I was talking with Caroline, a fellow second grade mom, setting up a playdate between her son Henry and my son Sam. Henry and Sam had never played outside of school before, but recently discovered a mutual love of Wii Star Wars.
Caroline suggested Monday, but Sam had speech therapy; I suggested Tuesday but that’s Henry’s speech therapy day. We settled on Wednesday.
The date set, Caroline asked me what Sam can eat; she knows he has celiac disease and a restricted diet. Discussing Sam’s food needs made me realize I should mention that, due to Sam’s sleep disorder, he might be very tired after school, and that he could have mood issues. I told her to call me if there were any problems.
Later I realized that I hadn’t said anything about gender to Caroline. Celiac, speech, sleep, mood—they’d all come up in a few sentences. But gender was a non-issue.
For so long, gender was the only topic that came up. If a new friend came to our home, we’d have to watch the child’s reaction when he saw the pink canopy over Sam’s bed. We’d have to watch his parents for any issues with Sam putting on a princess dress. If Sam went to a new child’s house, we’d have to manage the situation if Sam preferred his male friend’s sister’s toys to his friend’s toys.
Somehow, after five years of Sam expressing his preference for pink, gender is fading into the background. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that Sam’s favorite thing to think about and talk about these days is Star Wars. Once kids and parents get to know him, his fascination with Star Wars is more center-stage than his long hair and pink shoes.
Sam’s class is studying Japan this week. They have learned to count in Japanese, have tasted Japanese foods and listened to Japanese stories. Today, their teacher put a list of names up on the board in two columns, the male column and the female. Sam chose a female name: “Katana,” which means “sword.”
Of course. A female name signifying a weapon is just about the fullest possible expression of Sam.
“Michael made fun of me for my Japanese name,” Sam reported over dinner tonight. I was surprised–Michael is one of Sam’s best friends.
“What did you tell him?” I asked.
“I told him I just like the name,” Sam said. “He stopped teasing me then.”
After a lifetime of Sam determinedly being himself and no one but himself, is it possible that people really are getting used to him? In our small community–and for the time being–the answer may actually be…yes.