Friday, January 20, 2006

It's the little things

Two of my co-workers are also pregnant, and one is due in early March. She's beginning to make her plans to leave, even to the point that she realized she will miss the baby showers for the other two of us. So yesterday, to our surprise, she gave us both presents at lunch. As she handed them out, she said, "I hope I didn't mix up the tags." Everyone began to make jokes, because both N. and S. know the sex of their babies (girls, both) while we, of course, don't.

When we opened the packages, we found picture frames with a scrapbooked background reading, "Now I lay me down to sleep; my parents are loving me," along with stars and a crib. N. explained, "You put your picture in it and hang it above the crib." We all oohed and aahed, admiring N.'s creativity and scrapbooking talent (as well as her organizational skills and planning at having our presents for us before she goes on leave!). Just before I headed back to class, I remembered her concern about the "right" packages and snuck a peek at S.'s frame. Hers read, "My mom and dad are loving me." Ah, I thought, it wasn't the sex of the baby.

Twenty-five eager 4th graders followed by 24 very, very needy second graders will drive all higher-order thinking right out of your head, so it wasn't until I was driving to pick up Cait that I had a moment to think about the gifts. Once I did, I nearly broke down crying. It's such a little thing, to change the words. But it says so much about welcoming and acceptance. And that's not something I take for granted, especially as we move into a whole new world of being gay - gay parents, not just individual (or even coupled) lesbians.

I don't even know how to express my feelings to N. when I write a thank-you note. I think she just logically saw that the regular words wouldn't work, so she changed them. No big deal. But that it wasn't a big deal, that she just did it and didn't make a fuss - instead of 1) changing the language but calling major attention to it 2) pretending there is no issue and using the standard language** or 3) avoiding the issue and doing something altogether different for me, since I don't fit the traditional model - that *IS* a big deal.

Elementary schools tend to reinforce notions of traditional family structure and heterosexism by their very nature. Even though many kids have families that don't fit the nuclear model (one parent, grandparent-headed, blended, two moms/dads, etc.) the general assumption in many schools is that a kid has a mom and a dad, and by extension, if you're a pregnant woman, you have a male partner. My school is NOT utopia, and I do deal with this fairly often, especially from parents. But the seamless way that the staff at my school has welcomed me and my family is really wonderful, and I am so glad we are surrounded by open-minded, creative, loving people.

*Ok, so the lines don't scan right anymore. What-ever! The gesture is there.
**Oh, you'd be surprised. Some people just don't THINK! Or care.

12 Comments:

  • That's wonderful that you have such a great staff to work with. Where I live a teacher once complained to the principal because a friend of mine (band instructor) had a Henna tatoo. (She now lives in Fairfax, VA, where I assume things are much more open.) Several others of us were admonished for shacking up. And by far the majority of kids were living with a single parent, a blended family, a grandparent, etc. Having a traditional family is no longer the norm.

    By Blogger Amy, at 8:41 AM  

  • That's so lovely. Nice post.

    By Anonymous bri, at 8:42 AM  

  • That is wonderful. And it would make me teary, too.

    By Blogger Trista, at 10:13 AM  

  • It is a wonderful big deal. How lovely to have such caring and amazing people in your life.

    By Anonymous ks, at 10:36 AM  

  • Beautiful! What a wonderful gesture on her part.

    By Blogger Blondie, at 10:53 AM  

  • Jen--

    What a great story. I have been consistently amazed at how open-minded the folks around me are too.

    Almost gives me hope for the future...

    By Blogger Bekah, at 11:55 AM  

  • This is so nice! It's these little things from people in our lives that can be so encouraging.

    By Anonymous Rebecca, at 4:39 PM  

  • that is SO awesome - I WANNA work at your school!


    :)

    By Blogger Shelli, at 4:41 PM  

  • What a wonderful, kind, sweet soul! And, to be merely a co-worker and yet be so considerate. That's a true gem, there. =)

    By Blogger deanna, at 5:11 PM  

  • What a great friend you have! I love to hear how people who just "get it" do wonderful things for each other. Great post!

    By Blogger tonya, at 11:00 PM  

  • That's fantastic. :)

    By Blogger Kim, at 10:47 AM  

  • Yes, touching gesture. I especially enjoyed hearing your thoughts and feelings on it. And my obsessive brain kept trying to come up with a version that *would* scan correctly.

    Look - my parents are watching me?

    Both my moms are watching me?

    Now my moms are watching me?

    Aaagh!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:38 AM  

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