It’s OK If You Don’t Want Your Kids To Be Gay

bigglassesOne of the things I’m proudest of with this blog is the response I’ve received to my post How to Talk to Your Kids About Gay People, By a Gay Person. It’s received exactly the kind of praise (overwhelming) and condemnation (from a few random kooks) I would’ve hoped. I’ve also reached a number of people in the middle, which is where I would suspect most parents are these days, still trying to make sense of our increasingly gay-friendly world and where their kids fit into it.

I’d like to share one particularly intriguing comment I got on the post, which espouses a viewpoint I imagine is increasingly common among parents these days (edited version below; original can be found on the original post):

My husband and I are both tolerant, live and let live kind of people. I am a Christian, [but] I don’t think homosexuality is sinful. What is in the bible is taken way out of context.

 We have a two mom couple [in our neighborhood]. [My kids] never noticed, so we don’t bring it up. Then one day, my 5 year old said that a man can’t marry a man, that is just silly. My husband agreed with him. My husband and I talked later and I told him not to say that, because our son has girls with two moms in his class and he may tell them that it is silly or wrong. My husband said that, in truth, two men can’t legally get married and he doesn’t want the kids thinking it is OK. Well that is when I realized that we aren’t as cool with it as I thought.

I don’t think seeing gay couples will make our sons gay, but my husband seems to think that if we just say it is fine and OK and natural, then they will experiment with both genders. While I would love and accept my son no matter what and so would my husband, I don’t want him to be gay. So how do I tell them that it is OK for other people, but not OK for us. Is that ignorant of me. Am I way overthinking it. I don’t feel like these couples are going to make my children gay, but for some reason, I have this problem with telling them that it is perfectly OK and normal for them to like [other boys]. How should I explain it? I would be mortified if he told his five year old friends that their Moms were wrong or weird and made the little girls feel bad.

I’m going to start off by saying something you probably wouldn’t expect me to say:

It’s OK if you don’t want your kids to be gay.

I know, can you believe a gay man just said that? I’ll say it again:

It’s OK if you don’t want your kids to be gay.

You don’t have to feel guilty about it or be conflicted, and it shouldn’t be the cause of a fight with your spouse.

As parents, we have a lot of expectations and desires for our kids, and that’s only natural. Maybe you don’t want them to go into the military, because you’re afraid they’ll be in danger. You don’t want them to be poets, because you’re afraid they’ll always be broke. You don’t want them to be windmill technicians, because you don’t want them moving away to the Netherlands. All understandable.

On top of that, it’s natural to want your children to be people you can relate to. We want them to have the same political views as us. We want them to share our religion, our work ethic, our sense of humor.

So maybe there’s a part of you that wants your kid to share the same sexual orientation as you. It will certainly make your life easier. It’s hard enough teaching your kids about the birds and the bees, without also having to explain the bees and the bees or the birds and the birds. Fair enough.

It may even make your kid’s life easier if they’re straight, because he or she won’t have to deal with homophobia and the difficulty gay people face when trying to have a family. Maybe that’s why you don’t want your kid to be gay, and that’s OK, too.

It doesn’t make you a bad parent, it doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t even necessarily make you a homophobe.

Here’s the catch, though: You have to be willing to accept your kids even if they’re not what you wanted them to be.

He wasn't what they expected, but these hippies loved their Republican son.

He wasn’t what they expected, but these hippies loved their Republican son.

You would still love your daughter if she joined the military or your son if he became a poet, and if either of them became a windmill technician, you’d be a little sad, but you’d buy a Dutch phrase book and move on with life. It’s the same if your kid ends up being gay, so prepare yourself for that now. Ideally, you may not want it to happen, but it could happen.

And I’m sorry, but there’s no way to convey the notion of “It’s OK for them but not for us” without it coming across as hypocritical or dishonest. Your kid is looking at how you treat your neighbors not just to see how he should treat his neighbors, but to see how you might treat him as well.

What I’m hearing in your comment sounds to me like, “I want to teach my son to be nice to people who are different from us, because I’m terrified those people might learn how we really feel.” You can’t have it both ways. If you’d accept a stranger for being who they are, you can’t discourage it in your own child.

