Monday, September 30, 2013

A Code For Pirates

Life is a little odd lately. Many of you noticed that I haven't been around much.  I've been battling a yet-to be diagnosed illness off and on for the greater part of September. Not only have I missed a week or two of blogging, but I've also missed work and landed in my own Emergency department twice.  Once overnight.  Once in the middle of a shift.  It's not pleasant.

Despite all the tests, I have no idea what this illness is.  I'm sure that stress plays a role here;  things have not let up on any front in that regard.  There are days, sadly, that I seemingly go from skirmish to skirmish as I deal with the issues in my path;  a forgotten appointment here, a malfunctioning appliance there.  The realization that we will soon need a new roof.  Life, all of it.  I've had many an hour to think about things since this has started...  It's true what they say, that ability is not forever.  It is indeed a fleeting thing:  accidents,   illness.  These things can easily change one's life in an instant.  As I wait for the next round of tests and the answers that they may or may not bring, I am dutifully taking my medication and appreciating what my life has given me thus far.

Time continues to march on with Team Logan.  The first week of September saw Quinn's somewhat anxious return to school.  On one hand he was eager to return to learning and structure, but on the other he was still a little nervous, given the bullying he had experienced at the end of last year and in day camp over the summer.  Maybe this year will be different, I thought as I walked back to the van the first day.

Flash forward to September 18, the night before "International Talk Like a Pirate Day".  It won't surprise you that this is a thing in our house.  Before bed, as we were watching some television, I was painting my nails black.  Quinn, who loves to watch me paint my nails and will wear it occasionally, asked if he could have his nails done.  "For pirate day" he said. 

I have to admit that I froze here for a second.  Not because he asked, not because he wanted to wear it, but because I thought of the bullying that he had already experienced.  The connection between nail polish and pirates didn't surprise me, as actors who have played pirates have sported painted nails from time to time (and lets face it, I have more than a few skull adornments lying around, including the ones I was about to stick on my fingers).  It was also Mommy time, a special little thing that he and I could do.  What came out of my mouth next surprised me, because it totally was geared towards damage control and had nothing to do with his desires for self expression.

"How about just the pinkies?", I asked, citing a bunch of stars, including Ozzy, Steven Tyler, Keith Richards who have rocked that look.  "Sure" he said, holding out his hands. 

The next morning, dressed in his pirate shirt, he went to school.  "Arrrrrr!" he said, flashing me the horns and showing off his nails.  "Hurry up!"  I countered, kissing his forehead "Love you, off with ye".

The boy who came home was not as exuberant.

His feet dragged, his face showed that sad weariness that I hoped to never see again.  What's worse, his polish had been scratched off, hurriedly, as his cuticles were red and there was black under his other nails. The ignorance from the other kids had started the moment he got on the bus and ended when he got off.  Some called him a liar, told him there was no such thing as "Pirate day" and could not understand that his nails were not a statement of gender or identification, but rather, one of art. 

He went off to play and I got angry.  Not the angry that I get accused of all the time for differentiating myself from a complacent door mat, or the "filled with hate" I'm supposed to be when I point out ableism, but an actual, all consuming, honest to goodness blind rage.  I swore like a pirate hooker into the phone at my BFF while furiously mashing apples into sauce over a hot stove.

I was at the canning stage and muttering to myself when Quinn came back into the kitchen to talk some more.  With a great deal of insight, he told me how not everyone had made fun of him but it did seem that way at times.  What was worse, he explained to me, were the people that were trying to help him take the polish off.  I knew what he was trying to say, that they were helping him "to be like everyone else".  How the people that claimed to accept him would still rather he be someone else.   It hurt me, that at seven years of age, my son was experiencing this.  He asked me "what do you want me to do?"

"Honey", I answered, "if you want to wear nail polish, wear nail polish.  If you don't, that's cool too."

I repainted his pinkies, by request, right then and there.  I added his index fingers and his thumbs... and painted the two middle fingers clear.  He flashed me an "I love you" sign as a way of thank you.  The next morning, also by request, we removed the polish as that was also his choice (and we made sure he was not doing it out of fear of more taunts).  I made sure that his teacher knew we were coming early for meet-the-teacher night so that we could discuss this.  To her credit, she made all the appropriate noises, but even she was a little taken aback when he told her that yes, he had told her... he had written about it in his journal and she had missed it.  I made sure she knew that we knew that Quinn is probably smarter than most of his classmates, that he is kind and artistic, that he is quirky... and all of these things make him a target.  I told her how the kids at camp physically assaulted and humiliated him.  I told her how one of the kids that bullied him at the end of last year is sitting directly across from him at his table in the classroom.  Patiently, kindly, firmly and without raising my voice I let her know that he is my son. That I love him, as is, dearly... and I will be damned if he is going to end up a statistic or one of the kids that come through my Mental Health ER. 

She agreed.

We drew up our plan, all of us at that time, Teacher, Mother, Father, Child.  We created a circle, a crew, one with a mission.  Everyone within is told if there is a problem, if Quinn encounters more of the same kind of treatment.  We all have a responsibility in this crew;  ours is listening to each other, including his teacher. His is telling us, especially if he can't manage it on his own.  We will act, ensuring that his needs are met emotionally and scholastically.  In nursing, it would be called a "circle of care".  In Team Logan's world, it is a code for pirates.  However you choose to look at it, the consequences of breaking the code are no less dire.

This is the first engagement of many, of this I have no doubt.  Then, in a few years, both Wyatt and Zoe will be going to school.  There will be IEP's.  There will be more circles, more crews and a lot more potential battles.  There will be high-falutin' adventure too.  But still, we must keep one eye out for changing winds as we sail these unknown waters.  We will continue to navigate this life as we always do, with the wind in our hair, the colours high, our crew at our back, giving and asking no quarter. 

Come what may.  We'll be ready.

"Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats." - H. L. Mencken
The flag of Calico Jack Rackham, who sailed with his love Anne Bonney (and her love Mary Read)


  1. Painting my pinkies for Q. Just need to find somewhere to go to show them off.

    Enforcing this kind of hyper gender-normativity needs to be challenged. So sad that we're still teaching our kids to go along and not see it for what it is. Hope the teacher gets it, but who knows...


Thank you for your comment.

Although discussion is encouraged, disrespectful or hurtful dialogue will be removed.

Spam will be fried up with a side of tomatoes.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...