My daughter Matilda transitioned into kindergarten last week. Matilda is a girl who only dresses in boy clothes –yes, you’re right, exactly like Shiloh Jolie-Pitt. On any given day you will see her in basketball shorts, a Spidey tee shirt and some Sketchers bad ass light up shoes from the boy’s side of the store. The thing is, although I’m totally used to it since she’s been dressing this way since she was three, I still struggled with how I could best help her make the transition into a new school. I don’t know if you’re aware of this but it’s really hard to be different.
Matilda isn’t different on purpose. She certainly doesn’t dress like a boy to stand out in a crowd. This isn’t like adding a blue streak to your hair when you’re fifteen. This is just who she is. I think if you asked her she would say she wishes she weren’t different. She would say she wishes it were easier to make friends and that it was easier for people to “get her.” This is a kid who craves love, acceptance and friendship.
When Matilda was in camp over the summer she told me that some of the kids kept asking her if she was a boy or a girl. She said she would tell them that she was a girl but they just kept asking her and saying, “Well then why do you like Superheroes? Why are you wearing a Spongebob shirt? Why do you have Hot Wheels in your lunch box to play with?” This really hurt her feelings. At first I tried to ask her if maybe the kids were just confused and I told her it was okay to just let them know that she’s a girl and it didn’t mean they were insulting her. But she said she tried that and that they just kept asking her even though their question had been asked and answered. Obviously, I didn’t like hearing that. But what can you do besides speak to the counselors and make sure they keep an eye out for her right?
About two weeks before school started, Mattie kept saying she was nervous about school. She was so nervous to try to make friends because making friends is really hard, she told me. This is when I made a suggestion to her that maybe we could get her some girl shirts from Target -not girlie but just from the girl’s section- so that people would know that she’s a girl but she would still feel like herself. She agreed to this and seemed excited when we chose a baseball tee with purple sleeves and she even said she’d wear a pair of purple leggings.
The night before school arrived and she laid out a Spider Man t-shirt and the purple leggings to wear for her first day. But the next morning she changed her mind and threw on her basketball shorts instead.
She needed to be herself.
For me, it would have been easier if she wore something to signify she’s a girl. It would have eased my transition. I thought I would worry less if she weren’t faced with the questions or the possibility of teasing. But it turns out that this wasn’t about me, it was about her. And she’s a girl who only likes boy things. That’s who she is. And that’s how she would like to present herself. She doesn’t want to pretend to be something she’s not.
She doesn’t have a buzz cut, or try to go by a boy’s name. She wants to use the girl’s bathroom like all the other girls. But she wants to be friends with the boys. And if there’s a game of “house” or “school” going on, she wants to be the son, dad, prince, boy etc.
My daughter may look different and act differently than you expect a girl to look and behave but she is the same as your kid. She has the same fears and insecurities, the same passion for fruit roll-ups and Gogurt, the same hugs and silliness. She’s kind and thoughtful, beautiful inside and out. She just doesn’t like girl sh*t.
If you meet her at school or anywhere else, you are welcome to ask if she’s a girl or a boy and if you just assume she’s a boy and she corrects you, you don’t need to be embarrassed or to try to justify yourself by telling me you didn’t know because she’s dressed like a boy. All you have to do is smile and say “Great! Nice to meet you, Matilda.” Don’t worry, I’m still learning too.