Tag Archives: LGBT parents
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My LGBTQ Family

2 Jun

P1000150This is my family – my LGBTQ family – see? We’re two moms there on the left.

Here, we are in the back of a pick-up truck in Guatemala, on the coast of Lake Atitlan, exploring the birth country of our youngest member. Our new bisexual friend Tania ( 🙂 ) took this picture. We met her in the garden of the B&B where we were staying and she invited us to travel with her and a young guide, Casimiro, for the next couple of days. We were – all of us – delighted to do so.  Our day was lovely. Our trip was lovely. More pictures of our 2013 trip to Guatemala here.

This coming Saturday, Kelly and I will have been together twelve years. Our state began officially supporting marriages like ours yesterday. We haven’t done the paperwork yet, but it’s on the horizon. I promise to post pictures when we do – not of the paperwork, but of us signing on the dotted line to make our union, our marriage, our lives as a lesbian couple with two kids, a matter of public record. More thoughts on marriage here.

I am amazed that state by state, day by day, our country shifts, making us free-er to share who we are, wherever we are. I am impressed. I am excited. But we still need models and we still need to model for one another. We need to remember that life on our own terms is possible and beautiful, no matter who we are. We still need days like today, Blogging for LGBTQ Families Day, to remind ourselves and each other there’s a wide wonderful embracing world out there, whether or not we can see it right here, right now.

And we need to stand up for one another. For our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender friends, and for strangers, too. Because not everyone lives in a welcoming place, has a welcoming home.

This is how the world changes. This is how people begin to understand. By seeing our faces, hearing our voices, reading our words.

This is how the world changes. When we make ourselves visible.

And when we create a circle of safety for the people around us to make themselves visible, too.

 

 

 

 

Since you asked…

7 Nov

After eleven years with Kelly – an international move, three local moves, adoption, working together to parent a teen, more than one family health crisis, after… well … eleven years of sharing meals, job struggles, job changes, cars, friends, pets and travels, (there is no way to put this into perspective, but) after eleven years of life together, Kelly and I are engaged.

She accepted my proposal via Facebook. She said, “Dear Roi, since you asked… I’ll answer. YES.” The day the Illinois House voted for equality.

This is when elation finally lifted me over the clouds like a super-helium balloon. For years, this has been a civil rights moment to build for, an unrealistic goal, a pie in the sky dream, a possibility, an eventuality, a likelihood, a shocking inevitability and then BAM, it’s done and not only that, but now it’s a romantic moment, too, and my whole heart explodes. How do I express this? I cannot.

We have details to decide – size and style, timing – but there’s no rush. The law doesn’t take effect until June, when Illinois will be the fifteenth state to affirm same-sex marriage. Have you heard the radio reports?

We told the girls, of course. They are happy. All night, Miss E kept saying, “I’m so excited!” Grace called us, and posted to her Facebook page – where more than 80 of her friends clicked “Like.”

And yet… we’re here already. Right?

How many times have I explained us as married to Miss E’s friends, referencing the white gold band on the ring finger of my left hand? Talking about promises, vows, love, our life together. How many times?

Will marriage change our everyday lives?

There have always been more important things to fight for, so many important struggles – more tangible, more urgent, closer to the ground, more central to survival. I know this. Some of these are fights I’m fighting now.

But there is something magical about this moment and I am deeply grateful to the people who would not let go. Now. This. Is a cultural shift. This feels like my heart exploding. Simply love, simply being who we are. How does the law touch me like this, at my core?

I continue life today as I lived it last week and the week before. I travel to the office, to school and home. I interact with my daughter’s friends (and sometimes my own). I eat, sleep, write. I watch TV with my loving partner, our days and nights punctuated by the barking of dogs.

Summer 2013 Ice Cream Eating DogsBut there is something new here now. Inside me. Security? Bravery? Resolve? There is something in me that doesn’t worry anymore that my life as I know it will one day be taken away. The fog around the edges has cleared. Because of Kelly? Because of the law? It was never a conscious worry – but it was there, nonetheless, and now it is gone.

