My daughter has never questioned diversity around her- whether it be diversity in her friends or diversity in parenting. For as long as she can remember, it’s always been a part of her world. Her best friends at school are a little girl of mixed race and a little girl whose parents are divorced. For awhile, one of her best friends was a little Indian boy. He moved away at the end of the school year last year and she constantly still says she misses him.
I’ve felt lucky that I’ve not had to explain people’s differences to her, lucky that she can grow up in a space where everyone is accepted… at least so far.
I knew one day we might have to discuss how and why people are different from each other because I knew one day she would either have questions about our differences or meet someone who wasn’t as supportive of people being different – whether that be because of someone’s looks, religion, race or a topic related to someone’s sexuality.
Honestly, I was nervous about that day. I didn’t want to get it wrong. I wanted her to understand that differences were good, but I wasn’t really sure how I would explain some of them.
I was most nervous about explaining the differences between people who are gay or lesbian just because that path of life is so different from mine. I’ve had gay and lesbian friends, co-workers and acquaintances, but wasn’t sure I could fully explain their lives and loves to my daughter.
But the conversation bypassed me and landed in my husband’s lap.
“She said to me today, ‘Daddy, did you know that (friend from school) has two mommies?'”
“What did you say?” I asked. I figured this was going to come up eventually. She has been attending this school since she was 2 and this little boy has been a part of her life since that time. I knew she would eventually pick up on the fact that his family was different from her’s.
“I said, ‘Oh that’s nice,'” he said.
“What did she say?” I asked.
“She said, ‘Nooooo! It’s not nice! Everyone should have a daddy!'”
She is a total daddy’s girl so I understood where she was coming from. Daddy is fun. Daddy lets her eat frozen waffles straight out of the freezer. Daddy disciplines less and daddy is her buddy. Everyone should get a “daddy.” But still…
“And what did you say?” I asked.
“Nothing,” he said.
“Babe! That was a teachable moment! That was a bad answer. You were supposed to say that all families are different and that’s ok!”
“Oh,” he said.
The truth is, he and I had never actually discussed what we would say when she started noticing differences between people in her life. I knew he was uncomfortable with the conversation and, in all honesty, I wasn’t exactly sure how I would have approached it with her if it had been me surprised in that moment.
I know I would have said something though. I didn’t want her to think that everyone should have a daddy, or even that everyone does have a daddy. Sure biologically they do, but we all know in life sometimes people just aren’t a part of the family dynamic.
We’ve had some contact with that little boy’s two moms throughout the last two and a half years and they are wonderful people. Actually, I think I’ve had more conversations with them than anyone else, including my daughter’s best friends’ parents. (I don’t talk to really any of the other parents because I’m always rushing in and out. It’s not exactly something I’m proud of but it’s the truth. I know I need to get better at it.)
About a week later my daughter and I were coloring and I thought it might be a good time to re-discuss the topic.
“Roo,” I said, “Daddy said you told him how your friend at school has two mommies.”
“Yeah, he does” she said not looking up from her coloring.
“You know that’s ok, right? Some families have two mommies, some just have a mommy or just have a daddy. Some have two daddies and some don’t have a mommy or a daddy. All families are made differently.”
She looked up at me. “Some don’t have a daddy or a mommy?”
“No. Some kids don’t. Some kids live with their grandmas and papas,” I said. “But they are all still a family.”
Her forehead crinkled for a minute as she processed. “Ok,” she said.
I didn’t know if she accepted it or actually didn’t get it yet, but that was the last time we discussed it until this weekend. We had a make-up swim lesson this past Saturday because I’m awful at actually making it to our scheduled Friday lesson on time. When we walked into the swim school we immediately saw the little boy and his mommies.
I was excited to see them. My daughter is always more enthusiastic to do an activity when she sees a friend excited about it. While it’s peer pressure at its finest, I was fine with it because I really need her to feel confident holding her breath under water this summer.
We chit chatted before the lesson and it was so nice to see friendly faces bright an early on Saturday morning. The kids hugged, without our prompting, before we left and on the way home my daughter asked if we could make Saturday her permanent swim day.
When we arrived home we told my husband we saw her friend from school.
“Oh and his mommies?”
“Yes, they were both there.” I said.
“Yeah, cause mommies are awesome,” my daughter said.
I smiled. Mommies are awesome, I thought.
I know she still doesn’t really get it, but I don’t need her to fully understand it all at 4. Right now I just need her to understand that families and love come in different ways, and I’m pretty sure she gets that message. She accepts her friend and his family just as they are. She knows they’re different than us, but still a family made up of people who provide love and support. At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing to understand anyways.
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