There Is a World of Difference Between "in Spite of" and "Because of"
Eight months, two and a quarter inches, a buncha pounds, and a whole new world later. We came to the school grounds for Back to School night last September, filled with excitement and trepidation. So overwhelmed by the sensory overload of it all that we just picked our way to our girlie's classroom and stayed put the whole evening. Didn't even know 'til it was time to leave that people customarily floated around and toured the school.
Sitting in the pint-sized, putty-colored kid chairs, we asked ourselves what so many parents have asked before us: In this new, large community -- the first of many so big we'd be lucky to know the names of all the people she'd come to know in it -- would she bloom? Or wilt? And another question, not unfamiliar to many parents before us, but for us fraught in its own unique way, since our right to our parenthoods and families is far from presumptive, years from "natural." We wondered: At what point would our difference make a difference to her? One other kindergartener out of 60 at the school has two women for parents; none has two dads. By the luck of the draw, the other kid of LGBT parents was in another class. So this year's school journey for her would be, at least in this regard, a solo one.
Or so we thought. That was before we came to know her teacher, a rookie with instincts that years in the classroom couldn't manufacture, and a loving kindness both rare and tailor-made for this work. Over the months our daughter's schoolmates and their families grew to be fellow travelers -- they were bound to be. But as of Back to School night, we hadn't gotten so far as to realize that along the journey we'd all make friends -- not just our daughter.
Last night we got an answer to our question about the impact of our difference. It was on display in her classroom, and it was not what we expected. Over the course of the year, all the students had created a "Self Portrait Portfolio," prefaced by an inspired quotation by Picasso (here's a copy), carefully pasted by the teacher inside the front cover. Every page bore some sort of visual art except the last, which was a poem, done in a "finish the phrase" style. Its final line took me utterly by surprise.
"I like myself," she wrote, "because I have two moms."
There is a world of difference between "in spite of" and "because of." But I frankly hadn't even begun to imagine past in spite of, until I saw because of written out in my daughter's hand. She told us she drew the "sunset colors" behind those lines because I'm always bringing her to the window to look at the colors of the sunset. Which, as it happens, are also the colors of the sunrise.
The whole way out of the schoolyard and all down the street to the car, she spread her arms and ran and ran and ran.
"I can fly! Can you see me? I can fly!"
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