Is it really this simple? No. There is something more. Something I cannot explain. But this – this feeling – is something I want to save. To savor. Even if some of the words are not yet right. This is the beginning of something new. A moment in history. So –

Thank you to everyone who made this happen. Just – Thank you for hanging on.

An Historic Day

28 Jun

I had the great privilege of working remotely this week . . .

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. . . while my daughter and her cousin attended day camp in the woods.

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The actual woods. Very unlike any urban camps they might have attended close to home, their activities here were things like archery, kayaking, fishing (okay, so they both opted out of this one), crafting, swimming, rock climbing, and – well – chalk drawing. They were also told that “totem” meant “pole” so we had to clear that up. But all in all? Amazing.

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As we drove to camp Wednesday morning, we scanned the radio for music we all might like. Have you tried that? With two tweens in your backseat? We found one with a good beat, clean language, very little DJ interruption… and surprisingly quick headline news (my hand poised on the dial to turn it): “The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the Constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act today, at 9 o’clock Eastern.” That may not be exactly what they said, but it’s pretty close.

And suddenly, we were talking about marriage and fairness and how many times people could get married (twice if you married in both the U.S. and India; twice or more if you got divorced), who people can marry (whoever they like, of course! right?), who cares (not just gay people), and which branch of government has the final say (um: all?).  We talked about state responsibility and how laws change, and they agreed to exit my car in the pouring rain only after I promised to tell them the decision just as soon as camp was done.

I wondered silently if any other campers had this on their minds.

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When I came back that afternoon and shared the good news, they jumped up and down and waved their swimming towels, climbed into my car, peppering me with questions, and then we swam off our raft in the middle of the lake.

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By the end of the day, the historic decision had been distilled simply to, “The Supreme Court says YES!”

Then it rained. And then it stopped.

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And then we swam again. And fed the swans, Gertrude and Alice . . .

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. . . with Aunties who stopped by to finish the week with us.

We treated ourselves to rootbeer floats at a drive-in.

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And roasted marshmallows. Because we were away from home and it was summer and life was good.

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Hardly Gay Today

2 Jun

Blogging for LGBT Families at a time when I’m more curious about the secret language of Nine . . . when I’m squeezing every loving moment, every hug, every insight, every quip and observation about life, itself, from the next two days before Miss E scampers off to spend ten whole days at Camp Grandma . . . proves challenging. Now, I love that I can always run over to Mombian for that dose of same-gender-loving perspective I crave and I am Thrilled with a capital-T that she hosts this themed day every year.

I’m just not . . . feeling it today.

It isn’t that I don’t believe in LGBT families – and I don’t mean “believe” like you might believe in fairy dust or God or the roundness of this earth or anything else you can’t see, smell, or hold in two hands – on the contrary, I very much believe in this family I’ve made with my partner and our two girls, and the families around me on every side. But this is my life, my every day. Not much of it is gay.

I’m lucky that way. Where I live. Very, very lucky.

Don’t get me wrong. There are moments now and again when being gay is more than a blip on the screen.

I was angry when the Illinois legislature failed to call for a vote on marriage equality last week. When my partner and our eldest daughter arrived home, I was sitting at the dining room table scouring my Facebook feed and grumbling quietly. “They didn’t call the vote,” I said as they walked in – after a quick hello and the tiniest flash of a smile to greet them.

“I know,” they replied in tandem, one of them holding out the “knoooooww” a bit longer than the other, neither of them especially disturbed.

“That’s ridiculous,” I continued, prodding them into a conversation to match my mood.

My partner walked into the kitchen for a glass of ice water. “Well, what did you expect?” she called back to me.

That’s the thing. Despite all the busses and rallies and calls and tweets and posts and general hoopla, I never really expected to be married under the law. But I am a bit of a dreamer. I am. So I hoped they would call the vote and we would win and that . . . deflation . . . left me feeling glum.

