08/06/2012 11:06 am ET Updated Oct 06, 2012

The Tough Questions


Kids ask questions. Lots and lots of questions. Thus far, I've fielded inquiries about sex, birth, pregnancy, bodily functions and whether Dora the Explorer is a girl or a boy. (For the record, I'm not 100 percent clear, but I went with girl.) I have researched why the sky is blue and how rain falls and called a meteorologist friend of mine to understand the difference between sleet and freezing rain. Thanks to Danny Boyle and the British Olympic Committee, I've even explained the Industrial Revolution to a 4-year old. (May I suggest that Rio de Janeiro stick with pageantry, dancing, and fireworks and avoid dark symbolic odes to societal shifts from agrarian to industrial economies? Not to be picky, but there are children watching and all they care about is bright colors, lots of flags and cool light shows. Come to think of it, that's all I care about too.)

The Industrial Revolution aside, I haven't had to deal with anything particularly difficult yet. I don't expect my streak will continue for long. Especially if Chick-Fil-A has anything to say about it.

Honestly, if you can't count on a fast-food restaurant to stick to sandwiches and happy meals, what can you count on?

I'm glad Little Dude hasn't yet caught on to the debate surrounding same-sex marriage. I've struggled with how I'd explain the lines of people waiting to buy fried chicken or people kissing outside to the cheers and jeers of bystanders. As pleasant as it would be to avoid the tough questions, I can't parent Little Dude in the hopes that he'll ignore everything but ice pops, Sid the Science Kid and playing in the pool. Ostriches aside, nothing good comes from sticking your head in the sand.

So, I sat down the other day and came up with a primer for some of the tougher questions I expect I'll have to answer sooner rather than later.

"What's same-sex marriage?"

Same-sex marriage is marriage between a woman and a woman or a man and a man. It's different than mommy and daddy's marriage because mommy is a girl and daddy is a boy. Otherwise, it's exactly the same. Except some people don't believe that. They think it's wrong. I don't understand those people and I don't agree with them. I think you love who you love and nothing else matters.

"Why won't you let me eat at Chick-Fil-A?"

The people who own Chick-Fil-A think that girls shouldn't marry girls and boys shouldn't marry boys. We don't eat there because fast food is processed and will make your body sick. We also don't eat there because I think things the people who run Chick-Fil-A believe can make your mind sick too. This is a shame because I hear their chicken sandwiches are delicious, but sometimes we have to give up what we like to do what is right.

"Why can't everyone agree?"

People disagree for lots of reasons, and there's nothing wrong with having a different opinion. You don't like broccoli and I do. All I ask is that you make up your own mind, no matter what anyone says -- even if someone tells you he believes something because God told him that was the right thing to believe. Unless God talks to you directly, I'd rather you use the brain in your head, figure out what seems fair and go from there.

"Why are all those people standing in line?"

Sometimes, people stand in line to make a point. Sometimes they stand in line for really great shoe sales. If you ever come across a group of people standing around, ask yourself why. If people have the time to wait to buy chicken sandwiches or a great pair of pumps, they have time to volunteer at a homeless shelter, a food kitchen, a hospital, or a domestic violence shelter. Stand in line if you're helping people. Don't do it to discriminate against them.

"Should I be scared of those people?"

Nope. This is the funny thing -- people are always scared of what they don't understand or don't agree with. Sometimes people say same-sex marriage makes mommy and daddy's marriage less important. That just isn't true. Nothing threatens the sanctity of your choices or vows except your own beliefs and choices. Everything else is just noise.

"Why are you so mad about all this?"

Because every morning when your dad or I drop you off at school, we ask you how you'll treat your friends and teachers. You tell us, "With kindness and respect." You don't know yet why it matters to us. Just know that it does. It is the most important lesson we'll teach you. (Except for the need for financial regulation and the importance of not wearing white socks with dress clothes, but we can talk about that when you're six. We've covered a lot for one day.)

I'm not sure these are the best answers. I'm certain I'll confuse Little Dude with words like "sanctity." But it's a place to start. At some point, my son is going to start paying attention to the world around him, and he should, like the Boy Scouts say, "Be Prepared." Which is a good motto. Shame about their policy excluding gays. Until the BSA and Chick-Fil-A change their minds, Little Dude will have to do without chicken sandwiches AND merit badges.