Editor’s Note: Babble is a part of the Walt Disney Company.
Every once in a while I get to hear the beautiful sound of my kids saying, “Hey! That family looks just like ours!” The joyful surprise in their voices makes my heart do backflips — because that family like ours is a family with two moms.
But while it’s a pretty awesome thing for my kids to see our family structure reflected back at them — in movies, on TV, or even in our own community — it’s also a pretty rare one. Even though gay parenting is just parenting, my kids don’t often get to see gay parents or kids with two moms or two dads in the books they read or even in the shows they watch. Until now, that is.
Enter Doc McStuffins.
As if Doc wasn’t already awesome enough — being an African-American girl with an adopted sibling, and breaking gender stereotypes left and right — she’s now helping a doll family with two moms and two kids. In the show’s latest episode, titled “The Emergency Plan,” a family gets separated during an earthquake and Doc helps them set up a meeting place while organizing supplies to have on hand in the case of an emergency. The episode’s focus is on safety and teaching kids how to prepare themselves if the unthinkable happens. But in its own subtle way, the episode says so much more without saying anything at all.
The two moms are voiced by Wanda Sykes and Portia De Rossi, who are both gay themselves. Sykes has two children with her partner, Alex Niedbalski, and recently told GLAAD that with this particular episode, she’s thrilled her kids — just like mine — will finally get to see a family that looks like theirs, too.
“We’re two moms. Two kids,” she shared. “It’s going to be very exciting for them to see our family represented.”
And make no mistake, something like that that is huge.
I know when my own kids see themselves onscreen, they feel valued and supported beyond the walls of our home and within the groups of friends we have in our lives. My kids already know it’s cool to have two moms; their friends know it, too. But when they see it in an episode of a popular show like Doc McStuffins, it’s as if the whole world suddenly knows it’s cool, too. Because for a wonderfully brief moment in time, kids and families like mine are the stars of the show. We are being celebrated. We are having our time to be seen. And when we are seen, we — and my kids especially — feel included.
Yet sadly, a slew of anti-gay groups don’t seem to care about my kids’ desires to feel included or even valued. Many have even come out of the woodwork this week to protest the episode, accusing it of pushing an agenda and not being family-friendly. Instead of focusing on the important lesson it aims to teach — creating a family emergency plan, which all families should have — the critics keep focusing on the two-mom part of the storyline, as if that’s somehow a terrible thing.
But tell me, how is my life not family-friendly? How is my desire to raise happy and kind kids an agenda that is worth boycotting? Why can’t my kids have the opportunity to see families that veer from the standard mom and dad household? Why should I have to spend hours searching for a quality children’s book or television show that tells the story of a kid with two moms just so my kids don’t have to be bombarded with another example of our heteronormative society?
I am busy raising kids; I shouldn’t have to make time in my day to remind my children that they are not alone when it comes to having same-gender parents. But I do, because it is worth my time to make my kids feel worthy.
Because of the fear of discrimination, it’s hard to even get the exact number of children who have gay parents in the U.S., but in a study reported in 2013, as many as six million American kids and adults have a parent who identifies as LGBTQ. Same-gender marriage has been legal now for two years, and a shift toward transgender visibility is showing the world that households no longer fit the old-fashioned mold of a cis-gender man married to cis-gender woman. Opinions about same-gender couples are slowly changing to be more accepting of families like mine. And more often than not, families with gay parents are living next door to straight parents. Our kids go to school together. Attend the same birthday parties. And obsess over the same popular fads. (Enough with the Beanie Babies and fidget spinners already, okay?)
So, thank you Doc McStuffins for including my family. Thank you for making my kids feel like they deserve to have a plan in the case of an emergency. And thank you for making my kids feel like our family deserves to be helped and celebrated. The work to create this episode was worth all of our time.