During the school year, I lead a reading group of 2nd graders. We meet once a week before school to read and discuss stories. Every year it’s a different group/different number of kids. They read at different levels. This makes for some interesting discussions, as you would expect with 7-8 year olds. We meet in a 1st grade classroom, which makes the 2nd graders feel very mature and grown up. You would think they were teenagers who had not been in that room in 6 years by the way they act. It’s very cute. (But I would never tell them that!)
In the beginning we crowded around a small table in the back of the room but I’m more of a “sit on the floor” type of person so I persuaded the group to move to the carpeted area. By the time our group ends each week, students are arriving for school so there is always some overlap with 1st graders coming into the room while we are trying to leave.
One day we were nearing the end of the story, trying to finish before the students started pouring in. One of the boys was reading when this small whirlwind of a child swooped in on our table and barked out, “Jesus Crackers!” In the blink of an eye and a mass of brownish blonde curls, the child was gone. The boy reading hesitated and then kept reading as if nothing had happened.
We had visits from “Jesus Crackers” two more times in the upcoming weeks, both times with no warning and the exclamation of “Jesus Crackers” before the student had scurried over to another desk to say something to someone else. In both instances a teacher’s aide moved over and redirected the child.
I found myself watching for this child. At first glance I thought this kid was a girl. Shoulder length loose curls- wild and out of control- totally reminding me of how unmanageable Kris’s curls are when left untended. But at a closer look at the clothes being worn, I wasn’t sure. I didn’t see a single “feminine” color. (And I know, go ahead and shake your head at me. I was totally trying to pin a gender on this kid- I never even realized I was doing it.) As I observed this child every week I couldn’t find anything to point to boy or girl. Not a single article of clothing. (Yes, I know…..shame on me but I truly did not realize what I was doing.)
Then at an award ceremony at the end of the school year I saw the student again. Gunnar. His name is Gunnar. Okay, that was all fine and good.
Fast forward to 2 hours ago when I accompanied Jasmine to drop CJ off at summer kindergarten camp at school. As I was leaving, I heard a child talking excitedly to a teacher who was standing by the door. I recognized that voice. From behind I saw nondescript shorts and t-shirt, purple flip flops, and yes, the head of unruly curls. It was Gunnar.
The purple flip flops gave me pause. Was Gunnar a girl?
BAM! It was at that moment, yes FINALLY, it hit me what I was doing. Who cared if Gunnar was a boy or a girl or someone in between? Gunnar is a bright, confident kid who seems to know who he or she is and isn’t afraid to show it and judging by his or her clothing, has supportive parents. That’s all that really matters in the end. (And I really do need to get on the ball here! What was I thinking?)