Kids have a tendency of defying their parents’ expectations. Ultimately, as a parent, you should be striving to make your kids happy, and nothing will make them happier than if they’re allowed to be themselves and to know that they have the unconditional love of their parents to support them.

You might really, really prefer that your kid be straight, and maybe you’ll get your wish. But maybe not. And it’s how you handle the “maybe not” that demonstrates what kind of parent you are.

Here’s the other catch: you can’t wait until your kids grow up to tell them you’re OK with who they are. You have to plant the seeds of acceptance before they even figure themselves out.

If your son tells you he wants to be a professional wrestler when he grows up, you can say you’d be very worried that he’d get hurt, but the bigger point you should make is that you’d always root for him.

If your daughter tells you she wants to be a roller disco queen, you can gently suggest that she might need a backup career plan, but only after you tell her to get down with her bad self.

And if your kids say they want to marry someone of the same sex someday, you might be inclined to share what your religion says about homosexuality, but your focus should really be on how proud you’ll be to walk them down the aisle.

Five-year-olds don’t usually have much sense of where they’ll be in 20 years. If we could really trust the predictions preschoolers make, the world would have a lot more firemen and princesses in it. But if there’s one thing kids that age are very good at, it’s testing their parents. When they make assertions about their identity, it’s a safe bet that they’re studying your reaction very closely.

Young adults have been known to experiment with homosexuality if they feel it’ll piss off their parents. But no one has actually ever become gay just because their parents told them they’d be cool with it. I promise.

As for the fact that marriage still isn’t legal wherever you happen to live, it’s only a matter of years if not months before it will be. Marriage equality is almost a certainty by the time your five-year-old reaches adulthood, so don’t cling to the technicality while it lasts.

If you want to know how to discuss the lesbian parents in your neighborhood with your kids, you can show them your acceptance without turning it into a Bi g Discussion on homosexuality. Just say, “Those women are in love, the same way I love your daddy. Someday, you’ll marry the person you love, and I can’t wait to dance at your wedding.”

Then let them go back to playing soccer.

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5 Types of Parents It’s OK to Judge

If you’re one of those people with no kids of your own who’s constantly judging everyone’s parenting skills, then please stop.  Trust me, all the other parents and I had a meeting, we put it to a vote, and it was unanimous: we hate you.  You don’t know what you’re talking about, you’re rude and you should keep your stupid opinions to yourself.

On the other hand, if you are a parent, then judging other parents can be one of the most fun and satisfying ways to spend your time, so have at it!  It’s open season for you!

OK, that might still get you in some trouble with the people you’re judging, so I can understand if you want to be careful. But I can’t imagine any of the lamest moms and dads would do something so informative as to read a parenting blog, so just between us, I’m going to let them have it.

Here are 5 types of parents who, in my opinion, it’s perfectly OK for you to judge…

1. The “What’s Bedtime?” and “What’s a Sitter?” Parents.

saw 6_edited-1Look, I’m sure you really needed the six pack of Corona Light, but was it really worth dragging your toddler out to Stop & Shop at 10pm?  Some of us call that “bedtime”.  We look forward to it as a relaxing break at the end of our hectic day, and what’s more, the kids need it.  It’s win-win.

At least Stop & Shop is an age-appropriate activity for young children.  We’ve all seen those morons who were so psyched for “World War Z” that they dragged their 2-year-old out to the midnight showing at Mann’s Chinese rather than wait the two months it’d take for that movie to be on DVD.  How are they selling these people tickets instead of calling child protective services on them?

It’s insane that some places have laws against gay parents adopting or fostering kids when there are clowns like this raising children.  Look, not every gay couple is Ozzy and Harriet, but if you want to root out the truly unfit parents, I suggest starting at the multiplexes.

2. Parents Who Helicopter Other People’s Children. 

booboo_edited-1Say what you will about helicopter parents. At least the only kids they’re messing up are their own… that is, except for this subset of helicopter parents who are determined to overparent everyone’s kids.

When my kids fall down at the playground, I don’t usually make a big deal about it, and because of that, they don’t make a big deal about it either. They get up, limp for a second or two and then run around like maniacs again… unless some other grownup runs over and screams, “OH MY GOD! ARE YOU OKAY?”

