Rainbows and Restrooms
My 5 year old started kindergarden in September. Aside from the normal worries most parents have about their little ones – will they be hungry, will they soil themselves, will they get picked on, will the teacher be nice, will they make friends – I had an extra worry: will the restroom be safe?
Maybe other parents worry about this too, or maybe they don’t think about it at all? I don’t remember being overly worried when our daughter started school 4 years ago. The kindergarden class had its own single washroom right beside the classroom, and my biggest worry was that she wouldn’t close the door!
Now that my youngest is going to the same school and the class is right beside this kindergardeners-only single washroom, it didn’t occur to me until the first week that restrooms would be an issue. Until I found out that the teacher takes the kids to the bathroom right before lunch and recess – she takes them all single file to the main washrooms around the corner, and sends the girls to the girls’ washroom and the boys to the boys’ washroom.
Yesterday my son came home and told me that he had gone into the boys’ washroom and 5 boys had told him he couldn’t be in there, that he wasn’t a boy. He assured them that he WAS a boy, and he was in the right spot. I don’t know what happened after that – did he use the restroom? Did he cry? Did he walk back out? Did they push him? Did they laugh at him? Did they ask to see his penis??
Perhaps his long hair, blue butterfly dress, peach leggings, and pink shoes confused them. Yes, I could see how that could happen. Totally understandable and I don’t blame them at all for thinking he is a girl! He’s a rainbow. He always has been, and his colourful sweetness is a bright light in an otherwise plain world.
I suddenly realized that the boys’ washroom was not a safe place for him to be. I remembered what happened to my good friend’s son when he started kindergarden 4 years ago – after acting strangely for a few weeks, he finally told his Mom that the boys in the restroom were making him put their penises in his mouth but he didn’t want to tell her because he knew she would be mad! A cold chill ran through my bones yesterday when that suppressed memory came rushing to the forefront of my brain…
Twice I had asked the teacher to make my son use the single washroom beside the classroom – was she not doing that?? Why was he using the big washroom with other boys? Perhaps my son had wanted to blend in and just went where he was told. I decided to talk to the teacher the next morning to insist that he not be allowed to use the boys’ washroom. He was too young to defend himself or stand up to more aggressive boys.
This morning as I was getting the kids’ backpacks ready, I looked into his agenda (I should really get in the habit of doing that right after school so I can deal with things same-day). In yesterday’s spot, the teacher had written a long note to us. It said that they were trying to teach our son to use the single washroom before recess and lunch, and that the Principal of the school was going to be taking him there yesterday and today. Then an older student would be taking over and escorting him each day, presumably for the remainder of the semester. They want him to have an escort because the single washroom doesn’t have a sink, so the escort will bring him back to class to make sure he washes his hands before eating.
WOW!!! The PRINCIPAL?? Oh my! I was so happy to read this note, and so touched that the Principal was taking time out of her busy schedule to escort MY child to the restroom!!! I went from anger, worry, and despair to elation and relief within seconds. Whew!
They are stepping up and looking out for my child. I hate that we are needing extra attention (some would say coddling?), but I am eternally grateful that they are taking my child’s feelings and safety into consideration. I don’t know how other schools deal with things like this, if at all, but I am so happy that my kids go to a school that recognizes gender neutrality.
Who knows how this is going to turn out! I have no idea what’s going to happen when he’s in Grade 1 and not allowed to use that single restroom anymore! Will he opt for boy clothes so he can use the washroom safely? Will he hold it all day and get a bladder infection? Will he hate school and not want to go? I would rather pull him out of school than have him be afraid to use the bathroom.
I will always let my son be whoever he wants to be, and if he chooses to wear dresses and have long hair because he wants to be a girl, so be it. If he wants to tell people he’s a boy, fine. If he wants to tell people he’s a girl, that’s cool too. He will make his own decisions and find his way in this world. My job is not only to guide him, but also to be his soft place to land when things go sideways. I will always greet him with a smile and a hug, whether he’s wearing a dress or not!