I wanted to send my Honey roses and propose.

I wanted to celebrate our 11th anniversary next week with wedding bells chiming in our future.

Because I am just that old fashioned . . . A fact about myself I’m learning slowly as I age.

Yet, the absence of marriage hardly impacts my everyday life. Yes, it is annoying that I can’t claim my partner’s new prescription eyeglasses against my tax-protected medical spending account, and yes, it’s bothersome that I need a legally notarized document to say that my worldly assets should be passed along to ALL my girls in the event of my demise. But this isn’t something I puzzle over daily.

It isn’t something I puzzle over as much as I should.

I know the culture is shifting. I’ve witnessed the parents of Miss E’s classmates turning their Facebook profile images into symbols of support, one after another. It’s shocking to me how widespread this “show of support” has become. And it isn’t just show. Not by far. It’s real. I feel it in the way I’m seen on the playground before and after school – as a person first, and then as gay. This sequence has shifted over time. Because we know each other now.

I have great hope.

But I am not naïve.

None of us knows what the Supreme Court will decide, or how – if at all – the shape of our lives will change in the wake of their decision. What conversations will happen among my daughters’ friends? What new work will need to be done?

I am clear about one thing only: It will always be important to tell the stories of our lives – our struggles, our dreams, our hopes, our giggles, our every day — LGBT or otherwise. I know this to my bones.

Even though today, I don’t feel gay.

And I have nothing new or life-changing to say.

I’m just a mom whose daughter is scampering away for ten days and I will miss her.

Fiercely.

Our Family in London

12 Apr

London ZooNot that long ago, when we were expats in London, everyone I met tried to guess the relationship between my daughter and me – at the park, the store, the library, on the bus back home:

“Is her dad… dark?”

“Is she yours?”

“Your husband must be South American.”

“Are you the babysitter?”

When our family was all together, no one asked. We fit their expat framework, I guess, despite the absence of a man in our home. There was my partner, the breadwinner (corporate HR), our 14-year-old, clearly her mother’s daughter, and the baby – usually in my arms. I was obviously the nanny. No one questioned this. They simply assumed. If anyone had asked, I would have set things right – but no one did.

Then there was coffee one morning after Gymboree. It was our second month in town and I was desperate to make friends.

On the way out of the mall where Gymboree class was held was a coffee shop, with small tables spilling into the more public walkway, not far from the most giant fish tank you’ve ever seen, where all the Gymboree toddlers would meander and oooo and ahhhh and hide and giggle and point and squeal before and after class.  Usually, I packed a snack for my girl and we’d stroll peacefully out after class with a banana or some tasty crackers, sometimes making idle chit chat with another mom or a nanny along the way. No one else walked home, though – so once we hit the big glass doors, we were on our own – and those afternoons were starting to feel really, really, really long.

So one morning after class, one of the moms who often chit chatted with me briefly and lightly on the way out invited me to join her and some friends for coffee. Of course, I said yes.

Nearly the entire class was there, each kid with a mom or a nanny. Some kids had brownies – others carrots – some were trying to stick straws up their noses. Mine sat quietly in her stroller, nibbling on the same cracker the entire time we were there.

We each ordered (at the counter, thankfully), chose a seat, sat down. Somebody sang their kid a song. Somebody else told a story about dinner with the family the night before. And somehow, I don’t even know how it started, pictures were out and being passed around. “This is her brother John,” someone explained, “and this is my husband George.” Family after family came out of back pockets and books and wallets, and popped up on the screens of small phones.

My daughter nodded off in the stroller, her cracker now a small nub in her hand. It was naptime, after all. Should I take her home?

I didn’t want to. Not yet.

I cooed and gasped and exclaimed over each family as they were displayed. Then it was my turn. There was a family photo in my daughter’s bag. It would have been easy enough to shrug it off, say I had nothing – no harm, no foul, no questions asked – but I decided to give it a try. I pulled out the photo. “This is Miss E,” I stated the obvious, with a quick nod in her direction.

