Talking to Your Preschooler About HomosexualityChristine Coppa
On Saturday morning as I helped JD get dressed for a birthday party, he, out of nowhere, said, “Mommy, a boy and a boy can’t get married.” I didn’t skip a beat. “Ah, yes, they can!” I said, as I pulled the t-shirt over his head. When his little face was revealed he said, “No, Mom, you’re wrong!” I paused and thought, how shall I broach this? Ding-ding-ding: The source. “Who told you this?” I asked. “*Bob from school.” “OK,” I said. “Well, Bob from school is very wrong. If two boys love each other they can get married and so can two girls,” I said. JD looked at me with a really confused face. I mean, he is four and his mother isn’t married; explaining homosexuality or marriage in general isn’t exactly easy. There was a point when he thought Ed (dad friend) was Lily’s (JD’s friend) uncle—how sad is that?
Then I remembered a story I wrote for a parenting website about books that explain modern families. (You can find that link here.) I instructed JD to go sit on the couch. I ran my finger through a row of books on the bookshelf in our living room. “Ah,” I said. “Here, it is.” I pulled out And Tango Makes 3. There’s no better way to introduce a hard topic than snuggling up on the couch and reading about it—words and vivid imagery do wonders. For those of you unfamiliar with the book, it’s just beautiful and brilliant.
Based on a true story about a charming penguin family living in New York City’s Central Park Zoo—Roy and Silo, two male penguins, are “a little bit different,” as the book phrases. They cuddle and share a nest like the other male and female penguin couples. Determined and hopeful to start a family of their own, they bring an egg-shaped rock back to their nest and take turns sitting on it. Of course, nothing happens, that is until a watchful zookeeper decides they deserve a chance at having their own family and gives them an egg in need of nurturing. The fathers do a great job of hatching their funny and adorable daughter, and the three can still be seen at the zoo today.
As I read JD the book, I pointed to Roy and Silo over and over. “See buddy, a boy penguin and another boy penguin and they love each other, they are allowed to get married and they have a baby.” JD’s eyes widened and he smiled! “*Bob was wrong, Mom!” he said. “Yes, he was. Roy and Silo have a special family just like us. No two families are the same.”
I am raising my son to be an open, loving individual. He won’t go to college one day and be mystified by a gay roommate and feel the need to videotape his private moments, like Ravi did at Rutgers to Clementi. My son is being raised to accept people for who they are and I won’t stand for less. This starts in the home now. I grew up in a pretty open family. We talked about everything, and everyone was in each others’ business. If I was in HS with gay peers, I didn’t know it, and I wouldn’t have cared. I made a lot of gay friends when I left for college and spent four years at The University of the Arts in Philly. One of my best friends from college is a lesbian. There is nothing odd about this to me, and that is the example I am setting for my son. I support gay marriage. Love is love and love is good. As a single woman (yes, still single, people—let’s not get ahead of ourselves with *Joe) I can only hope I am lucky enough to find the love that my married gay friends have found. It’s real and beautiful.
JD snuggled closer into me and admired the soft watercolor artwork in the book. “Roy and Silo,” he said. “Boy and Boy!” “Yes buddy! See, Tango has two daddies! You have a Mommy. Lily has a Mommy and a Daddy.”
“If Tango has two daddies, why don’t I even have one daddy?” BREAK MY HEART.
To be continued…
Do you talk to your kids about homosexuality? How do you feel about gay marriage?
*Bob is a pseudonym for a little boy in JD’s school. JD fibs so he could have made this up. These are my views.