A Child Shall Lead Them – A Sea Monkey Is Less Likely

Blogging for LGBT Families Day 2011

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?

This post was cross-posted on Mombian and BlogHer
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11 Responses to A Child Shall Lead Them – A Sea Monkey Is Less Likely
  1. […] *Up Popped A Fox A Child Shall Lead Them – A Sea Monkey Is Less Likely […]

  2. Kristin Swanson
    June 1, 2011 | 12:59 pm

    We’re allies and I am not sure we say enough to the kids. Sometimes I reflect on how my kids are growing up around LGBT people, adults and children, they accept without fear or confusion, which is something that I would not have done, growing up in rural iowa. (Their boy babysitter is experimenting with cross dressing and no one freaked out when they saw his prom photo.) But on the other hand, I know i need to say more, talk more and raise their consciousness about gay-bashing, bullying, legislated discrimination. I’ve talked to them about NOMA (joel doesn’t get it, or isn’t interested in paying attention). Augie gets it, but I dont think he is equipped with the information or language to handle what will come, especially as the election comes closer.

  3. e
    June 1, 2011 | 1:51 pm

    My partner’s niece, who lives with us, wasn’t quite sure what gay meant when she moved in. We had to sit her down and spell it out. She was embarrassed about it (us) at first, but now has come to realize that in Portland, Oregon everybody has gay relatives. We are the new normal.

  4. Kelly
    June 1, 2011 | 2:06 pm

    I think you’re right. Despite my children having been a part of gay rights campaigns, I realize that when we talk with them about these issues, I have often downplayed the truth of the situation. I don’t want them to really know the prejudice that exists out there nor do I want them to feel fear.
    But now that they’re bringing up the issues, I find I am more willing to bluntly lay it out and then let them see my anger at the injustice of it all. My son recently had a classmate of his, who has 2 moms himself, tell him not to EVER tell anyone. Avery was completely baffled about why this might be a big deal. It was a great way to open a big conversation with him.

  5. Liza
    June 2, 2011 | 11:13 am

    Wow! Food for thought indeed.

  6. Lora
    June 2, 2011 | 4:11 pm

    I was just thinking of this exact thing the other day. About how the word “gay” has become something of a prefix or suffix rather than an actual state of being and wondering what that means to kids who hear gay pride and gay bashing and gay neighborhood (or gayborhood here in Philadelphia).

    We have gay family and gay friends and go to gay events and gay brunches and gay restaurants in our gay neighborhood all the time, and I wonder if my son knows what “gay” actually means. GLBT people and relationships and events are so normal to my 5 year old, but I don’t know if he knows the words gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgendered.

    ONe more thing to add to the list of things to talk about.

  7. maddox
    June 3, 2011 | 3:54 pm

    Try this logic: having two moms is normal for your kids, and they somehow heard that being gay was not a good thing. And because your family is good, you can’t be gay. QED!

    It sure is funny sometimes how kids make connections to things, or don’t. It happens with everyone I guess – when we are so entrenched in our own dialog we forget that for others it is completely foreign, that they have no context for it and need to start at the beginning. This is especially true for children.

    Thanks for reminding us to be attentive at all times, and use our words to explain even the most obvious things.

  8. Tonia
    June 6, 2011 | 2:31 am

    My partner and I learned a similar lesson earlier this year from our 4 year old. He proclaims from the mountain tops that he has 2 mommies and 1 daddy)his father and divorced and we all co-parent).
    He happened to say this at preschool one day and was told by a friend that 2 women can’t get married. We haven’t had a ceremony so he has never seen one. He started acting out and we finally were able to get him to tell us that he was angry because my partner wasn’t really his mom. I had to show him lesbian couples marrying on you tube to convince him. Finally he saw Ellen and Portia marry and he said, “Mommy, Cole was wrong. Two women can get married”. Then we had to talk about how marital status doesn’t determine family. I thought we covered all of this before. We read the books, We are Unitarian Universalist, We have gay friends. It still isn’t enough. I learned that I have to be ever vigilant.

  9. Ado
    June 7, 2011 | 8:22 pm

    You are right about how much we (all) need to talk to our children. For some reason lately Ella has been fascinated w. the idea of marriage – who you can marry, how, etc. – and some months ago wanted to know if a girl could marry a girl – and I told her the (extremely) simplified version: Yes. But in many places, No.
    She will ask me for more details at some point and I will give them to her but for now she is relieved to know that she might not have to marry a boy (yuck, because she’s 6) and can instead choose to marry a girl (her best friend is a girl). She has no idea that people think it might be wrong or bad or different – at the moment – I’m letting it be for now, and sparing her the details of reality for the moment.
    PS: Thank you for pointing out that children are not sea monkeys – I must feed mine. (-:

  10. Nigel
    June 9, 2011 | 9:54 am

    Thanks for this, a strong reminder of the danger of unexplored expectations. I have a world view, so therefore my children share it – how could they not.
    Unfortunately it’s difficult to notice the expectations we don’t know about until they get trodden on.
    I guess it is one of our children’s roles – treading on our ‘stuff’

  11. GrandeMocha
    June 12, 2011 | 10:29 am

    Definitely something to remember. I have keep talking about treating everyone fairly, not just once, then lead by example, I have to keep doing it.

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