My oldest son is a shy kid. So shy, sometimes school can be hard for him. On those mornings when I can tell he is a little anxious, we play the "Who Loves You?" game. It's fairly straightforward: I ask him who loves him, and he names off all his favorite people. We go through the list: me, his dad, his brothers, his grandparents, our family friends. After a few minutes of this, he usually has a story about one of these people he wants to tell me, and by the time he gets to school, he's in a much better frame of mind to start his day.
One morning, when we were going through our list, he stopped at our friend Johnny.
"Johnny loves me a lot," my son tells me. "He plays games with me, and we play dice and with his little guys."
We are really nerdy people, and we embrace our dorkiness. Once every couple of weeks, a group of our friends gets together at our house to play overly complex games and spend a few hours seeing who can make everyone laugh the hardest. It's not unusual for our boys to insist on staying up for long enough to say hello to everyone and give hugs and kisses before being herded off to bed.
On those nights, one of the boys can often be seen cuddled up on the couch with our friend Sam as he fixes their jammed-up Transformers or Bakugans. The boys will save up the toys they think Sam can fix and have them waiting for him to come over and work his magic.
Johnny has come over early in order to play a promised game of Candy Land, Chutes & Ladders or Hungry Hungry Hippos. Johnny also has a huge set of miniature monster figures that are an endless source of fascination. He is the clear king of games in their eyes, and the boys are always anxious for their next session.
Our friend Mike has a convertible, and it only took the boys seeing him drive up in it once for them to fall in love. Since then, Mike has come over early to drive the boys around the neighborhood with the top down before bed.
One night the two older boys were in particularly rambunctious form, and much too involved in their epic lightsaber battle to put on their pajamas. I was busy chasing their underwear-clad butts, insisting that the fight between the Rebels and the Empire could wait until morning, when our friend Mike came in.
As Mike watched my fruitless attempts at wrangling, the baby ran over and wrapped himself around Mike's legs. Mike and our youngest son have loved one another since our baby was born, so Mike scooped him up to say hello and buzz his cheek.
"I think the baby needs a change," Mike hollered after getting a whiff.
I had finally convinced the boys that Luke and Darth Vader could fight tomorrow and wrestled them into their pajamas. I changed the diaper at lightening speed, gave the baby back to Mike, and threw the littlest set of pajamas in their direction.
"Can you get him into those?"
"Sure," Mike said with a shrug, and by the time I got back from explaining to the boys that brushing teeth before bed was not optional, the baby was suitably pajama'd. As I thanked Mike profusely for the assistance, he gave me the strangest look.
"What?" I asked.
"You are not like other parents."
"I know I'm crazy. What did I do this time?"
"Most people don't let gay men around their sons like you do."
Sam, Johnny and Mike are all gay. They were all long out of the closet when we met, and it has never been a big deal. And their sexuality was never something I thought of in relationship to my kids. Mike's statement shocked me, but more than that, it made me angry. I know some people still believe all the crap the hate groups spew out about gay men, and it pisses me off. But the idea that parents would keep their kids, their sons, away from great guys like my friends leaves me fuming.
But since I was trying to get kids in bed, it wasn't the time or place for me to start railing about my disgust for the FRC and others like them. Instead, I bumped Mike with my shoulder.
"You're a good guy. I don't have a problem with my kids hanging out with good guys."
And I guess that is what it boils down to for me. I don't have a problem with more good people loving my sons.