Teaching Kids Simple Words: Part 1

April 14, 2010

in no manual for parenting


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?”

“Being happy?”

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?”

He nodded.

“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.

“Yup. I 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.”

A smile.

“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?”

Oy, gevalt!

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Maureen@IslandRoar April 14, 2010 at 5:55 am

Good for you. I think it’s so important to talk about this stuff and not gloss over it and wait for another day. Your sons are lucky!
.-= Maureen@IslandRoar´s last blog…Springtime Comes to Martha’s Vineyard =-.


alejna April 14, 2010 at 6:38 am

Have I told you lately that I love you? I’m so glad you are writing about this experience.
.-= alejna´s last blog…go fly a kite =-.


honeypiehorse April 14, 2010 at 6:58 am

I love the no kids comment – although it seems like the gay couples I know who’ve adopted also get along really well. Or maybe they just have better manners than straight couples when it comes to yelling at each other 😉
.-= honeypiehorse´s last blog…Walk like an…. =-.


Vintage Christine April 14, 2010 at 8:30 am

I wish that the morons where I live would realize how they screw up their kids when they denigrate gays and Lesbians. But of course being the holier-than-thou Christians that they are, they feel perfectly justified in passing along their ignorance and hate. I expounded on this earlier but it’s a major sore spot for me. Thank god I can go to New Orleans, hang out at a gay bar with my gay-friendly husband and just for a little while don’t have to think about what I hear in my little town. Your kids are awesome and if I had me some young’uns I’d be teaching them exactly as you do.


TheKitchenWitch April 14, 2010 at 8:31 am

You are doing a great job of parenting, there. You did us proud, Mama. And that last comment of his was just the icing on the cake, wasn’t it?
.-= TheKitchenWitch´s last blog…Hot Stuff: Camarones a la Diabla =-.


Jane April 14, 2010 at 8:34 am

You are such a great mom! And I love his final response “because they don’t have kids.” Isn’t THAT the truth?
.-= Jane´s last blog…Seven Kids, Three Moms and One Restaurant Health Inspector =-.


Robin April 14, 2010 at 9:13 am

Your post brought tears to my eyes, I almost want to cry right now writing this (damn, it must be that time of the month as I cried to a Taylor Swift song too!) because you are so honest and real and genuine with your kids. It is so beautiful. If only more parents were the way you are we’d have a much better world. I’m gonna shut up on that now so I don’t start crying. I also must say the last part made me smile. heheh.


Merrilymarylee April 14, 2010 at 9:57 am

The Secret Garden was one of my favorite books as a child. It was only when I pulled it out for youngest daughter to read that I noticed how many times “gay” and “queer” are used, always in the context of their original meanings. I think perhaps Mr. Monk has an excellent point in taking such words back to their original meaning. Perhaps having to say the multi-syllabic “homosexual” would make it too much of a pain to label people.

“That’s so homosexual” sounds stupid, doesn’t it?! GREAT!
.-= Merrilymarylee´s last blog…Scratch That! =-.


mepsipax April 14, 2010 at 10:47 am

That is awesome. The because they don’t have kids comment is awesome.
I too am trying to raise an intelligent kid. i.e. not racist/bigot or a murderer.
.-= mepsipax´s last blog…Looking for love =-.


April 14, 2010 at 11:14 am

Funny that he said “because they have no kids” – the first gay people that my child encountered were parents of a kid in her daycare, someone had two mommies. So important to talk about this stuff. We’ve recently had conversations about dwarfism and down syndrome, having run into people with both conditions.
.-= magpie´s last blog…Wardrobe Wednesday: New Popsicornian =-.


April 14, 2010 at 11:17 am

Good job, mom. I like that you took the one by the hand and went someplace that you could have a real discussion without interruption.
.-= Technobabe´s last blog… =-.


Wicked Shawn April 14, 2010 at 11:24 am

If you really want to send him over the edge, you can tell him your friend Shawn’s brother in law has a beautiful baby girl who is being raised by her gorgeous and loving mommies, who are wonderful enough to let him be a part of her life as an Uncle. They also send me pictures and let me watch her grow up. They, too, get along really well, even with a kid. Hehehe
.-= Wicked Shawn´s last blog…Wicked Delicious Morning =-.


Jennifer April 14, 2010 at 11:51 am

Do you think he figured they couldn’t have kids? Like, biologically have them?……maybe that was it……gotta have an egg and sperm (barring adoption). I am going with that line of thought. 😉
.-= Jennifer´s last blog…I have retreated to my happy place. =-.


Absence Alternatives April 14, 2010 at 12:27 pm

The thing about his saying my friends don’t fight because they don’t have kids really depressed me and made me feel guilty. It showed how he has internalized the more-often-than-I’d-like-to-admit-or-share-in-public arguments between me and my husband and how he thinks he’s partly to blame for that. It broke my heart and I did talk to him about it. But that’s another blog post/topic which I am wary of getting into. Maybe some day…

Actually maybe I ought to blog about it so some women may go, “Hey, that’s like me and my husband! Thank goodness I thought I was the only one what with all the other bloggers talking about how they LURV their husbands and how their husbands would come home and take care of the kids and fold the laundry and do the dishes and bake them pies and paint their portraits and sing them love songs… I didn’t want to be the only one who complains about the husband, for real, i.e. NOT like The Bloggess poking fun of Victor, but RAW, HONEST, assessment of their marriage in the blogosphere…” Some day. For now though, my husband does once in a while read my blog, and some things are better left unsaid… I know. My plan of going undercover foiled again.


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