Lesbian and Gay Parenting book coverIn a Family Way

A column by Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev


Posted By on July 1, 2009

By Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

I remember when I first realized that my older son was actually a voting member of the family. My partner and I were in the car discussing where we were going out to eat for dinner (it was my night to cook), and I was suggesting Italian, and she was (as usual) suggesting Japanese, and the disagreement was suddenly interrupted by a new vote. "Chinese." We looked at each other unsure from where the words emanated. "Chinese," repeated a still, small, voice from the rear of the car. Every since then, he’s been a voting member of family decisions.

My oldest though seems to understand the basics of voting, i.e., everyone gets ONE vote, throwing food does not increase your chances of getting what you want, and most of all, that some things really just don’t matter. My younger son as I’ve suggested previously, is a thug. He is extremely verbal, very opinionated, and believes that throwing food, heavy toys, and biting are all fair game for increasing votes. He is also believes in stacking the votes on his side, by repetitions of his own, finely thought out opinions. "Pizza, Pizza, Pizza, PIZZA" is a common chant. As is "MORE," "NOW," "BOTTLE," and "Not my BEDTIME." He also insists on voting on almost everything, including what color paint to paint the sun room, where the screwdriver should be kept, and which side of the sink is the best placement for a used and soapy toothbrush. It is true that democratic governance is rapidly losing favor in my house.

My older son however has reached a higher level of conversation in the past few weeks. On our way home from school, he says, "Do you wanna talk?" I was actually enjoying listening the evening news, but, er, sure, "What’s going on?" I ask. "Well," he says, and launches in a complex discussion about the interpersonal politics of the first graders, the influence of the second and third graders in his multi-age classroom, and the sadness of war.

Last week he was invited to a birthday party. The girl’s name was "Alex" and when I asked him what she might like for a present he said, "She likes footballs and action figures, that’s all she likes." "Really?" I said, surprised because we’ve certainly bought enough of those Barbie-type toys for other girls in his class. "Those are not typical things that most of the girls in your class play with," I say. He looked surprised, "Most of the girls play football, "he said. (He hates football, by the way.) "Anyway," he said, "You know there really aren’t ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ toys. Kids can do anything they want." "Yeah," my partner added, "Why were you thinking that Momma? Sheesh!" I sigh. "When I was young, " I say, "most girls weren’t allowed to play with those kind of toys, and they were teased if they did." He looks shocked and surprised by my small-town conventionalism, "THAT," he assures me was a long long time ago.

And then I overheard this conversation in the kitchen. "Mom, Jacob knows more than I do about everything in the world." (Jacob is really quite a knowledgeable 7-year-old.) "Well," my partner says, "I’m sure he doesn’t know EVERYTHING more than you. I’m sure you know more about being Jewish." (My son is the only Jew in his class.) "Yes, but he knows more about being Christian." "Okay," my partner continues, "I’m sure you know more about gay and lesbian things." "Maybe," my sons says, "Because I don’t think Jacob’s parents are gay. He has a mom and a dad." My partner concedes that they are probably not gay, but my son continues, "Well, what are they? I mean, who do they love?" "Well," she says, "They love each other." My son walks away pondering this….men and women who love each other, what a novel idea! I’m sure he will bring this up to discuss in his classroom next week. Heterosexual coupling: it could work.