“Ohhhhh,” a few of the women answered, finally putting the name with the kid. “Ohhhh,” they said.

“And this is her sister Grace.”

“Beautiful,” they all said.

“And this is me, of course.”

“You’re her mom, right?” (Mom of Miss E. I understood.)

“Right,” I agreed, relieved we’d come this far. “And this is her other mom, my partner. Kelly.”

“What?!?”

“This is my partner, Kelly, Miss E’s other mom,” I repeated, hoping to let it sink in. I couldn’t be the first lesbian for everyone here. Right? Right?

“Oh,” one woman said, visibly shutting down.

“I see,” said another.

“No,” replied one.

“Yes,” I said, laughing just a little now. “She has two moms.”Again I nodded towards my daughter. “My partner, Kelly, and me.”

“She’s your mom?” the woman asked – the same one who said ‘No,’ a nanny from Eastern Europe. English was not her first language. She seemed sure she didn’t understand. Was it unkind for me to press on? Should I try to explain?

“No, my partner and I are – it’s like – we’re married.”

“No,” she said again, shaking her head. “Where’s her dad?” No one else said a thing.

“We’re a family. Miss E has two moms. We’re both her moms.”

“No,” she said, one final time.

The group moved on to another photo, another family.

But I had managed to come out. After two months, starting from scratch, I had managed at last to come out. It almost didn’t matter how it had gone. Almost. My daughter was sleeping and I could let this last one go. Everyone else there knew what I meant. Some of them still met my eye.

I kissed my daughter on the head and we stayed a few more minutes – looking at photos, sipping coffee, telling stories.  It was good. It was social.  It was a way to pass the time.

Eventually, I made friends at a playgroup across town. They met my family. I met theirs. We went to the zoo. We picnicked in the park. We swam. It was good. It wasn’t awkward. We had carrots. And crackers. Sometimes coffee.

And sometimes wine.

The Audition

15 Feb

LilypadsI know what I need to do.  I need to practice every day. Twice. I need to practice as I will perform, with my pages snapped into a black binder, printed in large enough font for my aging eyes.  I need to practice, practice, practice. I’ve known this since I was fifteen. Probably longer.

I need to practice in front of various audiences. I need moms. I need straight moms. I need men. I need friends who aren’t shy to say what they see, to direct me, to edit, to critique. Once upon a time, I had this sort of team all around me every day. Now, I am re-inventing myself after years away from the stage. This is the kind of support I must re-create. Re-form. Find.

I need to plant my feet firmly on the ground while I speak (read) my piece, confident that each line I deliver will serve to deepen the judges’ conviction that of all the talented writers and performers who audition for Listen to Your Mother, I must be among those invited to participate in their show. My voice must be heard. My words must be shared because my essay rocks. Every word I say must – subtly – underscore this point.  I know all this, and yet …

There are bills to pay, battles to fight, my birthday, homework and a third grade school project to manage, dates to arrange, babysitters to hire, and I haven’t been on stage in a really, really, really long time.  So …

I read aloud for my loving partner. I shave my essay sentence by sentence, taking it down from six minutes to five. I retype. I revise. I reprint. I get bolder. I mark out whole paragraphs, still trying to bring down my time. I bow my head, talk fast, and find at last that I fit under the wire. Barely. Just.

Five days before my audition, I rehearse for one colleague – a man, a director – it’s the first time I’ve read these words aloud outside my own home. He is not afraid to tell me what he thinks, thankfully. He reminds me how to perform. “Show, don’t tell,” he says – not in a writerly way, but in an up-on-your-feet sort of way. He tells me not to use different voices when I recount my daughter’s words as opposed to my own, but suggests that each character be expressed with a different affect. Yes. This is what I need. Is it too late? Is it too near my audition for his advice to take hold in the dustiest part of my brain?

