As parents, we all have days when we believe that our children are the most brilliant, kind, compassionate, talented people ever born and you know what that means? It means that we must be the most brilliant, kind, compassionate, talented parents ever because children are so much harder to raise than sea monkeys. Children require real food. They need baths and clean clothes. We have to sweat through their parent/teacher conferences and drive them to play dates and activities. We have to Impart Wisdom and Instill Values and teach them Life Lessons. So, when our children shine, it’s only natural that we bask in their light. But, for every brilliant thing children do, there are a few more that we’d like to sweep under the carpet until our carpets are all lumpy and bunched up and we’re tripping all over the place. This is the universe’s way of keeping parents humble.
One night several months ago, we were talking to our kids about anti-gay bullying and our wish that GLBT youth knew that things get better just like things had gotten better for us.
Miguel nodded knowingly and Zeca gasped audibly, “OH. MY. GOD. You’re gay?!”
She has seen us kiss and hold hands. She has crawled into bed with us. She knows that we love each other and she knows that we are both her legal parents. Luisa and I looked at each other and laughed. I thought of the GAY pride parades and GAY families choir and GAY friends and all the GAY in our lives and I started to think that maybe – just maybe – our daughter was a bit more like a sea monkey than I had hoped.
I laughed as I knelt beside her and said, “Of course we are gay, honey.” She looked down at the floor and, in a serious voice, said, “I didn’t know that.” Then, she looked up at me and said something that quickly erased the smirk from my face – she said, “I’m sorry for you.”
Being “gay” is different. “Gay” people get bullied and attacked. “Gay” is a word used as an insult against others on the playground. How could this word possibly apply to her parents?
We can’t laugh this off or sweep it under the carpet because it is uncomfortable to consider. We have to sit with the fact that, despite their lived experiences, children still receive anti-gay messages from the society in which we live. Zeca’s innocent question should serve as a reminder to all of us – GLBT people and allies alike – that we have to talk to our children. We have to be intentional in explaining language and GLBT issues to them.
Being GLBT is not enough. Being open-minded is not enough. We can’t assume our children understand.
Children are not sea monkeys. They need more than clean water and a steady diet of algae to thrive. They are the next generation and they need information. They are listening. What do we want them to hear?