Open house

Icanfly-2

Eight months, two and a quarter inches, a buncha pounds, and a whole new world later. We came to the school grounds for Back to School night last September, filled with excitement and trepidation. So overwhelmed by the sensory overload of it all that we just picked our way to our girlie’s classroom and stayed put the whole evening. Didn’t even know ’til it was time to leave that people customarily floated around and toured the school.

Sitting in the pint-sized, putty-colored kid chairs, we asked ourselves what so many parents have asked before us: In this new, large community — the first of many so big we’d be lucky to know the names of all the people she’d come to know in it — would she bloom? Or wilt? And another question, not unfamiliar to many parents before us, but for us fraught in its own unique way, since our right to our parenthoods and families is far from presumptive, years from “natural.” We wondered: at what point would our difference make a difference to her? One other kindergartener out of 60 at the school has two women for parents; none has two dads. By the luck of the draw, the other kid of LGBT parents was in another class. So this year’s school journey for her would be, at least in this regard, a solo one.

Or so we thought. That was before we came to know her teacher, a rookie with instincts that years in the classroom couldn’t manufacture, and a loving kindness both rare and tailor-made for this work. Over the months our daughter’s schoolmates and their families grew to be fellow travelers — they were bound to be.  But as of Back to School night, we hadn’t gotten so far as to realize that along the journey we’d all make friends — not just our daughter.

Last night we got an answer to our question about the impact of our difference. It was on display in her classroom, and it was not what we expected. Over the course of the year, all the students had created a “Self Portrait Portfolio,” prefaced by an inspired quotation by Picasso (here’s a copy), carefully pasted by the teacher inside the front cover. Every page bore some sort of visual art except the last, which was a poem, done in a “finish the phrase” style. Its final line took me utterly by surprise.

“I like myself,” she wrote, “because I have two moms.”

There is a world of difference between “in spite of” and “because of.”  But I frankly hadn’t even begun to imagine past in spite of, until I saw because of written out in my daugther’s hand. She told us she drew the “sunset colors” behind those lines because I’m always bringing her to the window to look at the colors of the sunset. Which, as it happens, are also the colors of the sunrise.

The whole way out of the schoolyard and all down the street to the car, she spread her arms and ran and ran and ran.

“I can fly! Can  you see me? I can fly!”

Ilikemyself

[Ed note: this post is now up at BlogHer as well.]

17 Responses to Open house

  1. BeethovenLives May 28, 2010 at #

    ‘Scuse me while I wipe a little tear away.

  2. rev2bebt May 28, 2010 at #

    My heart just grew a little, and it’s overflowing from my eyes. Thank you for sharing a little bit of beauty this morning.

  3. Shereen May 28, 2010 at #

    Yay! Talk about a shot to the old internalized homophobia! We keep worrying that it’ll be ‘in spite of’ rather than ‘because of’ too, and every now and then we get one of these moments that let us know that it is exactly who we are as a family that makes our little girl feel strong and beautiful. Let me take a second to reiterate what is obvious to all of us who read this blog; you are amazing, wonderful parents. Your children are so freakin’ lucky to be growing up in your family. Who they are becoming is shaped every day by your family, and that is 100% a thing of wonder. I can’t imagine anything more profound than living in such a conscious, intentional family. Nothing is by rote, nothing by default. It is all chosen and cherished, and that is a gift to your children every second of their lives.

  4. katy425 May 28, 2010 at #

    Long time lurker, first time commenter. This is a really beautiful post. I am not surprised at your daughter’s poem, it is clear even from afar that her home, and her moms, are full of love and wonder.

  5. perkl8 May 28, 2010 at #

    wow. wow wow wow wow. she is so beautiful. you made me tear up at work again. we’re looking for a preschool for our 3 1/2-year-old daughter and I’m struggling with sending her out into this unknown, more structured world. kids just hatch over and over and over. it is a marvel.

  6. alphafemme May 28, 2010 at #

    I always *want* to comment on your posts, and so often I feel so utterly without words. This time is no exception. Yours just render mine so vulgar. But this time I can’t *not* comment. So here I am, commenting, saying nothing, but just wanting you to know your words have an impact. Every child who likes herself because she has two moms means that there are other children who will like her because she has two moms too… I have so much hope.

  7. Mama non grata May 29, 2010 at #

    So lovely — thanks for this, especially the insight about moving from “in spite of” to “because of.” Amazing how much we hold onto.

    And I want to have a longer conversation sometime about boys who wear dresses.

    Enjoying the recent wealth of posts!

  8. jenc May 29, 2010 at #

    This post finally got me to register, LD. I’ve had similarly moving experiences myself this week, as both a mom and as an educator. First, my own li’l kindergartner came home Friday with an amazing little book that she wrote during free choice. A friend was writing a “families” book, and she decided to follow suit. Her book reads [invented spelling corrected for the reader’s sake]: “There are all kinds of families. Some are black, some are white, some have two moms, some have two dads. Some have a mom that is white and a dad that is black. You might be Christian. You might be a Jewish person.” She was so proud, and I was amazed that this is how she’s choosing to spend her free time in the classroom. Just lovely.