I practice in front of two more colleagues two days before my audition – “Diversify your audience,” I say in my head!  They laugh. They cry. They are my allies, my friends. Neither of them is yet a mom – but soon, soon. The only mom who’s heard my words, the only mom I’ve read this to, whose child breathes outside her own body – is Kelly, my loving partner.

One day remains.

What if I read my piece – from my freshly-printed, loose-leaf, large-font pages on top of my daughter’s red plastic school folder, in a small photography studio – and my judges are not on my side?  What if I say (as I do) in the beginning of my monologue that I believe any two women should have the right to marry if they choose, and my judges vehemently disagree?  It isn’t about what’s right or wrong for me – I have strong convictions, strong beliefs, and I’m willing to tell anyone where I stand. But what must I say to be cast in their show?

These doubts crowd me.

I am an actor. Again. And as an actor, I am at the mercy of these judges – as warm and upbeat, as nurturing and feminist-friendly as they are.  I want them on my side.

I open the door and walk through.  I smile.  They are warm and kind, yes, funny and friendly.

My inner critic takes the volume up a notch.  Do their convictions on marriage and faith figure into their decision about who they put on the stage?

Inside the studio, I hand them my monologue and my signed release.  I warmly shake each of their hands, and quickly challenge myself to not allow my perception of their response – whether I feel them traveling with me on this parenting journey as a lesbian mom in the throes of a national marriage debate, or not – to impact how I perform.  I challenge myself to not retract out of fear they’ll turn me down. Will this challenge make me come on too strong? Or will I – by using the proverbial fourth wall – more easily move into my story and occupy my own words with heart and aplomb?

Afterwards, they thank me and say within a week, they’ll let me know either way.

There is no laughter, no tears. Are they on my side? How can I know?

I wait.

… Less than a week later, I learn I’m in!  I’m in!!!!! Here is the full Chicago cast for Listen to Your Mother, at the Athenaeum Theatre on May 5, 2013.  I’m still in shock. I can’t believe it’s true.  Thank you to Peaches & Coconuts for the nudge to submit – YOU ROCK.  And THANK YOU to the organizers, Melisa and Tracey. Wow. Just – Thank you.

Addendum (2/18): Tickets are now on sale! So if you’re planning to come, click here 🙂

I Dream

16 Nov

Before I was a mom, I was a performance poet. People do continue their art after becoming parents (speak up! I know this is true for many of my friends) but it wasn’t something I could manage until recently.

Here’s one of my favorites, from my days on the stage:

I

I dream

I dream up

I dream up ways

ways to drop

ways to drop my female lover

into your conversations,

on my way to work

wearing her clothes, wearing her

perfume,

on my way past security,

into the office, answering phones.

You say my

sexuality

does not belong

in the workplace.

But who obsesses

about sex?

You.

Not me.

You.

When I tell you I prefer women,

you suddenly begin longing,

wanting, hoping.

You should not have

expected that.

I never owed you.

***

Have you been there?  Man flirts with woman. Woman says, “I prefer girls.”  Man does a little happy hopeful dance.  Woman feels sick.  Just a little.  Does this sound like the workplace today?  Or does it place me rather squarely in my own generation, harking back to a time when laws and attitudes were different?

This blog-dentity crisis – which I blathered on about a couple weeks ago – may be doing me good already.  I’ve made two coffee dates with real people in my real life, and I’ve decided to write about something else – is there something else? – something besides being a mom?  I remember, vaguely, my life before kids.  I can read my old poems and remember more.  But that’s not what I mean, not quite.  I still want to write about now, about me, about life, about work, about the world and my family in it.  And the heartbeat throughout, I’m quite sure, will be that of a mom.  But my stories will not all be about my lovely little strong and stubborn, original and curious girl.  I wonder how my writing will change.  Or my perspective.

Have you ever put something on hold to make room for the people in your life?  Did there come a time when you picked it back up again?

Where’s Lilac?

20 Jul

“Do you have a creative mind tonight, Mami?”

