My younger daughter, a school veteran at age 5, started first grade this month -- and it wasn't pretty. Shrieking, crying, clinging, begging to go home, the normally intrepid Mary* was a different child, and a parent's nightmare, at the schoolhouse door. As if that weren't enough, she outed me to her new teacher on Day 2.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. We're out and proud, completely matter-of-fact about our family and our lives. We show our kids every day that we love our little foursome, and we have no reason to hide anything.
After three years at our local school, though, we assumed we were well known as the lesbian moms. We'd come out quickly to the kindergarten teacher when Ann* started there in 2008; we've both talked to the teachers and the principal about learning issues; and we both go to PTA meetings, school parties, and theatrical events. We figured we were done with coming out at school.
Until Mary's new teacher came to the auditorium door to peel her off my hip, that is. On the second day of school (as we were having a repeat performance of the previous day's meltdown), the teacher gave my little girl a big smile, reminded her what fun she'd had the day before, and then looked up quickly and told me to leave. I smiled and said, "It's okay, I know she'll be fine -- she had a good day yesterday, so I don't know where this is coming from."
Teacher did a double take and said, clearly confused, "Someone else dropped her off yesterday, right?"
"Yes," I said, suddenly and surprisingly off kilter. "Her other mom had this fun yesterday." I saw the flicker of understanding as she got it, then she went back to unwrapping my daughter's arms from around my right thigh.
The removal operation was a success; Mary had a fine day; and I don't care, really, that the first-grade teacher got to know about us in such an oddball manner. I care a tiny bit more that my third-grader wrote about her ambition to become a spy as her first assignment this year -- writing that she practices her skills "by spying on my moms in their bedroom and the bathroom."
As far as I know she does no such thing, and I have to hope that a third-grade teacher knows better than to take an 8-year-old's writing as gospel truth. But there we were, outed again, and just as oddly.
I guess the point is that we're never going to stop coming out, and some episodes will be weirder (and less predictable) than others. We know we need to introduce ourselves as gay to new doctors, new babysitters, and the parents of new friends -- and we can mentally gear up for it. What's hard is when it comes at us from out of the blue, when we're so absorbed in something else (like a wailing 5-year-old stitched to the hip) that we're not thinking at all about coming out. (Getting away, maybe, but not coming out.)
It's not only hard, it's incredibly important -- for these are the times when we reveal our true self-image. Ann and Mary both need to see us refer to the other mom as naturally as someone else might refer to "my husband" or "her dad," and we need to do it without a moment's hesitation, without a hint of embarrassment. I give myself credit that I could pull it off, figuratively, while trying to pull my daughter off, literally.
The spy thing is a different kettle of fish entirely -- I can't wait for Meet the Teacher Night this year. I'm sure Ann's teacher can't wait to meet us, either. I can handle coming out as gay a lot better than I can handle coming out as a future spy's mom... and stakeout subject.
*All names have been changed to protect my family's privacy.
Veronica Rhodes writes about gay parenting under this pen name. To find out more about her, read her blog on Red Room.