Odds are, my kid was fine until the crazy lady ran up and started screaming hysterically in his face. Now he’s not crying because he’s hurt. It’s because you freaked him the eff out. If not for you, he’d be back swinging upside-down from the jungle gym by now.

Oh, and while you’re at it, spare me your evil eye. When my kid really does get hurt, I will swoop in faster than you could imagine and do all the things that need to be done. I just want him to know that there are some ouchies he’s perfectly capable of handling on his own.

By the way, this is a park. I’m not sure what that green spongy material under our feet is, but I suspect it’s at least 70% marshmallow. No one’s going to get beheaded here. Relax.

3. The Only-Engage-With-The-Kids Parents.

gamelastnight_edited-1These ones are just weird. I take my kids to the same places over and over, and we see a lot of the same people.  Some of them are friendly, some of them are not, and a lot of them fall in this weird middle ground where they’re very friendly… but only to the kids.  They talk to them, hand them toys, introduce them to their kids, but even when I’m standing right there, they won’t address me directly or look me in the eye.

Instead, they’ll direct all their questions to my children.  “Does your Daddy mind if you play with that?”  “What a pretty shirt your Daddy dressed you in!”  I imagine they’re just socially intimidated by other adults, but it’s hard not to feel like Bruce Willis in the Sixth Sense.  Her Daddy is standing right here! Talk to him, please! He’s starved for adult conversation!

Seriously, if there are other people out there who can’t see me, please let me know, because I’m starting to worry that I’ve crossed over to another plane of existence or something.

4. The Insufficiently Apologetic.

hairpull_edited-1One day at the kiddie gym, a little boy smacked my daughter in the face because she was on the trampoline he wanted to use.  His mother was appropriately horrified, but she didn’t say a word to me or Sutton.  No “Sorry”, no “Please don’t sue”, no “Bobby, give that girl a hug.”  She just grabbed the kid and ran away to lecture him.

I’d lump into this category any parent who offers their own apology for the kid’s behavior but doesn’t make their kid apologize himself — and worse, doesn’t do anything to reprimand him. One day at a playground, a perfectly polite nanny assured me that her kid didn’t normally pin kids to the ground and pull their hair until they screamed, the way he had just done to Sutton.  She even gave him an ultimatum: apologize or they were going home.  He didn’t apologize, but half an hour later, they were still there, and he was pulling some other kid’s hair.

I thought we were all in the same boat, trying to teach our kids to own up to their actions and say they’re sorry when they screw up. But now the next time my kid misbehaves, she’s going to whine, “But that kid at the park didn’t apologize!” And suddenly my teachable moment turns into me teaching her that some people are just assholes.

5. The Overly Apologetic.

misbehave_edited-1Look, everyone’s kid throws a fit in public sometimes.  It sucks.  But you don’t need to run around telling everyone how sorry you are and swearing, “He never does this!”  Try to forget about all the annoyed jerks glaring at you and focus on your kid instead.  Calm him down, get him out, do whatever your parenting instinct tells you the situation demands.  Trust me, no one’s going to hand you a report card on the way out, with an “F” in tantrums. Well, I’m not, at least. I’ll be one of the parents passing you glares of sympathy and encouragement. In almost any case of tantrummy kid vs. beleaguered parent, I take the parent’s side, because I’ve been there myself many times.

Sometimes the best way to handle an outburst is to ignore the behavior, and that can be tough.  I know I look like a horrible parent because my kid’s screaming their head off in a shopping cart and I’m trying to decide which brownie mix to buy.  But you know what?  I’m not going to give into him just to calm him down, and it’s not that I think this is acceptable behavior.  I’m just halfway through my shopping, and I’m really in the mood for brownies, so we’re riding this one out together, everybody.  You don’t like it?  Kindly move to Aisle 6.  Thanks.

Besides, don’t be so self-centered.  You think everyone’s judging you?  Pfft, who would do that?

