We all gauge the multitude of so-called successes and failures of parenting moments by different variables. We (us parents) each have a different set of lenses in which we view our children, how we may “think” they are doing. Whether we are talking in general, like their grades, behavior or mood or we are looking at more of the minutia. Little snapshots in time, that sort of show you something unique in your child’s development or personality. It can simply be a look, a statement, a small conversation…watching them play, when they don’t know you are looking…those tiny moments that go on, but often are a reflection of who they are “right now” and even perhaps a foreshadowing of who they may become.
Now…I have two boys. They are both vastly different in both looks and personality alike. They are five years apart. Despite their differences, I try to raise them in quite the same manner, with the same fibers of morals and values being loosely woven through our years together.
O.K…I will cut to the chase. One is a teen and one is in second grade…I am, what one might describe as a bleeding heart liberal. A heart on my sleeve kind of girl. I am a social worker by trade and by human make-up. For as long as I can remember, I have tried to be the voice for the voiceless. The cheerleader for the underdog. The advocate for the marginalized and oppressed…YOU GET IT. My husband, is also a mental health professional and is a Latino male, who despite his best efforts, still carries with him what I might describe as this “semi” machismo perspective. He has come a long way and is also himself, incredibly liberal but let’s just say when my boys were little and I bought them baby dolls and a stroller to push them in (which they did often and around the neighborhood) …he seemed kind of was perplexed, he “sort of” tried to discourage me from letting them… (I wasn’t having it). I would have to say that his reaction was rooted not only in his cultural roots and norms and gender and social norms but also…rooted in FEAR. ( we all know, having a baby doll turns you gay right? )
“Not my boys…not baby dolls? They are not GIRLS!” As the years have gone by…he has softened a lot… has a greater understanding of why I would encourage that … and as for my boys, despite my best efforts…they don’t seem to really embrace there feminine side right now, and that is o.k. It seems, at least right now, they are kind of these brutish, loud, wrestle each other to the ground primate type of kids. (which does not mean they are not sensitive emotionally) But they are rough, crazy, sports nuts who are dirty and what societal/gender stereotypes may reference as or consider “All Boy”. Whatever… I still send the message that it is o.k to cry, to openly talk about feelings, to be sensitive and most importantly to not feel pressured to conform to social norms “just because”.
One of the other things we do together, though I watch next to no television, is watch several weekly sitcoms. One is Modern Family…think what you may about the show, but it has allowed us to crack up together, to explore a vast range of family issues and also to have on-going dialogue with my kids about homosexuality. Questions come in many forms like…”why are those guys married mom AND they have a baby?” Just one of the questions my younger one has asked. My teen…he kind of get’s it already and knows I am open about whomever people love they just love. My little one has asked questions over the past year, and more recently, he seems to “get it” a little more. (not sex…he does not know what that is yet, outside of kissing) But he knows a girl can love and marry another girl…a man can love and marry another man. That God made us all different and amazing and that is o.k.
In a world where gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual youth have so many struggles, higher rates of clinical depression/ anxiety and a significantly higher suicide rate, I feel it is my job as a parent to keep an open dialogue with my kids. To send the message that no matter who they are, whom they love or even if they were confused….they will always be accepted, loved and supported, at least in our home. Now, obviously my son is in second grade, so I don’t go into great detail. I just answer what he asks and try to communicate that however you are, it’s o.k and you will be loved.
It’s kind of hard to gauge how they are doing on that. My older son had a sleep-over…with a diverse group of boys. He mentioned one would be pretty late because he has dance. (now being most of his friends are on sports with him…I talked to him about this… just out of curiosity because I never met this boy…what kind of dance, how late will he be?) He answered without much thought…” he’ll be pretty late and he will be hungry…and ummm, I don’t know, he does ballet, jazz, hip-hop…yeah…he is kind of feminine, but I don’t think he’s gay, but honestly…who really care’s anyway?” (For a seventh grade boy…to me this signals, he is getting it!)
Now, my younger son…was snuggling with his big, muscular, Latino father (otherwise known as my husband) I walked in to his room and said jokingly “Hey you…You are always snuggling with my husband…you better give him back to me !” He glanced up at me, with wild and sleepy eyes, as my hubby lye half asleep and boldly said “HE IS MY HUSBAND NOW…WE ARE GAY!”
Let’s just say my husband was no longer asleep…He gave me the look of “You did this” but then smiled… and I thought to myself:
“YES…PARENTING WIN!!!” (yeah…I know…I may have clarify a few things as time goes on) but he was being silly and I thought to myself…So far, So Good!