“Honey, I volunteered for your school’s reading celebration next week. I know that you’re a little nervous about me coming to your school, so I wanted to tell you ahead of time in case you wanted to talk about it,” I said to my seven-year-old daughter, P., as I tucked her in to bed one night. Volunteering at her child’s school might not be much of a monumental event for most Moms. For this Mom, though, it’s huge.
Biologically speaking, I am not “Mommy;” I’m Daddy. But I transitioned a couple of years ago, and slowly the kids are getting used to having two Mommies. The change in terms of job, friends, and family was easy, as these sorts of things go. No one knows that I transitioned unless I tell them — I blend in.
The minefields lay in handling things with my kids. Things such as keeping them secure and comfortable, or dealing with being banned from my son’s preschool when they learned of my transition. A lawsuit from my ex-spouse to have my parental rights taken away certainly didn’t make for a smooth ride. But we managed to get past all that and are now settling back into life.
One bridge that we hadn’t crossed was me coming to P’s school. Although she is perfectly comfortable and loving around me, she was fearful of having me come to school. Last year, when she told a little girl that I had changed, the girl teased her, so I decided it was best to keep a low profile with respect to school for a while. Eventually, though, we need to learn that we don’t hide just because we’re different.
The week school started, I got an email asking for six volunteers for a “reading celebration,” an event where all the kids who did their summer reading get a treat and a little extra free time. Seemed like a good opportunity where I could help as *a* parent, not necessarily as P’s parent. So I signed up.
A couple nights after I told P. that I was coming, I received a phone call from my ex-spouse telling me that I should not come to the school — that it was against P’s wishes, and that I was putting my needs ahead of my daughter’s. I tried in vain to explain to my ex that I purposely chose this specific event because there would be several parents helping, there’d be a lot of activity, and P didn’t have to acknowledge me if she didn’t feel comfortable doing so. I did second-guess myself a few times, though… was I truly doing this for her and not for me? In the end, I decided that two involved parents are better than one, and that both P and I needed to face our fears.
The night before, I tried to call P. to tell her that it was OK if when we saw each other, we could just wink… no need to say hello if she didn’t want to. Alas, my ex did not answer nor did she have P. return my call. So all I could do was hope that this would be a non-event, as I anticipated it would be.
The morning of the reading celebration arrived. The other Moms and I moved around chairs in the library, prepared the treat station, and managed to figure out how set up the Wii. One by one, the grades came to the outdoor courtyard next to the library. They got their Freezy-Pops for reading 20 books over the summer. They played dodgeball, hula-hoops, and Wii Dance. My job was handing out Freezy-Pops. Ever tried to hand out Freezy-Pops to 30 gradeschoolers, in 90 degree heat, while ensuring they all get the color they want, *and* making sure their eager hands stay far away from the scissors with which you’re opening up said Freezy-Pops? It’s not easy!!
Third grade arrived first, then first grade, then fourth, and then my daughter’s grade. I stood next to my cooler of more-or-less-frozen Freezy-Pops and watched as the second graders entered the courtyard, my daughter among them. I looked at her and was about to wink, but then she burst out of line, sprinted over to me with a look of determination that I wish I could adequately describe, fists clenched, and hugged me like there was no tomorrow. Felt like she was saying to me and to others, “This is *my* parent and I love her, darnit!!” No one paid us any mind — this was just a child hugging her parent. I told P. that I loved her and that I was saving a special red Freezy-Pop just for her. And off she went to play with her friends.
She came over once more for hugs before it was time for the second-graders to go back to their classroom. One more class came, and then I cleaned up with the other Moms and went back home, glad that I had supported my child’s school and proud of her for facing her fears. Things went better than I had hoped.
The week after, once again I was tucking my daughter into bed. I told her that I loved hugging her at the celebration, but it would have been okay if she just had smiled or something. “No, Mommy,” she replied. “When I saw you, it gave me courage. I think now that I want you to come for the Mothers’ Day party. You should get to come, too.” We’ll see about that. I do feel as if that particular holiday should be reserved for P’s biological mother. Anyway, we’ll deal with that in May. For now, I’m just happy that we all learned something together.
And next year, I will cut open the Freezy-Pops *before* all the children arrive.