It’s gotten to be a regular request, this nighttime storytelling.  I kneel by my daughter’s bed, we talk briefly, quietly, sometimes intimate, sometimes silly, sometimes simple conversations about whether to wear short-shorts or long-shorts the next day, and sometimes more complicated conversations like why she’ll need braces when she’s older, why she never had a Nuk, or how we react when one of our friends is mean to another.  Sometimes we don’t talk at all.

And lately, she asks for a made-up story.

* * * * *

 “Am I older, Mami?” she asked last night.

“Yes, sweetheart.  You are.” I gave her a kiss. I brushed her cheek lightly with the backs of my fingers. I knew what she meant. She’d gotten dressed, brushed her teeth and hair, washed her face, taken her vitamins, rubbed sunscreen all over her body, and fed the dogs without a single reminder from either of us. She gave my partner a majestic foot rub, said please and thank you in all the right places, mostly, and apologized for each slip-up in manners without prompting.  All morning and all night.

My girl.

My girl, who at six months old in a hotel lobby in Guatemala City, could hold my enraptured gaze for hours just by wiggling a finger, raising one corner of her mouth, meeting my eyes, cooing, because she was my baby lying on a blanket and when I looked at her, everything around us fell away.  Suddenly, I was a mom.  I was her mom, and she was mine.

“I’m not your kid,” she said to me last week for the first time.  “You’re not my mom.”  She may have even tried to kick me. I don’t remember.  She was, I think, the angriest she’s ever been.  She had eaten all the quesadillas on the table, after I’d warned her to stop and save some for the other kids.  As a consequence, she was not allowed to join the rest of our friends and family in a quick swim in the lake after dinner.  Doling out consequences on vacation is a drag.

“You’re my kid, honey, and no matter who gave birth to you, I’m your mom.”  She wouldn’t hold my gaze.  She wouldn’t hear me. Definitely then, she tried to kick me and I stepped back.

“I don’t even care if she’s strict,” she screeched once everyone else was outside – except her Mama, my partner, her other mom, who was washing dishes nearby in the kitchen.  “I want to live with her. She’s my mom, not you.”  Don’t get mad. Don’t get mad. Don’t get mad. Don’t get mad. Don’t get mad.

“We’re both your moms, in different ways,” I finally said.  (Clearly, I wouldn’t be swimming either.)

“People can only have one mom!  I mean –“ I knew what she meant.  Mostly, she was mad.  Not just about the swimming.  But being raised by two moms – that wasn’t the trouble.  That wasn’t her point, and even though she might have thrown me to a pride of hungry lions right then if she’d seen any, she wanted me to at least know… that.

I started reading a book after we got home – not about adoption, although I have shelves of adoptive parenting books at this point – but about talking and listening.  Simple communication between parents and kids.  It’s called, “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk.”  I love this book.  It starts off by demonstrating how our kids feel when we deny their feelings, and how many ways we deny them in the course of everyday life.  It’s eye-opening.

I’m still in the first chapter, but I’ve begun rolling out this book in daily dialogue and now my partner is getting foot rubs while I read aloud from a fairy journal – and while it may be just the way the stars lined up this week, and while it may have been my daughter’s choice, too, after her outburst, and while it may be just one of those awesome unpredictable flukes that brings our family into synchronicity for a time, I do wonder if this book – or even just its title – has something to do with my daughter’s new attitude, her new behavior, this sudden maturity, our ability to sit together as a family and simply enjoy being who we are together.

* * * * *

“Am I older, Mami?”

“Yes, sweetheart.  You are.”

“Do you have a creative mind tonight, Mami?”

“Yes,” I told her.

“Thank you!  It’ll be good. I know it will.  It’s okay if it’s short. Or stupid.  I’ll like it.”

I told her a story about a baby calf named Lilac who loved to prance and sing, and Lilac’s good friend George, a tiny dog who could fit into a human palm.

“What about a kid’s palm?”

