I was so surprised to find I do still have readers! You must have me on Google Reader or something similar. So, hi Mimi and Monica! And anyone else who is still reading! Maybe I'll even have time to start blogging regularly again when I finish school.
Monica wondered how the kids are doing and it seems high time for an update on what they're up to. I'm going to start with Zachary because he's the easier one to give an update on.
Zachary began school after homeschooling for the first 12 years of his life in sixth grade. He really loved it and had a teacher that really was awesome and nurtured him and understood he needed a little extra. I will always be grateful to Ned for being an awesome first teacher for a homeschooler-turned-sixth grader. But when he got into middle school, he seemed to flounder a bit. He didn't do so well in school, and really panicked over his homework. There was one teacher who took him under her wing, Pat, and I will also always hold a special place in my heart for Pat. She was his science teacher and really encouraged the scientist in Zachary, and that piece of him really flourished. We began to decide that the school he was at really wasn't the place for him to be in high school, though (it was a K-12, rare in urban areas) and started to look at Benson. Benson is the polytechnic magnet school in Portland, and Zac fell in love when a rep came to his school. Oh, the things he could do at Benson! He could do all the stuff he'd been fiddling with at home there, plus way more! He could learn manufacturing and auto shop and electronics and so much more. So, he applied, and with fear and trepidation we waited, along with the other 399 kids who had applied, to see if he'd get one of the 240 spots. And he did! These days I am in constant awe that my kid who seemed to be floundering in middle school gets remarks from his teachers they wish they had a hundred Zachs, that he always does great, etc. etc. etc.! It's so great to watch him do what he really loves. He is doing well even in the non-science-y classes, like English and Health. I really had thought it would take him a bit to adjust to life in high school, especially going from a tiny school to a relatively huge one, but Zach has just stepped into it like he was meant for it.
So, the older child. Whom I probably last referred to on this blog as Carissa. Back in late summer 2009, Carissa came to me and told me that she identifies as a male person. I was quite taken aback--I had no idea that this was going on with her. She/he was quite certain of it from that time on, and I asked her to keep thinking about it and make sure. As I worked through it all, I slowly began to adjust my thoughts around who this person was. And I realized that whether she or he, whether Carissa or Aaron (as he began to call himself), this person is still my kid, this person is still someone I love, this person is still the same person.
I encouraged Aaron to express himself however he wished. I truly do not believe that there is any problem with playing around with who you are. Many people try on different identities, different types of people--hippie, straight-laced, this look or that, whatever. A different gender? Why does it matter to us so very much how one expresses their gender? I began to face this issue, and have mostly found acceptance, but it is so ingrained in us that gender is set, you can't change it, etc. To which I say, you can't very easily change your body, this is true. Though it can be done. But why can't gender and biology be expressed differently? Why do we feel such rigid roles in gender?
I have to admit to you all that I was not very open to transgender issues before this. I didn't understand it. I didn't know why anyone would want to be someone other than who they were born as. I didn't know why men would want to be what I thought looked like fake women (male to female is much more visible--biological men don't "pass" as women as easily as the other way around). But I remained open to learning, and I think I am beginning to understand.
Aaron has also had quite a transition in school. I thought the small K-12 that they both started at after homeschooling was so great for them, such a good fit. Maybe it was at the beginning. But Aaron also began to flounder there, and we began to look at other options. What we ended up with is the High School Completion program at Portland Community College. It is an awesome program and he is LOVING it and doing so well! He is looking at colleges to attend next year--well, really just one. He's already got his heart set on Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, just two hours north of us.
We have gone through some pretty dark times in the last few years. I feel like we've to a large extent come out on the other side, back into the light. I'm not finished yet--when will that ever happen?--but I've stopped thinking I'd surely done something wrong as a parent. Well, more often than not I don't think that anymore. What more can a mother ask for?