Raising a Gay Son Is the Same as Raising a Straight Son, Except When It's Not

Yes, at times it is different. At times it is hard, emotional and challenging. It's not something people are used to seeing, which can make them uncomfortable, so it requires extra work of me as a parent. But that doesn't mean it's bad. And he's worth it. All my kids are.
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There is this post I always want to write. I want to tell the story of an average Saturday.

My husband finally manages to wake me up about 15 minutes before we're supposed to meet our friends for breakfast at our neighborhood's local café. We manage to get our three boys away from the Wii (it's all about Mario Baseball in our house these days), wrestle them into clothes and coats (convincing the baby that he needs to wear something other than his favorite T-shirt, Star Wars Lego underpants and an alien mask can be a challenge some mornings) and head out into a brisk winter morning for the walk to breakfast.

Our two oldest boys decide to race each other up the block. The oldest is shouting, "Ready, set, go!" but both are already running by the end of "ready," the little cheaters. The baby pumps his little legs in a desperate but ever-failing attempt to catch up, yelling, "Wait for me!" in his high, 3-year-old-boy voice. My husband and I catch up with him easily; each of us takes one of his hands, and together we play "One-Two-Three Jump," swinging our arms high as he giggles outrageously and promptly forgets that his faster-moving brothers have left him behind.

We make it to the café about 5 -- OK, 10 -- minutes late. Somehow our group of seven adults and six kids manages to fit into a space intended for about eight people max. Our middle son makes a beeline for our friend with the iPad and grins and waggles his eyebrows until he's allowed to play. Our oldest son, seeing his best friend, the 12-year-old daughter of one of our friends, glides his way around the bodies (and under the table) until he is plastered to her side. The two immediately start whispering and giggling. Babies sit on laps, an extra chair is brought up, and we all squeeze in. Ordering food is a raucous and loud affair while people debate between what they want to eat as opposed to what they should eat, the decision not helped along at all by the heckles from the peanut gallery surrounding them.

Eventually the food arrives, the kids settle down (sort of) and the adults talk about all those things adults talk about: our jobs, funny things we saw online, whatever television show is the newest obsession, what good book someone's reading, our parents and families and, of course, our kids. There's a lot of laughing, talking in code about embarrassing things (because the kids are all right there) and passing around bacon. Eventually the kids finish their breakfast and ask to get cookies (I have no idea how this breakfast-dessert thing started, but now it's a tradition, and we don't fight it anymore).

Once the kiddos get antsy, we head to the park across the street. Our oldest and his BFF start a strange game of chase/tag that doesn't seem to have any sensible rules, our second wanders around the trees looking for the best sticks (they have multiple uses and are very precious to him), and the 3-year-old and the other little ones his age head to the playground equipment with the intent of making my hair go gray early, cackling with laughter all the while. The adults all plan out the day until they wimp out in the cold and say it's time to leave. There are hugs and kisses all around, and then we head back home for the rest of the day.

The rest of Saturday never has a typical routine. It could be filled with the boring necessities of a trip to Costco, Target or the grocery store. Sometimes it's more fun, with a visit to the zoo or a trip to the country. But it seems like something is always going on each weekend to fill the time. We're always busy and moving and, well, just being us.

This is the post I always want to write. It's normal, and it's boring. It's about the silly, day-to-day life of a family with three crazy kids and two even crazier parents. It's about how we love all our kids, and it doesn't matter in our regular, day-to-day life that our oldest son identifies as gay. However, as idealistic as we would like to be, there are times when it is just different.

Our son being gay isn't the main topic of our lives. On a typical Saturday it usually doesn't come up at all. And then it does.

There was the time when our son told us that the parents of his best buddy at school were voting for Mitt Romney in the last presidential election, and that he was worried that the boy wouldn't want to be his friend anymore. We reassured him that voting for someone doesn't mean one agrees with everything that person says. We also reminded him that the two boys had been friends since kindergarten and would probably stay that way, but we added that if his buddy ever says anything mean about gay people, then he should go directly to their teacher.

Then there was the time when someone at the park (someone not in our little breakfast club) referred to our son's best friend as his "girlfriend" and my son shook his head, rolled his eyes and said, "No, she's not. I have boyfriends." In this case my husband and I watched the adult for a reaction, waiting to see if we needed to run interference, and a few minutes later we had that conversation with a mom we know from the neighborhood preschool: "Yes, our son identifies as gay. Yes, he knows what it means. Yes, it is fine with us if he 'changes his mind' later."

Then there was the time when a relative asked our son what he wanted for Christmas and he said he wanted to be able to sing and play guitar with his "boyfriend," Blaine, a popular television character on the TV show Glee. He then let out a disappointed sigh and said, "But Mom said I can't ask for people for Christmas." Later that day we had the "so-he-still-thinks-he's-gay?" conversation with the questioner.

And those are just a few of things that wouldn't come up if our son were straight. So, yes, at times it is different. At times it is hard, emotional and challenging. But that doesn't mean it's bad. Our kid is one those in this younger generation, raised without homophobic stigma, who know who they are and aren't shy about it. It's not something people are used to seeing, which can make them uncomfortable, so it requires extra work of me as a parent. But he's worth it. All my kids are.

And maybe someday I will write a post about a Saturday that includes one of these events, but it won't be special, because having a young gay kid in the mix will be so normal, so everyday, that only our friends and family will ever read it. I'm looking forward to that day.

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