“He fit into two kid hands, like this.  Well, maybe one and a half of yours.  Your hands are getting big now.”

“No. Two of my hands, too. See?”

Okay.  Two hands, then.  But not for long.

Pride, Sex, Choice and Raising Girls

29 Jun

On Pride Sunday, I watched people emerge from the underground train carrying rainbow flags and signs.  I pointed them out to my daughter, telling her they had come from a parade in Chicago for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.  “Why didn’t we go?” she wanted to know.  I told her I was tired.  I couldn’t make it work.  I told her we could think about going next year.  She was mad.  I couldn’t blame her.  I was mad, too, although I still don’t quite know why.

Last year, staying home was the right choice. This year, it was not.

For Christmas, we plan for weeks and months, buying plane tickets and wrapping paper as early as summer or spring.  We determine budgets and menus, houseguests and sleeping arrangements, and which days we’ll take off work.

For twenty years, Pride Sunday felt as festive to me – brunches and cakes and coolers and floats and costumes and fliers, groups of friends assembling safe sex kits to distribute along the route – but since becoming a mom, I’ve let it slide.  We have one queer holiday, and I’ve let it go.  I’ve prioritized family vacations, summer camp, and swim dates over Pride.

No more.  My daughter called me out, and she was right.

I made a pact with another queer mom friend last night: Dyke March next year – female energy, dykes and bikes, handmade signs and strollers, drums.

I’m old enough to remember the very first one.  I was there.

“Can I watch?” a straight friend of my lesbian colleague asked.  “It isn’t that kind of march,” she replied.  “It’s not like the Pride Parade.  You don’t really watch.  It’s more like… you ARE the parade.  And at the end of it, you sit on the grass and have a picnic.”  Just my speed.

I brought my little girl to the Pride Parade when she was three.  She giggled at grown boys blowing bubbles from one of the floats, and by the time leather chaps strode by, she was fast asleep in her stroller.  She’s more sophisticated now; nothing escapes her eye.

Saturday, during the Dyke March, we had a block sale.  My daughter made $78.

Sunday, we didn’t go to the Pride Parade because I didn’t want to explain dildos or g-strings or all that bare skin.  Not to my daughter.  Not by myself.  Not yet.

I want my daughter to grow into a loving, sex-positive woman, but right now, she’s eight years old.  Planned Parenthood offers great advice about how to say what to your kids and when, but I’m still sorting it out.

Writing often helps, like this on a page, but it’s not linear. My thoughts don’t all lead in the same direction.

I applaud the open sexuality of the Parade.  I love it, always have, wouldn’t have it any other way.  It’s all about freedom and I love freedom.  The Pride Parade showed me as a young gay person how it felt to live openly in love.

My daughter and I have been reading It’s So Amazing for two years, bits at a time. It’s the most gay- and adoption-affirmative book about reproduction I’ve seen aimed at kids her age.  She understands the journey of sperm, the fertilization of eggs, and not long ago, I watched it slowly dawn on her just exactly how the sperm and egg meet.  How the anatomies of men and women fit together.  It was shocking.  For both of us.  For very different reasons.

After a moment, I assured her that “fitting together” was an adult choice she wouldn’t need to make for a long, long time.  As I told her this, I prayed – as I spoke, I actually prayed (I rarely do) – that my words would make it so.  I prayed no one would steal that decision from her, and she would make that choice only when she was ready.  (In her late twenties maybe.)

Because at a certain point, our daughters become citizens of the world.  They take their toys and their opinions and they go play next door.  Down the block, across the street, across town.  And nothing we can do or say will change their choices then.  Nothing we can do or say will protect them either.  Not then.

But for now, at eight years old, she understands each person’s choice is their own – who they love, what they wear, how they behave.  Even when she’d rather blame her poor choices on someone else, she understands.  She also understands that “sex” is not a word you sing or say at her age; the privilege of using that word comes later.

She’s ready when I am.  I guess that’s the bottom line.

