“Look at this picture,” I said to my 9-year-old son. “Tell me what you see.”
“Yes, and what else?”
“Their kitchen is really big.”
“I know, right? That table is awesome.”
“I like the stools,” he added.
“Take a good look,” I said. “What else?”
“They aren’t vegetarians,” he answered. “I think that’s bacon by the mom, and… hey, where’s the dad?”
“Not all families have dads,” I said. “You know that. This family has two moms.”
“Okay,” he answered. “They are almost out of orange juice.”
“Is that it?” I asked. “Nothing else jumps out at you?”
“They eat a lot of eggs, and… whoa! Is that Max?”
“Max who?” I asked.
“Max from Wizards of Waverly Place! That’s him! Is that his real family?”
“That is him—I mean it’s the actor that played him. This is his new show. It’s called The Fosters.”
“Are they wizards?”
And then I decided not answer with something about how they make magic in the lives of children that desperately need it, because listen to yourself.
“No, this show isn’t fantasy. It’s about a couple, the two women, that adopt some children and provide a foster home to another.”
“Like Meet the Robinsons?”
“A lot like that,” I answered. “But without the time travel.”
“Oh,” he said.
He was quiet for a minute, and then a minute longer. I finally decided that I was losing his interest.
“You can watch something without wizards and time travel,” I told him.
“I know,” he said. “I was just thinking about Nana. Did you know that she was adopted?”
“Of course,” I answered.
“That’s pretty awesome,” he said.
“Yes,” I replied. “Yes it is.”
“Can I watch The Fosters?” he asked.
“It’s not a show for kids,” I said. I followed with, “Is your homework done?”
“Then go do it.”
And he did.
I looked at the picture a little longer. There was so much there that, for whatever reason, would surely anger someone, and I loved that my son couldn’t find any of it.
He didn’t question sexual orientation, race, adoption, or foster care, because why in the world should he? He just saw a family doing the things that families do, and then he did his homework, because that’s how our family does it. However, there will be people that do question the topics of the show—they question them every day, and that is why The Fosters is needed.
To be clear, the show deals with adult topics—things that are meant for an older audience, and it isn’t intended for younger kids, but that doesn’t mean that the topics it covers aren’t appropriate for family conversation. It’s never too early to talk about understanding, respect, and empathy.
I thought back to my old theater days, back when I waltzed around in South Pacific as Emil De Becque and stood slightly upstage, nodding in deep contemplation, as Lieutenant Cable belted out “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught.” He was right then, and it is still true now. Fortunately, lessons go both ways, and the only thing The Fosters is teaching is love—they write some good songs about that, too.
I was still looking at the photo when my other son walked in.
“Wow,” he said. “Max’s family sure has a big table.”
“I know,” I answered. “It’s pretty awesome.”
Read more from Whit Honea at his site Honea Express and the popular group blog DadCentric. You can follow Whit on the Twitter or Pinterest (his opinions are his own and do not reflect those of Babble or most rational people).