Have you ever heard something that hurt your feelings or left you saying, “Um no that is not true”? For example when my four year old recently said, “Mommy, why does your belly stick out? Is there another baby in there?” My immediate response was “My stomach does NOT stick out (very much) and there is NOT another baby in there!!” She was just being brutally honest and for the record, the shirt I was wearing was not the most slimming. We were both at fault.
Another great example is when someone tells you that you look tired. Really? Why not use some tact and say instead, “I really wish I could get away with wearing yoga pants today. You look SO comfy!!” Minor slips of the tongue that might be true but you don’t necessarily want to hear them. However, there are other comments and questions that are much harder to deal with.
A few months ago my then six year old came to me and said, “Mommy, today at school someone said that Justin Beaver (bless her heart, she never says Beiber) is gay. What does gay mean?” I’ve learned it’s best not go head long into a complicated answer until you know exactly what they, in this case Lily, know so I told her it meant happy. Lily said, “I know that. What else does it mean?” Obviously I wasn’t going to get away without answering this one. So I explained to Lily that the person at school meant “gay” as something rude and most likely was repeating something he’d heard from someone else. She accepted this and went on with her day. I hated my answer. I wanted more than anything to tell Lily the truth but it hurt me too much to have to explain that we live in a world where the word gay is very complicated. How do you talk to a child about sexual orientation? How do you give meaning to a word that is hurled at people with hate but is also a description that is widely used? I didn’t know what to do.
Since that day I’ve thought about Lily’s question a lot and I know the time is coming very soon when my girls will need definitive answers. My goal is to SHOW them that terms like gay and straight are words but in this family we LIVE the word love for everyone. We will not tolerate using words to hurt others. We will not label those around us based on who they date, marry, or choose as their partner. My goal is for my children to have an answer when the word gay is used to belittle or hurt. I hope their response would be, “Justin Beaver can be gay or straight. That part is his business. I just wish he’d pull up his pants.”