She finished the story with, “and she has two mommies.” She was seven and could care less that her new friend had two mommies. My hope is that people everywhere would tell their children that there are all different kinds of families. Some have two mommies and some have two daddies. Some only have one parent and there are some children being raised by their grandparents. We need to teach love and acceptance of all people. All families are different, but we are all human. And while we are at it, take a lesson from our kids and figure out a way to get rid of the shame we take on when our spouse is going through transition. No one in this situation has done anything to be ashamed of and when you come across an ignorant person, educate them.