I originally dubbed the theme of this year as ‘Embrace the Awkward’. I think I’ve done a pretty good job so far and there has been no shortage of awkwardness to embrace. In fact, some days I’m positively smothered with it. My original hope of course was that the necessity would just fade away from conscious thought, just like that thing I was probably supposed to do but can’t for the life of me remember. If you are reading this while waiting for me to pick you up at the airport, I’m really, really sorry and probably already in bed, so…
Last weekend we took a nearly 200 mile road trip just to get a grilled cheese. I know, but this was supposedly the most awesome grilled cheese there has ever been. Even Guy Fieri said so. On the way there, my 5 year old was getting pretty antsy and was failing to recognize the jeux de vie and eclectic delight of driving for over 3 hours just for a sandwich I often make at home. We decided to pull over and find a playground where he could run off some steam and tire himself to hopefully sleep for the rest of the trip. We found one. A good one too of colorful plastic with those bouncy pads all around it, much unlike the steel frame monstrosities sunk into concrete slabs we delighted in back in the 70’s. We had it to ourselves until a little girl showed up to play.
I got my first compliment of the day when she asked our friend Amy if that was his mom over there, pointing to where my ex and I were sitting. She answered yes, and girl asked, “yeah, but which one?” Seriously, it made my day. Not long after though, when she and my son were sitting on the swings, he casually mentioned, “that’s not her real hair you know.” That’s nice, I finally get a wig that looks like my real hair and I’m blown in by a kindergartener. The little girl was too curious to let this go by and came over to question me about it. My ex thought on her feet and explained that some women lose their hair for a variety of reasons and thoughtfully excluded ‘male pattern baldness’ as one of them. She was satisfied and went back to playing.
Aside from the occasional “Mike” or “he” that is just going to come out of the mouths of people who have known me a long time, the gender shift has gone pretty smoothly with this one exception. Not the disclosure to the little girl, but having a very open and honest 5 year old. When we are out in public, I have pretty much given up any expectation of trying to pass. When I bought him a little wooden model, he told the cashier he was going to put it together with his dad. She asked a question, and he pointed right to me, “this is my dad right here!” He’s been calling me Maddy for months now after we adopted the naming convention thought up by Jenny Boylan’s sons, but somehow whenever we get in public, I’m all of a sudden back to dad.
In case I’m painting a whiney type picture, I need to say that aside from the mental expletive when it happens, this doesn’t bother me. I’m thrilled that he’s trying and that our relationship hasn’t suffered an iota since my change. The truth is that no matter what my gender, I’ll always be his dad and it’s never wrong for him to think that or say it out loud. It might catch me off guard, and it might be terribly awkward at times, but compared to what so many others go through with children, I’ll take this in a heartbeat.