Birthday Blues and a Review

On Tuesday, Charlie turned 11. This should’ve been a joyful day, but I could tell something was wrong when he got up. He seemed distant. We went to school and went on with our days. Matt came for Charlie’s lunch at school and we all sat together with a good friend that Charlie picked. Matt brought McDonald’s and cupcakes with neon colored frosting. When it was time to pass out cupcakes, Charlie and his friend gave one to everybody in the class, but Charlie did not want one. Very strange. They took the rest of them upstairs to share with the teachers. We hugged goodbye and I told Charlie I’d see him at the end of the day. He seemed in fair to good spirits.

Lately Charlie has been acting somewhat depressed. Just a little over a week ago, on the way home from school, Charlie said out of nowhere, “You know those puberty blockers?” “Yes,” I said. Charlie continued in a very small voice, “I think I might want to do that.”

I was a bit taken back by this statement, but continued without pause. “Okay, we will look into that.” Then after thinking a moment, I asked, “Charlie, is this because you want to begin transitioning to a girl?” His response was, “No! I just don’t want to turn into a man.”

This led to him describing things he didn’t want to happen, such as not wanting his voice to deepen like his older brother’s, not wanting big shoulders, not growing much taller, etc.

I don’t know if this is Charlie’s way of saying he doesn’t want to grow up, or if it’s Charlie’s way of saying he wants to think about transitioning. He has always been very vocal about the fact that he doesn’t want to be a girl; he just wants to wear “girls” clothing, play with “girls” toys, have all female friends, and everything else associated with girls. He has never followed the pattern of being insistent, consistent, and persistent about being a different gender than the one assigned at birth. But I also know that not all trans people follow this formula. Either way, we have an appointment scheduled with the Duke Child & Adolescent Gender Care Center, and we will hopefully just let the professionals sort it out. If we make it that far. I have a feeling that once he gets his blood taken, the whole process of consideration towards any change may end.

So this apparent pre-adolescent angst seemed to just be an extension of Charlie’s general moodiness lately.

When the bell rang at the end of the school day on his birthday, Charlie came down to my classroom appearing pale, weak, and sick. He was barely able to stand. He slouched into a chair and started fanning himself and complaining of being hot. (This child is skin and bones and always freezing cold, even when it’s 80 degrees outside.) He has had a cough for a few weeks, but nothing too severe. But when I heard him cough again this time, it sounded ten times deeper, wetter, and painful. I went over to check his forehead and he was burning up with fever. I comforted him and immediately gave him some ibuprofen, and shortly after we headed home.

By the time we got home and settled, it was a little over an hour later. I checked his temperature and it was 100 degrees on the dot. This was after having ibuprofen in his system for an hour, so it was probably higher. He then said, “I don’t think I can make it to my birthday dinner tonight.” This is when I knew how bad off he was. The birthday person in our family always gets to choose a restaurant or favorite meal for their birthday dinner. Charlie chose Kanki, a hibachi style Japanese steakhouse where we only go twice a year (once for Charlie’s birthday, and once for Kate’s birthday. This is their favorite restaurant.) So I cancelled the reservation. Charlie didn’t feel like eating at all.

Happy birthday, indeed.

We did get him to come downstairs and open his birthday presents from us, but I noticed every time he would start to laugh or get excited, he would lose his breath and go into a choking fit. It was so pitiful. My gut said it was pneumonia, or maybe bronchitis.

We scheduled a doctor’s appointment for him the next day where it was confirmed Charlie had pneumonia and needed to be out of school for the remainder of the week.

When I came home from work Thursday night, I went upstairs to check on Charlie and found him lying face down on his bed, still. I thought he was asleep. When I got closer to give him a hug I could tell he was sobbing into his pillow. “Buddy, what’s the matter?” I asked. He replied through tears, “I just want this to be over!!” Fortunately, his doctor said that because he’s so healthy and young, that after 48 hours on Augmentin he should be feeling almost 100% better, and we were almost to that point.

Of course that made me tear up and feel awful and worried. So I did the only thing I know how to do in these situations: comfort.

I brought Charlie into my room to lay in bed with me and watch whatever he wanted to watch on my TV. He chose The Wiz (live version), a DVD he received as a gift. The Wiz (original) is probably his most favorite musical, ever. When the live version came to television not too long ago, he was over the moon.

He has watched this DVD so many times I can’t even count. But never have I watched the full thing with him. So this was an adventure. And even though he felt lousy with weakness, headache, congestion, crippling cough, and all the horribleness that comes with pneumonia, he was still able to spill out some of his awesome thoughts on what he was seeing. His commentary was so fun that I decided to write down what he was saying. So, for what it’s worth, here’s everything you need to know about The Wiz live, as seen through the lens of GC Charlie:

1.) “That tornado dance combined with those costumes is maybe the most satisfying thing ever.”

2.) “Emerald City… It just sounds so dreamy.”

3.) When “Ease on Down the Road” started:
“Awwwwwww everybody loves this song! Except those who don’t. But I mean, why wouldn’t they? It’s so awesome, right?”

4.) During “Slide Some Oil to Me”
“Of course, no oil is actually coming out of that oil can, but, really, WHO CARES?!” This song is brilliant. ‘Lubricate my mind?’ Mind blown. That lyric is gold.”

5.) Regarding the Oz Emerald City bouncer’s costume:
“That costume. Oh my wizard. All I know is that I want it. Are any of these for sale?”

6.) “I like the vogue-ing, (in fact I might wanna learn that dance), but what’s the point of Emerald City if all they do is just dance all the time in this club? I mean shouldn’t there be a restaurant up in there or something?”

7.) “I just want to know if ever the wizard turns anyone into a lizard.”

8.) “Ooohhh green fire in the wizard’s room. Now it’s REALLY serious.”

9.) “And they said a woman couldn’t play the wizard. Ha, were they wrong. OhMyGod LOOK at her cape.”

10.) “Addapearl. I get it. Like ‘atta girl,’ but with pearls.”

*Bonus: “Everything about this movie makes me happy.”


3 thoughts on “Birthday Blues and a Review

  1. Kat says:

    Happy Birthday to Charlie and I’m so sorry to hear that he spent it sick!

    Having a pre-teen can be confusing enough without adding in the gender creative factor that you are dealing with. I think you are doing what you should be doing- supporting Charlie and following his lead. And not rushing anything. Maybe puberty blockers are for him. Maybe not. I can draw on my own experience with Kris and tell you that I think sometimes our kids just don’t know how they are feeling, just that it isn’t quite like everyone else. And sometimes they might ‘think’ they know what they mean and they don’t. Kris was persistent, insistent and consistent until they weren’t. They thought they were a boy, not a girl, but then realized that no that didn’t feel right. And through puberty Kris had mixed feelings about their body, which they now do not have. I imagine it must be scary to live in a world knowing you are different than everyone else and even if you meet someone else that is kind of like you- they still are quite different in their own way because like you pointed out- there are many different ways to be gender creative.

    I hope Charlie is feeling better really quick! And as far as The Wiz goes- it’s been years since I saw the movie but being a fan of The Wizard of Oz, I just LOVE all of Charlie’s observations and he has piqued my curiosity about the live version. 🙂


  2. Johnny says:

    Don’t wanna become a girl, but not to into becoming a man.
    So I’m not the only one who has though that.
    I get what Charlie wants to avoid. I’m 6′ and 180lbs at my skinniest. It’s a pain trying to look cute when your the biggest guy in the room. Then there’s having to shave from top to bottom with a lawn mower. Sounding like Barry White when you feel like Cindy Lauper.
    I actually lucked out in the voice category though. A rather hushed voice with not much base.


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