Lesbian and Gay Parenting book coverIn a Family Way

A column by Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

What Did You Do On Your Summer Vacation?

Posted By on July 1, 2009

What Did You Do On Your Summer Vacation?
By Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

We really wanted to go to Pride in New York City again this summer, since my little one was such a hit last year as he waved to the dykes-on-bikes and gawked at the woman with the leather chaps whose BUTT was showing. Somehow the schlep is more than we can bear right now. We even fantasized about taking the bus sponsored through the gay community, but traveling with small children is exhausting.  I’m not sure everyone else wants to stop for as many “pee breaks” as we would need to, or could stand the constant bickering. “Your foot is in my seat!” “No, its not. That’s my crayon, I was using it first, MOM!!”

We did go to our local Pride, here in Albany, NY. It is always fun catching up with old friends, amazed at how gray everyone (else) seems to be getting. I was mostly grateful for my friends who remembered to bring a blanket, so when the little one fell asleep we had a place to put him. (Unfortunately, I am still not really able to remember all of the complicated accessories that children need, and we sometimes wind up without things like extra diapers, juice boxes, or warm sweaters, despite the 20-pound canvass bag I carry everywhere.) My seven year-old, has begun to wander, carrying his own essentials (Gameboy and, well, that’s really it). No longer clinging to my skirts (much), he is happy to run on the grass with his friends. This year, however, marked something new.

He was very very excited to see his new friend, Hope. He ran across the lawn, skipping and screaming in that delightfully fairy way he has thankfully never submerged, and leaped onto her, and I mean ON to her. I was very grateful, that she didn’t seem to find this offensive, and her mom even thought she might’ve liked it. When Hope’s family disappeared out of sight for a minute, I thought he was going to fall apart in panic. “Where is she, Mom? I need to see her.” I took a moment to explain to him some of the subtleties of women. “Generally,” I said, “They prefer a little more discretion. It’s good to show her that you are happy to see her, but you might want to check with her if touch, or hugging, or leaping on top of, is something she seems open to.” He nodded, thoughtful. “Like this?” he asked, opening his arms in a warm gesture, with that award-winning ear-to-ear gapped-toothed grin (that will probably cost another bundle). “And then I should wait to see if she’s also happy to see me?” “Yep, just like that, my son…..”  I began to say, but he had already spotted Hope again, and was out of sight before I could finish my sentence. I suspect that I have another year of advice left, before I’m left in the dust.

They found each other, and I spend the day watching them, walking very, er, close to one another. At one point he leaned into her, while watching the lip-syncing drag performances, and he gently put his arm around her shoulder, pointing at some poignant moment in dress-up theater. When it was time to go, he didn’t want to leave, either Hope or the “women all dressed on stage.” An interesting life these young children of queer parents have, exploring their early crushes, heterosexual crushes, at Gay Pride events.

We are heading to Family Week in P-town this summer. I figure I’ve got to give my kids something to tell when the teacher asks them the proverbial question “What did you do on your summer vacation?” When my older boy was three, he collected leaflets and postcards at P-town as part of the Pride scavenger hunt. My favorite postcard was an advertisement for “Big-Boned Barbies.” He loved the woman who handed it to him, especially her flashing pasties. Due to the previously mentioned exhaustion caused by traveling with small children, we can only manage to get to P-town every other year. The last time we were there we spent the whole week trying to manage a colicky infant and all his gear. As we parked our car and loaded the ice chest with sandwiches and formula and juice boxes, saddled the carriage with towels and beach toys, hoisted the screaming baby on one of our backs and dragged the older one thru the burning hot sand, all the while dragging the previously mentioned 20-pound canvass bag, we watched the handsome gay men, hop out of their expensive sports car, carrying nothing but a towel, and skip off happily to the beach. I would not describe my feelings at the time as very “gay,” but more like a depressed housewife.

Nonetheless, we have decided to risk a return trip. The colicky baby is now a strong-willed, brazen three-year old who tell everyone he is five, and fears nothing. As he sticks out his tongue, hands on hip, he clearly says, “You are not my best friend. You are not coming to my party,” and marches off. I figure if we yoke all the gear to him, he will just drag it onto the beach, Paul Bunyan style. My older boy is old enough to be involved in the COLAGE activities for kids of queer parents. I hear that the highlight for many of the teens is dressing up and doing drag, something my boy will surely enjoy. However, we have grown wise as parents, mature from our experiences. We are bringing a young lesbian couple with us this time….free room in exchange for babysitting. The young butch can lug all the stuff to the beach (“Sarah is a boy, right Momma?”), and we can eat our lobster’s while they are still hot, and take romantic walks on the beach at night, knowing the children are safely cared for by the young dykes, who will not even be ready to go out and start partying until we are comfortably back at our cottage and in bed. Now, THAT is the kind of freedom and that I can celebrate with Pride.