It guts me sometimes how perfectly innocent children are, especially my own. Not that they’re more innocent than other children, I just spend far less time contemplating the emotional and intellectual maturity of other people’s kids. Mine have so much to learn, despite being two of the smartest children their age I’ve ever met (not that I hold any bias). They’re wide-eyed, open-minded and overwhelmingly receptive to absorbing any particle of new information that floats their way. But they are still so new.
Eirinn asked me in the car yesterday if “gay” was a bad word. Well…that’s a very difficult question to answer when you’re dealing with a 5 year old. No, it’s not a bad word…until it is. I’ve always told her about how families are all different, that some people have a mommy and a daddy, like she does, some people just have one or the other, some people have both, but they might not live in the same house, and some people have two moms or two dads. No, gay is not a bad word, it’s an adjective used to describe one’s sexuality, but it can also be a bad word. My guess was that when she heard it, it was being used as a bad word. Someone took that simple, three letter word, and made it into a bad word. As is done a million times a day. But just because something is done a million times a day, doesn’t make it right.
I’m not ready to start talking to her about sexuality. She’s five. She knows that men can marry men and women can marry women and sometimes they have kids, just like her and just like our family. She knows that this is all ok. Sometimes her Barbies are girlfriends. That’s cool with me.
I told her that gay is not a bad word. I told her it means “happy”. I took the easy way out. She looked very confused, presumably because whoever used it that brought her to question whether or not it was a bad word was not using it in a way that meant “happy”, but I stuck with it. It DOES mean happy. I’ll elaborate on the word’s meaning when I’m ready to answer the follow-up questions. When I feel she’s ready to absorb them. I’m not sure if running away from it is the best thing to do.
We’ve had similar discussions about race. One of them will say something about “the black guy”, never in a negative tone or for any other reason than to point out a particular person on the television screen. This makes me cringe, even still. “No one’s skin is black,” I tell them. “Everyone is a different of shade brown and we shouldn’t use their colour to describe them.” I encourage them to use a different descriptor. “The guy with the hat”, “the woman with the pink lipstick”, “the nurse”, things like that. It’s very difficult to correct a child’s behaviour when they don’t know what they’re doing wrong.
They’re doing a very good job with that. So well, in fact, Eirinn had a friend last year that I didn’t even know was Asian until the very end of the school year. At first she was “the new girl”, then she was “my new friend”, and then she was simply known by her name. As it should be.
I’m trying my best here with these kids. Sometimes I fail (I CANNOT, for the life of me, get them to NOT make tootie jokes in public) but sometimes I think I might be doing alright. All of Avery’s rememberies are special.
Eirinn spent all last week at school writing a book. Her first novel. It was 6 pages long and she wrote the story, actually sounded out all the words phonetically herself, most of which weren’t correct, but that’s not important. She did all of her own illustrations and they were beautiful representations of the words on each page. It was about a princess who gets captured by a witch and taken to a haunted house. Or hanted hows. But in every story about princesses, there is a happy ending. The princess tiptoes out of the house and runs home.
To Eirinn, home is a part of every happy ending. It’s my job to make sure it stays that way.