Joanna Schroeder praises HuffPo blogger Amelia for offering her son unconditional love throughout his very early ‘coming out’ process.
I cried happy tears as I read When Your 7 Year-Old Son Announces ‘I’m Gay’, yesterday as it was exploding in my news feed on Facebook. It was amazing to hear from Amelia, a mom and Huffington Post blogger, about how she came to offer her young son the unconditional love and acceptance he, and all children, need.
The world is so different from when I was growing up, when I witnessed my friends being called “the other F word” as young as third grade. I’m not saying things aren’t still horrible for gay kids, as the high number of heartbreaking suicides in the last few years have shown. But in the 1970s there wouldn’t have been the massive outpouring of outrage over such deaths. I imagine people would’ve said the bullied kids were “troubled” or “unstable” whereas now we’re finally, as a society, looking at the bullies themselves as the unstable ones. More change needs to be made for certain, probably huge leaps of change in many communities, but Amelia and her family are great examples of how the world is changing.
As a mom of two sons, I have always aimed to be this same type of mom. My husband, Ivan, and I tried to resist the temptation to throw them straight into the world of dirt and dinos. They were given tons of different types of toys: trucks and teddy bears and lots of gender-neutral blocks, puzzles and light-and-music toys.
We agreed that if our boys wanted to wear skirts or nail polish, we wouldn’t care. We’d embrace it. Ivan would play princesses with the boys, should they want that. It was, for me, a huge deal that everyone around us understood we weren’t going to say, “that’s only for girls,” or go out of our way to steer them to “boy stuff.”
But a fascinating thing happened with our boys: they shocked me by being boys. Not just middle-of-the road gendered boys, they are Boys with a capital “B.” There are guns and swords and “blasters” all over my house, in fact. We definitely didn’t teach them this. They watched Caillou and Max and Ruby—they never saw violence! They never played video games! Sometimes, when my pockets are full of rocks and tiny Lego guns and Nerf bullets, when my floor is tracked with mud, when I have to go give our bearded dragon a bath because it walked through its own poo in its cage, I marvel at the depth of “boy-ness” in my home. Today my sons played war with their best friends, the sons of my dear friend who is a very liberal social theorist. I watched her 7 year-old come up behind my 4 year-old and pretend to stab him in the head. My 4 year-old thought it was great fun!
I call this “boy” behavior simply because I’ve been around a ton of kids and I have never seen little girls act out war behavior. There are, most certainly, girls who love to play war, just as there are tons of boys who would rather play dress-up, and I would embrace all expressions of healthy play. I know there’s an element of limiting children’s expression by even calling this “boy” behavior, but I’m not sure how else to define it when discussing gender.
And it must be said that these are gentle boys in their day-to-day lives. I know it seems impossible that this type of war play is healthy, but these four boys are kind, sweet, loving, smart and generous. I watch them care for one another, play with little babies at the park, step in when other kids are being bullied, and hug each other. They never hit one another out of anger (okay—extremely rarely). I’m not a psychologist, so I can’t attest to what this play behavior really means, but their lives are healthy so it feels okay, though we both try not to cringe as we watch it.
I did have a proud moment as a gender-studies mama recently, though. Last week at the grocery we were faced with a dilemma that might have ruined a shopping trip for some mothers of sons. While buying the kids’ fluoride rinse, the worst happened: the only type of mouthwash left had Barbie plastered all over it. Both boys looked at Barbie and looked at me.
“You guys cool with the Barbie mouthwash?” I asked them, trying to sound upbeat. I could’ve handled My Little Pony mouthwash, even Hannah Montana mouthwash. But Barbie? I hate Barbie. They both looked back at Barbie mouthwash for a minute.
Izz, my oldest, picked up the bottle, put it in a cart and said, “What do I care? It’s just mouthwash.”
And I guess that’s what we’re aiming for. I mean, it’s just gender. They are who they are. Dolls are just dolls, trucks are just trucks. And even in pronouncements of sexuality, when it comes down to brass text, sexuality is about love. Whom our children love doesn’t really matter, as long as they are good to one another.
And isn’t that our job as parents? To love our kids—like Amelia from HuffPo—not just despite of what makes them unique, but also because of it?
Photo Courtesy of crimfants