“I just LOVE Piper!” Clara (age 3) gushed one day after meeting her friend at the park. She continued, “When I get big, maybe we can be like a mom and a mom. Like Kellan! Or, if Piper wants to turn into a boy, we can be a mom and a dad.”
Before we had any actual kids, Nathan and I were the perfect parents. We had everything figured out for how to raise a kid with a social conscience, imagining lots of long lessons and discussions about our values that would impart our passion for social justice.
Turns out, it hasn’t happened that way. Our kids don’t really like long lessons. They prefer My Little Ponies or Minecraft.
Nathan and I have probably made more than our share of bad calls in parenting. But here’s one thing I know we did right: We have two kids who are not heterosexist in their assumptions or their actions. What’s more, as they get older, they are willing to be allies, even at the risk of a possible social cost. This is one thing we’re proud of.
Honestly, though, it wasn’t that hard. We put a few minor, but intentional, things in place. One is that Nathan and I have cultivated relationships with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. So when Lucy (who does not attend the Co-op) came home in 1st grade and said “I know it’s okay for a girl to marry a girl, but some of my friends say it’s not,” we could point to the weddings of her godmamas or our friends from church and say, “of course they can, remember, you’ve been in weddings with two girls!” As she gets older, our conversations are necessarily more complex, but she is confident that “gay is okay” and is willing to stand up to friends at school who may not share this belief. Now that Clara attends the Co-op with children with different family forms than her own, this is even easier. Families with two moms just are. No controversy—just life. It’s part of what made her sweet little bedtime comment that opened this post possible.
The other small but consequential thing we have done is to be mindful about our language choices. From a lesbian parent, we picked up the term “sweetie” to describe couples regardless of marital status. That may or may not work for everyone, but it’s been handy for us. The other thing, and I think this is bigger, is that we have refrained from presuming our children are straight in the way we talk around and about them. When someone says something like, “you better watch out, all the boys will be chasing her in a few years,” we answer, “and maybe girls, too.” We don’t make joking pacts with parents of boys to set up our kids for prom someday. And when the subject of the future comes up, we make sure to say, “someday if you get married, your wife or husband will…” Once we started paying attention to language and the many innocent ways people talk about children as if they’ll all be straight, we noticed it everywhere.
At 3 and 9, our girls are obviously at very different stages in understanding sexuality and relationships. Our hope is that as they grow they will always be lgbt allies, but even more, we pray that we have set the foundation for them to be comfortable becoming whoever they may be knowing that we will support them.
What about you? What have you managed to get right in parenting?
Sheri is the mom of Clara (age 3) in Miss Nicole’s room at the Co-op and also 9 year old Lucy.