Tuesday, November 26, 2013

That Time My Kid Called a Woman "Him"

Act #330:  Take cues from the kiddos.

Last week we had some new friends over to our house for dinner.  Sam, a guest of one of our friends, was a stunning woman with short hair, a sharp jawbone, and facial hair.  She had that effortlessly dapper fashion sense and wore dark blue jeans, a t-shirt, and a blazer. If I saw Sam out on the streets and wasn't previously made aware that she was born a female, I would have easily concluded that she was a very handsome man.  Sam was simply delightful - grew up in a big upstate New York family with a bunch of younger siblings - and thus quickly became iPad buddies with our 6-year old son, Jack. 

Jack referred to Sam using the terms "he" and "him"  throughout the night, and each time (after cringing inside), I watched Sam closely, in order to get cues on whether or not I should correct Jack publicly or pull him aside.  Sam appeared to be unfazed and continued to laugh and joke around with Jack as if she didn't even hear him.  So I didn't say anything.   If I had to be honest, I was on edge all night, worried that I'd say the wrong thing, that someone would say something offensive, that my kid might blurt out something inappropriate, and that Sam would be made to feel unwelcome.  And then about an hour into our evening, when I was in the kitchen and Jack and Sam were sitting on the couch deeply engaged in a new iPad game that allowed them to dress up an animated cat, I heard Jack say these words:  "Sam, I know you're really a girl but you look like a boy.  I'm sorry I keep on calling you him. Can we put a hat on that kitten?"  I froze.  At that moment, I felt like the whole world froze, but no one else seemed to have heard Jack's comment but me.  And without missing a beat, Sam laughed and said, "Should we use the Santa hat or the fedora?"

And just like that, all the tension was gone.  All the insignificant questions that had been swirling through my mind (and probably all the minds of our guests) since Sam first stepped foot into our home vanished.  Was she a lesbian?  Was she transgendered?  Should I refer to her as her or as him

Suddenly, none of that really mattered.  

Our oblivious little 6-year old broke all the ice, all the tension when he simply stated an observation without assigning any value or judgment to it.  And then he moved on to the important things: like dressing up a cat and playing with his awesome new friend. And he humbled and taught the rest of the grown adults in the room an important lesson:  It really doesn't matter how people look or choose to dress - it has absolutely no bearing on the kind of person they are inside.  Jack knew from the start what the grown-ups in the room seemed to have forgotten - that regardless of how Sam self-identified, she was warm, kind, and fun-loving.  And that clearly, cats look cuter with fedoras than with Santa hats.

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