Thursday, June 8, 2017

Wait, where did this closet come from?

I imagine* that by the time you’re gay parents in the suburbs, coming out of the closet is sort of a not issue. At least, in regards to other parents and neighbors. At the very least, it seems likely that by the time kids coming over to your house to play with your child, their parents already know that so-and-so has two moms or two dads. The fact that they are bringing their offspring over anyway means that they have decided that’s not a dealbreaker.

 Apparently, despite the complaints of some non-poly Millennial parents that everyone assumes they are sleeping with their roommates, it is possible for someone to reach the point of bringing their kids to our house without having jumped to [all the right] conclusions about our living arrangement. And suddenly I find myself realizing this in the middle of a conversation where I have to decide on the fly just how much to reveal as I answer questions about how we came to all be living together. On the one hand, we are not closeted in the neighborhood. If I don’t lay it all out on the table now, will this mom feel lied to when she eventually figures it out? On the other hand, her kids are currently in the middle of a game with mine in my house. If her first reaction is horror and she scoops them up and whisks them away how will that affect MY kid (who is already having a difficult time making friends)? With seconds to decide I dodge and redirect and immediately face the regret and anxiety of how and when I’m going to have to actually answer her.

 I understand and acknowledge that we are exceptionally privileged to be able to pass as normal, white monogamous heterosexual couples when we need or want to. And yet, I wonder if life may not be easier in some ways if the closet wasn’t an option and we never had to worry about when or how to come out of it; never be startled to realize that we were in it when we never meant to be and trying to figure out when it’s safe to leave. I wish, sometimes, that people could just look at me and know exactly what kind of freak I am and just decide whether or not they’re willing to be friends before we ever talk. Maybe that’s why I’m a 32-year-old, middle class, suburban housewife who still dresses like a punk teenager. It’s the flimsy armor of “Hey, you should have realized I was weird when you met me.” But we are a specific flavor of weird that a lot of people still aren’t used to and can still have strange knee jerk reactions to. And it was a lot easier to have an “I don’t give a fuck what you think” attitude before I had a kindergartener who just wants people to play with.


* I fully acknowledge I could be very wrong about this and I am coming from a place of privilege.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Politics, Parenting, and Scared Kindergarteners

I want to take a moment to talk about #parenting and #politics. A few months back, on the day of the election, AL told me that he had heard that if Donald Trump got elected all the "brown people" would have to leave America. He was worried about them. It was a fear he mentioned again after the election. His best friend's mother is here on a Greencard from Kenya. The kids he and Kalem play with the most in the neighborhood have parents from Venezuela and Mexico. Down the street, our cat adopted a family from the Muslim country of Uzbekistan (I think). And it would not surprise me if a huge chunk of the Spanish speaking students at Evansdale have family members who lack valid documentation to be in this country. All this in mind, I couldn't tell him that he shouldn't worry about it; that it wouldn't affect him. What I told him was "We will try to make sure that doesn't happen." A few months back we were battling with AL about bedtime every night. If he didn't fall asleep before I left the room, he would be up 1000 times complaining about being scared. He wanted to sleep with the light on, with someone in his room. He wasn't willing to lie still and let sleep come. I admit, we were frequently less than sympathetic. Especially since he could never tell us what he was scared of. If he woke up in the middle of the night he would crawl into bed with me. Sometimes he cited bad dreams, sometimes he was "just scared." He could never articulate why. By the time the President started signing Executive Orders, he was crawling into bed with me every night, and I'd given up on relocating him back to his own room, since he would frequently just wake up a few hours later and crawl back. At bedtime I'd just started trying to stay until he fell asleep, even if it was after our allotted time. He switched nightlights with his older brother for one so bright I just consider it a light. My boy was terrified and needed me, and nothing else I said or did seemed to help except just being there. And then we went to the airport to protest Trump's immigration ban. AL decided what he wanted his sign to say (America is for Everyone). He held it up proudly to be photographed so it could be shown to Donald Trump. He chanted "Love, not hate, that's what makes America great!" And then we went home. Cold, exhausted, very hungry, and a little overstimulated. That night he understandably crawled into bed with me just like he had every night the weeks prior. But he's only done it once since then. Since the protest my son has crawled into my bed in the middle of the night *once.* The baby's new sleep routine frequently means me putting KH to bed right after I finish reading to AL, and he simply lies in bed waiting for me to come back and lie with him (sometimes even falling asleep with out me). He has, *on more than one occasion*, chosen to turn off his nightlight and sleep in the dark. I can't say for certain that these events are causative and not correlative. But I can tell you that to me there seems to be a very strong Before Protest and After Protest mentality to my son. This little boy still has plenty of behavior problems, but being inexplicably, cripplingly scared all the time, doesn't seem to be one of them anymore. Which isn't to say it won't come back. But regardless of what politics my boy ends up with as an adult, I will never regret teaching him that he has the power to DO something about the things that worry him. He has a voice, he can make it be heard. He can be brave.