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How to Talk to Your Kids About Gay People, By a Gay Person

English: Train Board at Grand Central Terminal

Image via Wikipedia

[Note: I originally published this piece here as How to Talk to Your Children About Gay Parents, By a Gay Parent. The post took on a life of its own and was read and shared by lots of people whose kids might be exposed to homosexuality any number of places, and not just through kids with gay parents. So I figured it was time to freshen the piece up a bit and broaden the scope.]

It could happen anywhere, at any time. A train station. A Disney Channel show. The NFL draft.

Your kids are just hanging out, being kids and daydreaming about candy, when suddenly they see…

TWO DUDES KISSING!

michaelsamkiss

Or maybe they spot a little girl in the dropoff line at school. She kisses her mom goodbye, and then… she kisses her other mom goodbye!

You feel a tug on your leg, you look down, and there’s your kid. He just saw the same thing you saw, and now he looks up at you with his innocent face and says, “Yo, what’s the deal with that?”

As a gay man, I know I’ve spurred conversations like this myself, by doing just what Michael Sam and his boyfriend did on live TV. I want to be clear first of all that I don’t kiss my husband in public because I want to confuse your child or piss off right-wingers, although I’m aware that both of those things might happen as a result. I’m kissing him because I love him and I’m probably saying hello or goodbye at the time. (I assure you. It will never be because I’ve just been drafted by a professional sports team.) When I kiss my husband, I’m not going to look around first to make sure your kid and/or Pat Robertson isn’t watching. I’m just going to kiss him and then go on with the rest of my day.

I understand you might be unprepared for what follows. So here and now, I’m going to do what I feel is only fair for someone in my position to do. I’m going to prepare you.

Naturally, these tips are intended for the sympathetic straight parent. Unsympathetic straight parents are free to ignore my suggestions, in which case, I’ll enjoy watching them squirm.

Obviously, what you say will depend on how old your kids are and how much exposure they’ve had to gay people previously, but in a broader sense, these suggestions should apply to anyone.

I’m not a child psychologist, just a gay dad who’s thought a lot about the issue and who has a big stake in it.  After all, I don’t want your kids coming up to my kids one day and telling them they’re weird for not having a mommy.

If you don’t want that either, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Use the word “gay”.

Everyone’s concentrating on taking the negative connotation away from the word “gay”, but at the same time, let’s not forget to encourage the positive.  We don’t want “gay” to be a curse, so go ahead and teach it to your kids.  That’s how we’ll really take the sting out of the word.

“Oh, Uncle Doug and Uncle Max?  They’re gay.”  “Aunt Vera and Aunt Debbie aren’t sisters, honey.  They’re lesbians.”  “Well, statistics suggest at least 3 of the Smurfs must be gay.”  Don’t make a big deal about it.  Just say it.  If your kids hear some jerk at school sneering, “That’s so gay!”, their response will be, “Yeah?  So what?  So are Uncle Max, Aunt Vera and, most likely, Brainy.”

2. You don’t have to pretend half the world is gay. 

Don’t play down the fact that your kids may have witnessed something unfamiliar.  “Geez, Madison.  They have two daddies, what’s the biggie?”  It’s natural for poor little Madison to be confused, so give her a damn break.

Kids are probably going to assume all families have one mommy and one daddy, because that’s all most of them see.  You can be honest. Use words like “most” and “some”.  “Most families have a mommy and a daddy… but some have two mommies or two daddies.”  “Most women marry men, but some women marry other women.” As long as you don’t attach a value judgment to those statements, it really is no biggie. (The same goes when explaining single parent families, divorced families or anything else your child might be witnessing for the first time.)

Some kids might say something like, “That’s weird”, or they’ll think you’re playing a joke on them.  That should just be a reminder of why you’re having this conversation.  Get to your kid before ignorance does.  If you’re honest with them, they’ll get it.

3. Get your mind out of the gutter.

It seems silly that I even have to say this, but when some people think about homosexuality and kids, they imagine that you’re suggesting they graphically describe intercourse to kindergarteners.  Um, no.  All you should be doing is answering the questions they’re asking, and save the rest for junior high health class.  If they wonder why they saw two football players kissing, it’s because “Those two men are in love”… or because “Some men love other men.”  Hopefully, you’ve taught your kids to understand what love is, so no further explanation should be required.

