Bigot on the Playground

My son recently turned nine, and normally Katie and I like to invite his whole class to a party in the backyard or a big event space. This year, however, we decided to try out an escape room that required a limited number of guests. Because he’d have to narrow his invite list, I took out a piece of paper for Mr. Carter to write down those he wanted to attend. When one name appeared on the list, I winced and then realized I handled an offensive situation the right way months earlier.

It was on the playground last spring when a kid in his second-grade class decided my son needed to know that having two mothers was wrong. When my son protested, this kid was adamant that my son’s home life was not normal, and that the only correct home was one with both a mother and a father.

Katie and I are never sure if or when such incidents might occur, so we’ve handled it by not saying anything to him as a warning. All he knows is two mothers, he recognized early that other kids had a different combination of parents, and he was always comfortable with the knowledge that there are many kinds of families out there. He’s been in a school environment that agrees with this philosophy, so when this one child made their beliefs known to him, he was taken aback.

Mr. Carter waited until bedtime that night to discuss what happened. He described his classmate as being aggressive with the opinion and saw this classmate also share the belief with another second-grader who had two dads. Each conversation took place on the playground, out of earshot of any teachers, so it was up to my son to handle it. He simply dismissed him, but I could tell he was frustrated by not getting his way in the end.

I explained that children oftentimes mimic what they hear their parents say, so obviously this child’s parents only think their family structure is correct. I have to admit, I was very disappointed, having known this family and been unaware of their politics. However, I didn’t express that to my son.

“But we have to love him anyway, just the way he is,” my son replied.

There are moments when you are at a loss for words by something a child says. Fighting back tears, I agreed with him, saying he may not even understand what he’s saying or really believe that in the future. But for now, yes, we have to love him for who he is, even if he’s been taught incorrectly.

So, there was the name of the child, on the limited invite list, because my son loves them for who they are and focuses on what the two have in common. I, too, have followed that lead and continue to socialize with the parents and what we can talk about without conflict.

Pride is contagious, and the self-confidence I’ve gained over the years in terms of my sexuality is obviously being passed down. Children are meant to be the evolution of us, and I’m glad my son is already a bigger-minded person than I was at that age.