I have learned in my parenting career that the fewer letters there are in a word, the more the potential of it being an extremely difficult concept to explain to your child. Some small words are deceptively simple. Small words with big, heavy baggages.
Mr. Monk used the word “gay” in the bad way the other day.
As soon as he said it, he knew he did something wrong. The air froze. The earth stood still. His brother sucked in his breath and for once, was speechless.
“It’s ok. Mommy’s not mad.” I reached for his hand and walked him upstairs to his room where I could talk to him quietly, without my 12-year-old chiming in whenever I took a breath as if he couldn’t wait to start parenting himself.
“I am sorry. I know I am not supposed to use this word, unless of course I am using it the right way.”
“What is the right way of using the word?”
I had to make a split decision at that moment to decide whether I should seize the opportunity to educate him or to prolong this “shielding”. I remembered this excerpt from NurtureShock:
How to raise racist kids?
Step One: Don’t talk about race. Don’t point out skin color. Be “color blind.”
Step Two: Actually, that’s it. There is no Step Two.
Congratulations! Your children are well on their way to believing that <insert your ethnicity here> is better than everybody else.
I decided to talk about what it means to be gay, to not make a big deal out of it, in the most basic manner, especially since we do see a lot of gay characters now on TV and in the movies, for which I am pleased.
We also just finished watching Modern Family in which a gay couple was portrayed just like any other suburban couple in a sitcom.
“You know there are people who are gay right?”
“Do you know what it means that they are gay?
“That they are happy?” Then he chuckled in a way that said he didn’t believe his answer and he was proud at his own wittiness.
“It means that… some people when they grow up, they realize that, well, … Ok. Instead for a man to have a girlfriend, he has a boyfriend.”
“And there are women who instead of having boyfriends, you know, they are in love with their girlfriends.”
At this moment as I write, I realized that I didn’t use husbands and wives. Please allow me to explain my oversight as that because I was discusssing the matter of heart and love with him at that moment, I unconsciously used the term boyfriends and girlfriends because that’s what people get when they are in love. Boyfriends and girlfriends.
I crouched down and held onto his shoulders so I could look him in the eyes.
“Did you know that I have friends who are gay?”
He looked surprised.
“I have a friend, a boy, you know, a male friend, he is gay so he has a boyfriend.” I continued. “I also have a very good girlfriend and she and her girlfriend have been together for longer than 10 years!”
“Wow.” At this his eyes widened.
met saw them not too long ago. They look very happy together. Actually I think they get along much better than mommy and daddy. They don’t seem to fight a lot.”
“It must be because they are girls!” A lightbulb lit up over his head.
Then he added, quieter now, while looking down at his own feet, “Or, because they don’t have kids?”