Note: This story will contain accurate wording for male anatomy. It’s how the story happened, so that’s what you get. This is a friendly notice so you aren’t too surprised.
Before we really begin, there are a couple of ethical considerations that need to be noted. This is a true accounting of events involving children, and that’s innately problematic. Children cannot give consent for their story to be told, for their picture to be taken, or for you to chat about them at the coffee shop with your other mom-friends or co-workers. I was there, and I can only tell you what I saw, but I’m still uncomfortable with the fact that the line of ethics is not clear. This is my story, but not mine alone.
So here’s what I can do. I’ve been working, volunteering, and observing in pre-schools, day-care centers, private homes, and schools for more than ten years. In that time, I’ve spent time with thousands of children, and I defy anyone to figure out who I’m talking about. In addition, I state my intent to change anything I want, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the story itself. I will change names, ages, setting, details, genders, family structure, and anything else I see fit in order to preserve anonymity. I’m telling this story because I think it should be told.
Elliot was a boy I first met at age 2. He was quiet, thoughtful, and friendly, with a mop of auburn hair that curled out in unmanageable cowlicks. The first thing I remember saying to his mother was how impressed I was with Elliot’s empathy. It’s a rare two year old that sincerely stops to comfort a crying friend, or cheer them up when they’re cranky. By age 4, Elliot had dropped most of his toddler lisp, and had a habit of running his hands through his shoulder length hair or curling it around his fingers. He was friends with everyone, and played dinosaur stampede with the guys, and chef in the play kitchen with the girls. Elliot wore the same pair of sandals until he outgrew them, then came into school with a brand new, nearly identical pair, and his favorite yellow tee-shirt with a giant, smiling sun.
One day, when Elliot was still 4, he sat at the craft table surrounded by the chef crew, carefully coloring an entire page pink. When he was finished, he colored each of his fingernails, then set about glueing feathers, beads, and copious amounts of glitter to the page until it was very wet. Then he drew an orange dinosaur in one corner, but was disgusted it turned a brown-green shade over the pink. “It’s ugly.” he said, gluing a feather over it. When it dried, he wrote MOM in big, shaky letters on the front. Before he went home I stopped him.