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Straight talk
from gay parents

Straight talk
from gay parents


In Maggie Quale's latest column on gay parenting, the writer offers up advice on letting go.

I'm sure there's some relationship between our recently skyrocketing maternal hormones and the familial milestone thrust upon us this week. Yesterday, against his mother's wishes, my son Calvin had the audacity to start kindergarten.

He marched into class with his new backpack and haircut like some autonomous being ready to take on the world. Not surprisingly, I was the more neurotic half of our parental unit. I called Kim at work ready to discuss the benefits of homeschooling.

Before Kim entered our lives, Calvin and I formed our own microcosm. I can scarcely remember a time when I wasn't wiping noses and concocting kid-friendly lunches. Letting go is especially bittersweet for me because I'm losing not only my baby but my ability to protect him from the real world.

Kindergarten marks an entrance to the public sphere and an exit from the safe haven of home. With grade school comes new elements like bullies, school-yard fights, and the horrors of social cliques. From here out, Calvin's physical and emotional well-being will be increasingly out of our hands--at least for four to six hours a day. And sooner or later, out on the playground or in some pint-size bathroom, my baby boy will confront his first taste of homophobia.

In honor of these inevitable challenges, I would like to pass along three indispensable suggestions from other queer parents who have already muddled through the process:

Talk to your kids...before someone else does.

This might seem obvious, yet many of us handle these moments reactively instead of proactively. Sure, we've got the perfect retort crafted for when questions finally arise, but why wait? There is a big difference between scaring our little ones and helping them to feel good about their family. Let your child know what to expect and how they can assert themselves. Practice responses that will let your youngster feel proud and in control of scary moments.

Once is never enough.

Having a proactive chat about homophobia is important, but children are constantly hitting different social and developmental milestones. As with all issues, their questions will vary according to their awareness and ability to comprehend complex answers. An explanation to your 4-year-old will be completely different from a conversation with your fifth grader. Consider which aspects of your sexuality your child should hear about and prepare age-appropriate explanations that you are comfortable discussing.

Starting school means making new friends (this means you too).

Once our kids enter kindergarten, we have less control over whom they interact with. To help offset any negativity your child might be feeling about his or her family structure, challenge yourself to cultivate relationships with more LGBT parents and children, even if it means you need to reach outside your social circle to resources like support groups. Spending time with other kids who have two mommies or daddies will help remind children they are normal.

Fortunately, our generation has decades of research confirming that kids of queer parents reach adulthood no more messed up than those with straight parents. Calvin may face antagonism and prejudice, but studies suggest he'll grow up more open-minded and tolerant than his peers. That's great news, though it won't help me beat the first-day-of-school blues. So, if you'll excuse me, I have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to make, and a gigantic mommy hug to give.

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Maggie Quale