Lesbian and Gay Parenting book coverIn a Family Way

A column by Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

The World at My Door

Posted By on July 1, 2009

The World at My Door
By Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

I have always dreaded my son turning six. I knew that his innocence would be over, and indeed, this has proven to be true. At age six the world comes rushing in with an intense madness. First of all, he is out of my sight and protection for longer periods of time.  For the record, I have never sheltered my kids particularly…I am not one of those parents who believe that children should be pure, innocent vessels who should not know about poverty, marijuana, or sex. I, of course, have not purposely exposed him to these things (just incase the religious right is monitoring my columns these days), but I have never protected them from the reality that some people have no food or shelter, and I have pointed out intoxicated people on the street to him with the intention that it will help him to recognize drunk behavior and hopefully avoid it. We have talked honestly about reproduction, and more importantly good touch and bad touch, with an emphasis on intimacy being an important part of loving adult relationships.

A few weeks ago the school called a bit frantic. Someone had left pornography on the school playground ("I did not!!" I yelled, "I put it neatly away," but then I realized she wasn’t accusing me, but apologizing.) Apparently, the children did see it for a minute or two. I ask the aftercare staff about this when I picked him up. "There was a picture of a woman performing oral sex on a man, but I think he only saw it for second."

On the way home I ask, "How was school?"

"Fine."

 "Anything happen today?"

 "Nope."

Pause.

"Anything happen in the schoolyard."

Pause.

"Yeah, we found some pictures that shouldn’t have been there. The staff took it way."

"What were the pictures of?"

"People. Naked people."

"What were they doing?" I ask.

"Nothing to worry about," he says, "They were only sucking each other’s arm."

I decide that this is enough information for one day, until, a week later I find him running after a friend, who is screaming, "Stop sucking my arm!!"

Okay, cute story you say, but it really gets worse. I mean all parents have to deal with kids’ receiving confusing misinformation about sexuality. But we are dealing with more serious issues here, like the budding realization that not everyone thinks having lesbian moms is "totally cool." We are leaving synagogue one night, and while I am getting the kids in the car, my partner goes off to talk with a couple, a lesbian couple who are in their 70s. Rumor has it (well the rumor was from the lesbian rabbi, so it was likely a true rumor) that they met 6 years ago and fell in love and came out. My son wants to know why Mommy has to talk with those women now. I explain. "Mommy is very excited to talk with them because they just came out as lesbians." "Why does that excite Mommy so much?" he asks. "Well," I explain, "sometimes it hasn’t been so easy for people to come out, especially older people. Sometimes people can be mean to gay people and Mommy wants to tell those women how great they are."

I expect him to ask me why people are mean to gay people. He does not. Instead he says,

"I know people can be mean. That’s why I don’t tell anyone that my moms are gay."

Long pause.

You have to understand. Our family has always been out. We are out at the grocery store, and out at the soccer field. We call each other "honey," in public; we touch; we do trainings at his school on lesbian parenting. Our being gay is simply not a secret.

"Everyone at your school knows you have two moms, dear," I say gently.

"Yeah, but they don’t know you are GAY!" he says, and for the first I realize that in his world, these are not the same thing.

Gently, very gently, I say, "Sweetie, I think everyone at school knows that your moms are lesbians." He looks at me with this new look he has developed, after turning six. I remember that look from my own childhood. I know exactly what the raised eyebrows, and scornful face feels like, when he says incredulous, "I don’t think so, Mama."

I can tell I’m not doing as good a job as I thought. I am shocked that my child feels he has to hide that his moms are lesbians from his hip Montessori school. The world is howling at my doorstep, and despite the long drive, hot weather, and difficulty parking, I have no choice to pack up the diaper bag, game boy, and lawn chairs, we are off The Gay Pride Parade. It’s time to grow up and see what real pride is about. Stay tuned.