“Maybe baby chipmunk has two moms like me,” my sweet 3-year-old said as the striped rodent scurried into the bush to our left on our daily walk around the neighborhood.
“Yes! Maybe,” I said excitedly to him.
I knew his observation was both wishful and wistful. I knew that in the short three years he’s been on this earth, he has been exposed to all of the same norms and biases that everyone else has. And I knew that he understood far more than the developmental parenting sites told me he did, more than I gave him credit for.
“This is Mommy shark and Daddy shark,” my kid said as he held up his plastic squirty toys in the tub.
There were Mommy and Daddy shark, Mommy and Daddy characters on his favorite shows, Mommy and Daddy-headed families in the majority of his books and songs and movies, and so on, to infinity of heteronormativity. Sure, we have same-sex family books and friends and try to balance all the hetero and binary references with more inclusive terminology and media, but it would be an impossible and potentially counterproductive task to try to shield him from the majority entirely.
I know my child comprehends that his two-mom family is more the exception than the rule. He is observant and intelligent and sees the world around him. I know that one day, he will face opposition, possible teasing or bullying because he has two moms. He may be told his family isn’t valid, that he doesn’t matter as much as others, that there is something wrong with the loving home in which he was raised and in which one parent just so happens to identify as the same gender as the other.
That’s why it’s so critical that I teach him how to inhabit the deep sense of pride for our LGBTQ family, to pad the anticipated hate with love and affirmation. I don’t want to falsely shoehorn the notion that his family is “just like everyone else’s” when he likely already knows that’s not true. Sure, we extend the same love and protection and excursions and routines as any other family, but we will always be a minority. To let on that we’re anything else performs a great disservice to our child, who is only just learning what the world holds and how he fits in it.
“I know my child comprehends that his two-mom family is more the exception than the rule. He is observant and intelligent and sees the world around him. I know that one day, he will face opposition, possible teasing or bullying because he has two moms.”
I am teaching my child to understand that he is, first, loved, but also that while our family may not look like the others he sees most commonly, we are special because we are different. I want him to understand the history that came before our family, the network of important women, some queer, who helped bring him into this world, and to always carry with him a sense of pride that his family is unique, and out of that comes a chance at a life that isn’t prescribed or predetermined or, frankly, boring.
I also want my child to understand that Black lives matter, to grow up with the acute awareness that the color of his skin affords him unearned advantages that also come with a heightened responsibility to speak up and take action on behalf of those who are forced to operate below the invisible line of social justice.
LGBTQ Pride began as a protest, and seeing so many people ― and so many LGBTQ people ― taking to the streets to fight against systemic racism and police brutality right now, especially during Pride month, is heartening and absolutely appropriate and necessary.
I want him to be proud of who he is, where he came from, and his position to help push the world in the right direction.
My child is only three, but he understands what pride is.
We have a set of toy mirrors. On one side, there’s a word that depicts an emotion ― angry, sad, happy, excited ― and on the other, there’s a regular old mirror. We practice making faces that match the emotions on the flip side of the mirror. My child scrunches up his little face in a grimace to emulate “sad,” and grins widely when I prompt him to do “happy.” When we reach the mirror that reads “proud,” he puffs up his chest with bravado and his face exudes confidence, albeit with a silly grin.
I instill pride in my child by celebrating our family and our community. I instill pride in my child by bringing him to queer events. I want him to store up pride like America has been storing toilet paper, so that when a bully at school, an ignoramus at a restaurant, a hateful moron on a road trip, chip away at his confidence with their homophobia and ignorance, he will still have a strong repository of pride that will help him hold his head up high and carry on.
“I want him to understand the history that came before our family, the network of important women, some queer, who helped bring him into this world, and to always carry with him a sense of pride that his family is unique, and out of that comes a chance at a life that isn’t prescribed or predetermined or, frankly, boring.”
I want to instill pride in my son for the model family we’ve built, which transcends so many of the assigned gender roles hetero-headed households fall into. I want to instill pride in my son for the pure love and commitment my wife and I have toward one another, our family and raising our child. He was not the tear-in-the-condom child or the wedge issue, or the afterthought. He is a central component of our family, our world, and a functional one where his moms planned consciously and deliberately and painstakingly to create the family we have.
My toddler has asked me why turtles swim in water while tortoises are land-bound. He has asked me why the sky is blue and the grass green (all of which I have to Google). He has not yet asked me why I am gay or why his family is different. But when he does, he will, I hope, have a strong foundation of pride for his LGBTQ family, and the knowledge that he is so very loved.
Allison Hope is a writer and native New Yorker who favors humor over sadness, travel over television, and coffee over sleep. You can learn more about her by visiting her website, urbaninbreeding.com, and following her on Twitter at @bubballie.