    Also this week, we hosted a Harvey Milk Day assembly at my school (across town from yours). Kids sang beautiful songs about celebrating diversity, some 5th graders narrated a slideshow about Milk’s life, and a fourth grader with two moms decked herself out in full rainbow regalia and gave a speech about what it’s like to come from a gay family. She brought down the house. The moments that will stick with me are: (1) when I asked her if she’d like to speak at the assembly and her face lit up as she gasped, “Thank you!” (2) The following night at Open House, her pride as she ran around with a rainbow ribbon pinned to her shirt, basking in the respect of her school community, and (3) the lesbian mom who told me that her kindergarten son, after the assembly, told the class all about his family.

    • Lesbian Dad May 29, 2010 at #

      Thank you for joining the conversation here, katy425, jenc, and Liz. Jenc, if I didn’t know you in real life to be a straight shooter (no pun intended), I’d think your story was too good to be true. But these things are happening, right now, in little bursts all over the country.

      I think it’s like with parenthood: we are great parents to the kids who existed up to maybe a month or two (or more) ago. Who they have grown to become since then is something we only discover piecemeal, as events or their words reveal. At least so it seems for me. Maybe the growth rate slows when kids get older, but I doubt it.

      So it is that my vision of what’s true and what’s possible is rooted in the world I grew up in. Which, vis-a-vis sexual and gender minorities, was veeeeeery different than the one we’re in now. Regressive, fear- and lie-based anti-LGBT family proposition campaigns like those we’ve seen in the 2008 and 2009 elections (notably in CA and ME) cast such a pall. But that’s the tomfoolery of grown-ups. Scared, ignorant, closed-hearted ones, if you ask me. Young folk know different. At the same time as not wanting to put a burden on them — clearly the young people at your school, jenc, all stepped up of their own accord — I’m amazed at what they wind up doing simply as a matter of course, being themselves, full of love and vision.

  9. Liz May 29, 2010 at #

    There are not enough “Like” buttons in the world for this post! Through you, your children are teaching us all how to be lesbian parents.

  10. Aussie Elv May 30, 2010 at #

    Like alphafemme, I couldn’t not comment on this post. Just, wow. What a phenomenal feeling it must have been to read that, and know that she’s your daughter, feeling like that because (as she said) of you.

    Awesome stuff. 🙂

  11. mommymae June 3, 2010 at #

    this is so touching. after your trepidation with the beginning of this new chapter to your sweet girl assuaging any worries that she is who she is and loves herself because of you. testament to her wonderful parents, methinks.

    • Lesbian Dad June 3, 2010 at #

      Thank you, Aussie Elv (and welcome!). Right you are. I was bowled over. And she had a frisson of pride (can you have a frisson of pride? if so, she did!) I’ve not yet seen in her. An awareness of the import of it.

      You are kind, mommymae. I’d like to think there’s some testament to what we’ve been able to pull off so far, but only part of me can let go into that. The rest of me is still holding my proverbial breath ’til she strides across her high school graduation stage, cheery, confident, and well-adjusted. ‘Spose every parent is holding some part of her/his breath on that one. Some more than others.

      What’s interesting is I think that my worries are rooted in the world I grew up in, and the utter lack of preparation I received from my parents for the homophobia into which I would inevitably grow up. (A) They weren’t planning on me being a lesbian; (B) they didn’t know what living in homophobia means, therefore how one might prepare a young/developing character for it (nor did either have an analogy to draw from in the way of growing up amidst racial or ethnic bias, though my mom of course knew sexism, and also classism and fat phobia). All this is presuming (C) they were thrilled and happy about my “turning out” to be what I was pretty much all along (i.e., a big honking lesbian). That’s for another day, but the short version is, it was an “in spite of” love, not a “because of” one.

      Anyhow. Short version of all this being: kids of LGBT parents are getting preparation for a different homophobia than the parents received, and also — HELLO — are getting preparation at all. I think it’s going to take years for the import of this to sink in to me. Goddess willing, years of more or less resilient, well-adjusted kids.

  12. Vikki June 3, 2010 at #

    I don’t have much to say because I’m tired. The end of the school year rush is taking its toll on me. Just wanted to put some words here so that you know I’m reading and thinking of you and your family. There are so many journeys involved in parenting. So many. I’m glad that this one, the first year of school, has been a beautiful one.

  13. pensive July 20, 2010 at #

    this makes me feel hopeful that in fifteen or so years from now, when my peers and i start our own families, the social landscape will be better, and that the children of both gay and straight parents will grow up with the awareness that your children are learning.

    • Lesbian Dad July 21, 2010 at #

      Thank you for the comment, and the sentiment, pensive (and welcome!). I sincerely believe this will be the case. Meaning, of course, that pockets of misunderstanding, bias, and animus will remain. Anti-Semitism, racism, anti-ethnic biases of all sorts persist, long after laws (and the de juris discrimination they bring) are wiped off the books. The shortcomings of the de facto human heart. But when the kids of LGBT-headed families grow up, they will be bringing with them not only the vision of the world they have, but the influence they’ve had on all their friends and teachers and caregivers as well. Quite a tide.

  14. Tamara Granger March 12, 2011 at #

    Polly and Jennifer you must have been so proud…reading this is just lovely. I got no words really… “I like myself because I have two moms” :3 and also shes good at reading which we knew 😛 all thanks to her baba… congrats 😉

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