Pride has always been one of the highlights of our summer. Since we moved to a metropolitan area that was large enough to have a parade, we have attended the festivities every year. It's fun. We get to cheer for our friends who march (or sometimes march ourselves), run into other friends we haven't seen in forever, and occasionally be surprised by a relative riding in the place of honor on a float. It's a happy day when we can gather and know that everyone around us supports equality.
When our children came along, we didn't see a reason to stop, and we've never been anything but welcome. Once, when I was heavily pregnant and had a desperate need to pee (as all pregnant women do all the time), a group of lesbians held up the line for me at one of the only available bathrooms on the parade route. When the boys were teeny-tiny, I nursed them in a portable chair on the sidelines as excitement passed by on the road in front of me. As the kids got older, the parade became about the race for candy and beads.
But this year, things were different. This was our first year at Pride with a son who had proudly and openly announced he was gay. Before we headed out, we talked about what Pride was all about: how we support and love all the people in our lives, especially the boys who marry boys and the girls who marry girls, and how this was a celebration of that.
"A celebration for gay people?" our oldest son asked.
"Yep," I answered.
He thought for a second. "So this is my parade?"
"Yeah, baby," I laughed. "This is your parade."
We staked our place on the parade route with some friends, including a couple with a young son around the age of one of ours. We wasted the time before the parade started as well as we could. Grapes, muffins, and Gatorade can really save the day on a way-too-hot summer day in the Midwest. (And while we are on the subject, who decided to make Pride on the hottest freakin' weekend of the year? OK, that's not exactly true; sometimes it is second hottest. But either way, the melting is epic.)
As the parade started, the older boys took up their positions on the metal barriers between the marchers and the crowd, higher always being better for waving arms and getting the attention of the candy throwers. I stood behind them with the baby up on my shoulders. We all cheered as the parade went by. Our middle son quickly decided the sun wasn't worth it and went to sit under a rainbow umbrella with his new friend. My oldest, on the other hand, decided that collecting beads was his new mission in life. He smiled and waved, and I watched and laughed as marcher after marcher detoured over to him, either to throw him a handful of beads or even to stop to place them around his neck. By the end of the parade, his collection was impressive. As we walked into the neighboring park for the rest of the festival, people stopped to compliment him on his bounty, and he beamed with pride. We hung out in the park for a while, talking to friends and listening to music while the kids ran around being their crazy selves. All in all, it was a great day.
But it wasn't the day we expected. As a parent, it is usually a bad idea to have specific expectations. Kids are going to be kids and do their thing, and they aren't very predictable. I usually find it best to just go with the flow. But on this day, for this parade, both my husband and I expected something different.
We both kept a close eye on our son the entire day, both of us waiting for... something. Honestly, neither of us really knew what we were waiting for, but all we saw was our little boy loving a parade. Just the way he always does. And other than our short, short conversation beforehand, there was no mention of his orientation or the orientation of anyone else.
We talked about it after the kiddos were in bed that night. We laughed at our presumption that our son would have some big moment during Pride, this first Pride after telling us he was gay. But what we realized was that despite our expectations, the day was exactly the way it should have been. It was a fun, family day, full of laughing and good people, and a sun that wouldn't quit. It wasn't a revelation-worthy day for our son, because it was just his life. There was nothing new to him, nothing different -- the same way he sees nothing earth-shattering about his being 7 years old and identifying as gay. There are gay people, and he's one of them. To him, it is just no big thing.
And reflecting on the day now, that was what made it extraordinary, and yet another lesson our kid taught us by just being himself. It was a bright illustration of what the future could be, what it should be, for the next generation for LGBT people.
We are already looking forward to next year, expectation-free this time. We all love a parade.
Amelia recently contributed an essay to Tracy Baim's Mom: A Tribute to Mothers of LGBTs (CreateSpace 2012).