Over two years ago my partner and I were so nervous for our son, Judah, who was entering Kindergarten at our local public school. We had the same fears as any other parent. Would our son make friends? Would our son be successful in school? And most of all how would I spend my days now that our son was in school? As a stay at home mom I was so sad to see our son growing up and it was so hard letting him go.
To be honest I was never afraid Judah wouldn’t make friends because he had two moms. I can’t speak for my partner, Carol, though. My thought was he already had plenty of friends and a large support system which included a large extended family. He was a confident little guy who was cute and smart but I know I am slightly biased. On the flip side we were realistic. There could be a parent, teacher and/or child who may say something hurtful to our son. But, that is the case for all children. And those who pick on others usually pick something personal that they know will upset the child. So, in our son’s case it could be him having two moms. And because of that we wanted Judah to be prepared.
Our first steps came long before Judah was even conceived. First, Carol and I made the decision to live our lives openly so when we did have a child we’d have the strength to help guide him. It took time. We had to understand the external homophobia, come to terms with it and move beyond it so we’d be able to give our child the best possible tools to live proudly and unashamed. After all how could we teach our son love and respect if we weren’t respecting ourselves (which I feel hiding exemplifies)? And how could we ask that he push through his fears if we remained stagnant in our own? It was hard to change and it was scary but through practice it got easier. By the time our son was born we definitely were in a better place to be better moms.
We are always reminded that our son is watching us and learning from our actions. Judah witnesses how others treat us and he observes how we react. This reminds me… Judah and I went to a local market in town. He was about 4 years old. We were at the check out counter and Judah was helping the cashier by handing items in the cart to her. The cashier was impressed and said to Judah, “Your mom must be proud you’re being so helpful.” Judah looked at her like she was crazy and said, “My mom is at home. How does she know what I’m doing?” The cashier was clearly taken off guard and couldn’t comprehend what my son just told her. Judah added,”Oh, this is my Momma. I have two moms.” The cashier looked very confused by that point. She truly could not fathom a child could have two moms. Judah couldn’t understand the confusion and looked at me for help. I told the cashier that my son was absolutely correct. He has two moms. The cashier who had seen us shopping there for over a year never made that connect until that moment. Her mouth dropped open and her eyes got really big. Once I paid for my groceries, I very politely thanked the cashier and Judah and I left the store. On the way home Judah asked why the cashier didn’t understand he had two moms. It was a great opportunity for us to talk. I wanted Judah to know that no matter how the other person reacts, we should always be kind and polite.
A couple of weeks later Judah and my partner returned to that store. That same cashier who seemed so shocked by Judah having two moms went up to Judah when she saw him that day. She knelt down to his eye level and handed him three bags of jelly beans. She told him one bag was for him, one was for his Mom and one was for his Momma. It was such a sweet moment (no pun) and a good learning experience for Judah.
Unfortunately, Judah doesn’t get to see many other gay families who are out. It gets lonely as many other (gay) families are closeted. We have often seen other (gay) families in the grocery store. Each time we hope to be able to strike up a conversation with them but more often than not they choose to keep to themselves. Often they won’t even make eye contact with those around them. Believe me it’s not easy being out but I can’t understand having children and keeping them from being open and honest about their family.
My partner and I lived in the closet for the first few years of our relationship. We finally realized we couldn’t continue to live in hiding because of our own fears of what could happen. We needed to live for ourselves and for our children. It was important we lived as any other normal family so that we didn’t become part of the (internal) homophobia and pass it on to our children. And more importantly we didn’t want to create the same restraining life for our son as we had. The reality is it hasn’t been easy living openly. I lost a job and a community as a result. We’ve paid a price but I’d never trade one of those days to be back in the closet. We are happy and are able to be positive roll models. We are also teaching our son that even when there are unfair things that happen to us, we hold our head up high and keep going. Listen, I can’t control what others think of me, but I can change my world so that we’re happy. In doing so it has allowed our son to see the truths that exist in the world and how to handle it.
During these near 8 years with having Judah, he has taught us so much. He recently asked, “Why are you and Mom so worried about preparing me for kids not liking me because I have two moms? None of my friends care. And if someone did, you know it’s not their fault. It’s only how their parents taught them.” His words ran straight to my heart. I told him he was right but it’s hard because the child can grow up to think like his parent. Judah was quiet for a moment and then said, “I have a plan. Since it’s the parents who need to be educated, you can make friends with them and show them we are just like every other family. You can show them I am a normal kid who just so happens to have two moms, 3 cats and two dogs and is no different than they are.”
It was then I realized something that should have been so obvious. Our son has only ever known his life with two moms. That’s his normal. Because my partner and I were raised by straight parents it’s not familiar territory so we tend to make assumptions as to the experiences our son will have. Instead, we need to learn to trust him and follow his lead because he’s the one with the insight. Judah doesn’t continuously think about having two moms. It’s just what it is and who his parents are. Obviously, many of his friends have a mom and dad but in his eyes that’s just who makes up their family. No one is better or more normal. No big deal in his eyes. He doesn’t care his family is a minority. To him it’s irrelevant. What matters to him is we are here to love him, to hug him when he needs it and to tuck him safetly into bed each night. How can any parent ask for anymore than that?