K-Bird and his kindergarten classmate are rearranging magnets on our fridge when his buddy notices a family photo and says, "So you don't have a dad?"
"Nope," K-Bird says, moving the Canada magnet next to the Hawaii magnet.
"No dad?" Buddy asks again, just to get it right.
"Nope. Just two moms."
Hands keep moving across the stainless steel.
"But two girls can't get married," Buddy says. "Only a boy and a girl can get married."
"Well, for a little while, two girls could get married," explains my 6-year-old Prop 8 veteran. "So my moms got married. But then the law changed."
Buddy stops scuttling magnets and looks at K-Bird, confused. "You mean 'la' like 'la, la, la'?"
K-Bird laughs, "No, I mean the law, like the rules."
"Oh," Buddy shrugs. "Wanna look for roly poly bugs?"
* * * * *
I'm volunteering in B-Man's second-grade classroom when the lead teacher throws her back out. She asks the student teacher she's mentoring to take over, then she says, "Wait a minute, forget it. We're doing our writing lesson next. Cheryl's here. She can do it."
So on the fly, I reach into my metaphorical bag of tricks and pull out a no-fail writing exercise: Describe your favorite place, using all five senses.
On the pen shelf below the white board, I see a collection of books by Patricia Polacco, an author the students have been studying. I select In Our Mothers' House, a book my family loaned to the class. In the story, the narrator lovingly describes the house where she and her siblings were raised by their two moms.
I open to the page where the narrator details her kitchen in vivid, multi-sensory imagery, a perfect model for our writing exercise. I take a seat in the front of the room and prepare to explain to the 24 wiggling kids sitting criss-cross-apple-sauce on the carpet that they are going to practice listening not as readers trying to understand the story but as writers noticing how the story is made. "I'm going to read three paragraphs," I say.
But before I get to the part about listening like writers, B-Man calls out, "Mom, please read the whole thing, pleeeeeease." His wide, blue, begging eyes are locked on mine, the wanting palpable.
Does he just want to hear his mom read a favorite book, or does he want his mom to bring a fictional family like his into the room?
I look at the clock, then back at my kid mouthing, "Please, please, please, please, please..."
I have only 20 minutes for the lesson. If I read the whole book, the students won't have time to write. Though it pains me to do so, I put my teacher self ahead of my mom self and say, "I would love to read the whole thing, because, I mean, how awesome is this book, right? But..."
Then the teacher-in-training saves me: "How about if I read the whole thing after lunch today?
Does she know that reading this book could be construed as a political act? I wonder. Does she know that a similar situation -- a classroom reading of King and King -- sparked a "gays want to brainwash your children" advertisement during the Prop 8 campaign? Does she just see a kid who wants to hear a favorite story, or does she see a kid who wants to celebrate his family, like the boy from India who feels proud when his mom comes in to talk about Diwali, or the girl with Alaskan ancestry who loves to talk about the state's natural beauty, or the girl who helps her dad fix up old cars and likes to talk about riding in their vintage Caddy?
No matter what the teacher-to-be sees, B-Man will hear his story. And I'm grateful.
* * * * *
According to folks in our elementary school's front office, we are currently the only two-mom family on campus (I asked), which means that our kids are pint-sized social pioneers, and which begs the question of where these guys get the gumption to represent their lesbofam with such ease.
They have at least three factors working in their favor: family, community and the law.
First, their parents believe in the legitimacy of their family. Reaping the benefits of decades of gay rights activism, Tracie and I live openly as a couple. We're active in the marriage equality movement, sometimes with the kids in tow. To offset the instability of our family's rights, we insist on the stability of our home. No matter what happens out there, we assure the kids that nothing will change for them in here. First and foremost, love makes our family, and no one can take that away.
Second, we live in a supportive community. Our neighbors and our school community treat us like any other family. Sure, Tracie and I carry some grown-up baggage, the kind that makes us listen vigilantly to conversations between kindergarten buddies or see the ghost of an anti-gay campaign ad when our son asks to hear a story, but the kids move through the world like, well, kids, having curious conversations without judgment and asking for what they want without fear. Yes, they are aware that their family is (a little) different, but they know that those differences shouldn't change the way they are treated, because their community reflects this notion.
Third, our children know that for a few months in 2008, the law said "yes" to their family. Their moms are legally married (in California, at least). This legal recognition echoes and enforces what their moms and their community keep telling them: that we should be treated equally. They also know that thousands of people, including the president of their country, are working hard to erase the mistakes called DOMA and Prop 8.
Though these pint-sized pioneers know that we haven't secured full equality yet, thanks to this trifecta -- family, community and the law -- they are so sure that love will prevail that they're already planning the victory party.
This blog post was originally posted on lesbianfamily.com as part of their Lawfully Wedded Life series.
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