Next year, we’ll avoid making two long road trips in the days leading up to Pride.  We’ll bake a cake, blow some bubbles, march tall, proud and happy, in celebration of our family, our community. Then we’ll throw ourselves on the grass for a picnic.

Wanna come?

Summer Countdown

1 Jun

“How many days of school do I have, Mami?”

You mean this year? Before the end of second grade?  Are you finishing second grade already?!?  “Four days, Sweetheart.  Just four.”  I’m eager for summer, but this year’s teacher will be hard to lose.

“What’s after that?”

“Camp Grandma.”  I smile.  “Grandpa got the pool ready for you.”  They have a pool right in their backyard.

“Yay!”  She sits up in bed, clapping her hands together giddily.  I want to tickle her, jump up and dance around the room with her.  Summer fever is contagious.  I can feel the sun on my face at the public pool, hear each squeal as she chases friends around the park, kicks a ball, straddles her bicycle.  “Do you think I’ll be able to touch the bottom?”  Her cousin was six when she touched the bottom. “… and now I’m eight!  I think I’ll touch.  Last year, I almost could.  Almost.  I think I’ll touch this year.  I know I’ll touch.  What else will I do there?”

“You’re going on a field trip with your cousin.”

“Oh, right!”  She is beyond thrilled. She is elated.  She’s going to the zoo with her cousin, her cousin’s class, and Grandma.

She shifts gears.  “I know I probably can’t have a whole pack anymore, but… will you make me a card, Mami?  Maybe a couple of cards?”  It has become a tradition.

“You’ll have your cards, Cutie Pie.  One card for each day.  Don’t worry.”

“Oh, good!”  She sounds relieved, and I realize her shoulders were up tight by her ears and they’ve dropped now.  “I like Pokèmon cards, too.  Remember when you put those in?  Will you…?  I liked that.”

“You’d like me to get you Pokèmon cards?”

“Yes!  And I’ll make you cards, too, Mami.  We can have a writing day.  We can write each other cards… in separate rooms,” she decides.  She has always enjoyed an element of surprise.

Cards.  Treasures.  Summer.  Growing older.  Going away on a trip.  Leaving each other and coming together again.

The pure glee of each discovery, each reunion, each… new… thing.

“I would like that, Sweetheart, very much.”

* * *

What I know about Camp Grandma is this:

There are outings and puzzles and playtime and parks and ice cream every day, sometimes twice.  Ice cream is a rule.  At Grandma’s, there’s also a pool.

Mama and I are not there to wake her or nag her, hug her or guide her.  Grandma and Grandpa handle what needs handling in that regard.  Sometimes, their style is just like ours.  More often, it’s not.  And all of this is good.

Every weekday morning, Grandpa heads to “the office” – their nickname for the local McDonald’s, where he gets one cup of coffee and chats for an hour or so with friends about local news, the state of the economy, nearby real estate, the grandkids and recent golf games. My daughter goes with him at least once, so he can show her off.  She gets a treat, some coloring pages, a book, and intermittent but rapt attention from all the grown-ups.  Plus, she gets to eavesdrop on all the grown-up conversation.  This may be the pinnacle of her annual summer trip – or close to it.

* * *

Later this week, in the early morning, she asks, “Remember when you came to my concert in first grade?  I was sad because I had to go back to my class and I couldn’t come home with you?”

“Yes.”

“I won’t be sad today.”

“No?”  Our day begins with her second grade awards ceremony.  Then her Mama and I go to work.

“No.  When you came on the field trip and left and then came back to pick me up, I wasn’t sad.”

I see we’re also preparing for next week, and while I’ve usually led this conversation, she’s handling it beautifully today on her own.

“Good!”  I push a lock of hair behind her ears.  “I’m glad.”

“I hope I get an award for reading.”

She gets an award as “Most Improved Student in Math.”  My partner and I beam with pride.

Here is the true beginning of summer.  And we are all ready for the first time.

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