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Costume Confusion: A Kid’s Comical Take On Identity

, , , , , , , , , | Learning | September 17, 2023

My mom is the preschool teacher and a before- and after-school teacher at the same tiny little school — we call it a “three-room one-room schoolhouse” — that I attended as a child. Another teacher teaches kindergarten through second grade. The owner teaches grades three through six, as well as doing the admin, and I am on the roll as a substitute teacher but rarely come in because I have a full-time job. Enrollment is low enough that as long as the teachers have their appointments during the regular school day, they don’t need a sub because they have the correct ratio of staff to students.

This is not one of those days. My mom has a late-afternoon appointment, so I arrange to take the time off from my regular job and go to the school to sub. I arrive while the youngest kids (kindergarten and below) are napping; my job is to monitor naptime and then watch the after-school kids until my mom gets back. This is the first time I have been there in a while.

An important note for this story: while I am both nonbinary and intersex, I was assigned female at birth, and when this story takes place, I still identify as female.

I am sitting in the multi-purpose room with the lights on, having helped the nappers to put away their cots, when the older kids come into the room. Several of them greet me. One of the first-graders who comes in is a boy I have not met before, despite this being his second or third year at the school. Preschool and kindergarten are both half days, and I always leave before he arrives, or I arrive in the evenings well after he’s left, so I expect he’s going to have some questions. To my mild surprise, he walks right past me and begins playing.

After about half an hour, this little boy walks up to me and spreads out his arms with the biggest, most delighted smile on his face, his eyes sparkling. I instantly wonder what he’s done. I am not prepared for what he says.

Boy: *Delighted* “You don’t look like an old lady anymore!”

It takes me a full five seconds to process what he’s saying, and when I catch on, I can’t help it: I start laughing.

Me: “Oh, honey. I’m not Mrs. [Mom]. I’m her daughter.”

The boy stares at me, his expression never once changing from its broad, delighted grin. Slowly and dramatically, he crumples to the ground and sprawls out on the floor, pretending to have fainted. He scoots away on the floor without getting up, like he’s doing the backstroke, and eventually gets up and goes back to playing. He does, however, keep shooting me glances out of the corner of his eye when he thinks I’m not looking.

Finally, he walks up to me again.

Boy: “You’re not wearing a costume?”

Me: “No, this is how I really look all the time.”

He goes back to playing… sort of. A few minutes later, he comes up a third time.

Boy: “Are you sure you’re not wearing a costume?”

Me: *Trying not to laugh* “No, honey, I’m Ms. [Deadname]. I’m Mrs. [Mom]’s daughter.”

Boy: “Oh.”

I am still there when his mom arrives. I greet her. She absently greets me back. [Boy] comes back.

Boy: “This is Ms. [Deadname].”

[Boy] eyes me suspiciously, but he’s still grinning from ear to ear.

Boy: “She’s not wearing a costume.”

My mom was not at all amused when I told her this!

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