“If every single person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary—the world really would be a better place. And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God.” ~R.J. Palacio Wonder
Laying in my bed discussing my son’s first day of school, I asked him who he was sitting by in class.
“Well, (name I can’t remember now) and this other (long pause) kid.”
“Why the long pause?” I asked.
“Well, she’s a girl, but she thinks she’s a boy. It’s weird.”
I probed him to tell me more.
“So, she dresses like a boy, and cuts her hair like a boy, but she’s a girl. When the teacher called the roster, she answered, but told everyone she wanted to be called by a different name…a boy’s name.”
Now this was certainly uncharted territory. Before me was an opportunity to teach an extremely important life lesson, but how would I convey it? I didn’t think I had the words.
“First of all, let’s not use the word ‘weird.’ Maybe unusual would be better.”
“Unusual might be nicer, but weird is more accurate,” he insisted. Sigh.
He proceeded to have lots of questions, all of which I felt inadequate to answer. I told him honestly when I didn’t know how to respond, and answered the ones I could.
I concluded with this: “Here is the bottom line. Sometimes boys feel inside like they are girls, and girls feel like they are boys. I don’t know why this happens, and there are a lot of theories. I know for you it’s super hard to understand. Think of how confusing that would be, to not feel quite right in your own skin. I know it’s unusual, but God created everyone special and we need to treat them like that.”
After I left his room, I decided to turn to Google to see if it had any suggestions. I typed, “How to talk to your child about transgender” into the search box. People, this is an important question in our day and age! The results were seriously lacking. The first result was an article by Focus on the Family that made my toes curl, suggesting I teach him about sin and how this girl needs saving. I just don’t think this is what my 10-year-old needs to hear. How about how this child needs loved???? Nothing else was remotely helpful.
Parents, we are living in a time that has never existed before in our country. A time where things that were previously unacceptable have become acceptable. Regardless of our personal feelings about these matters, the individuals that fall into these categories need to feel worthy and purposeful. It is a basic human need, and one that we should honor.
The theme for my son’s grade this year is from the book Wonder: Choose Kind. How appropriate, and what a critical life lesson. “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” – Dr Wayne W. Dyer included in Wonder. There are a lot of choices we can make, but kindness can rarely be the wrong one.
One of my friends posted this quote from the book Spirituality of Gratitude by Joshua Kang on Facebook this morning: “Likewise, we must see our brothers and sisters with respect in order to recognize God’s glory reflected on their faces. In The Weight of Glory, CS Lewis reminds us, “There are no ordinary people.” Imagine what we might miss out on when we simply mark someone off as weird.
I am anxious to see my son’s growth in this area of his life this school year. I’m grateful he has an opportunity to exercise this concept from the very first day. And most importantly, I hope this sweet student feels seen and worthy of others’ kindness this year.
Please, share any advice or thoughts you have. Parenting is so hard, especially when it comes to topics that are relatively new.
I also highly encourage you to read Wonder. It’s one of my all time favorites, and I would recommend reading it with your child (maybe 9 and up) in order to discuss it together.