And do use the word “love”.  That’s what we’re talking about here.  You don’t need to say “attracted to” or “some boys like boys”.  “Like” is how they feel about each other.  A kid might think, “Well, I like boys.  I guess I’m gay.”  Compare it to your own relationship (assuming you have a good relationship).  “You know the way Mommy and I love each other?  That’s how those two men or those two women feel about each other.”  And if your kid says, “Yuck!” it’s probably because they feel the same way about when you and your spouse get all schmoopy-doopy with each other.  That’s progress.

4. Don’t make it about your kid — yet.

Understanding homosexuality is a big enough topic of discussion, and your kid probably won’t be prompted to wonder about their own sexuality at this point.  You don’t need to say, “You might marry a man someday yourself, Junior!”  While it’s great to plant the seeds of acceptance early, you’ll probably just end up confusing them more.  Your kids have plenty of time to figure their own feelings out, and when the time comes, make sure you let them know that you love them no matter what.  But no, they can’t marry Brainy Smurf.

5. If your kid does ask you to speculate, you can tell them they’ll “probably” be straight.

Again, only if your kid expresses some curiosity should you even broach the subject.  But if they’re wondering, “Who will I marry someday?”, feel free to tell them, “You’ll probably marry someone of the opposite sex, but I’ll accept you either way.”  Of course, if you’re like the mom from the amazing blog Raising My Rainbow, your “probably” might lean the other way.  Just take your cues from your kid.

6. Remember the magic phrase, “Love is what makes a family.” 

Even kids who don’t know exactly where babies come from understand that women are the ones who get pregnant and give birth.  When that’s all you know, then the idea of two men being in love and even forming a family together just might not add up.

Again, don’t go into any more detail than you need to.  Remind your kid that while it’s a woman who gives birth to a baby, your Mommy(-ies) and/or Daddy(-ies) are the one(s) who raise you. It’s no different than how you’d explain adoption by a straight couple.  “The Strattons flew to Beijing and brought little Daisy home.  Now they’re her Mommy and Daddy.”

What kids want to know is that the little boy or girl they see whose family looks different is still being well taken care of. Assure your children that the kids are in good hands, because love is what makes a family, and those parents love their kids as much as you love yours.

7. Most importantly, just talk to your kids.

Your kids are bound to see a gay couple sooner or later, even if it’s just Mitchell & Cameron on Modern Family.  So if they come to you with questions, it’s really important that you don’t get weird about it.  Don’t change the subject, don’t tell them they’re too young to understand and definitely don’t lie and say that those two ladies were only kissing to be silly or because they were rehearsing a play.  Otherwise the message you’re sending is that there’s a reason to be uncomfortable around gay people.  The same goes for all kinds of people, really – just explain that some people look or feel a bit different from most people we meet, and isn’t it nice that everyone’s a little different.

… which leads me to a big secret.

You see, there is a gay agenda.  It’s true.

What most people don’t realize is that the gay agenda isn’t “everybody should be gay”.  It’s “everybody should be themselves.”

Be a nerd, be a Yanni fan, be a real housewife of your particular geographic region.  Whatever.  It’s all part of the same cause, and it’s a great message to teach your kids.

I shouldn’t have to say this in the 21st Century, but for anyone who’s still wondering, NO, I don’t want to make your kids gay.  I just want to live my life with a sense of mutual respect for everyone else on this planet.  If you want the same thing, then let your kids learn by your example.  Show them that gay people and nontraditional families are nothing to be afraid of.

Teaching your kids to be accepting of gay people and gay families is a great way to teach them acceptance in a broader sense – and to teach them the ultimate lesson: to be accepting of themselves.

I know some people think differently, but that’s what I call family values.

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If you know anyone who you think would appreciate this post, please share it using the buttons below. I’ve come back and revised this post a couple of times now, so if you have any non-homophobic notes or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment. If you have homophobic notes or suggestions, on the other hand, you might want to read my comment policy first.

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My Little Imagineers (For the Record, I Prefer Bennett’s Ride)

TowerOfTerrorBennett: “Daddy, when I grow up, I’m going to build a ride for Disney World.”

Me: “That’s great. What kind of ride?”

Bennett: “It’ll be for babies.”

Me: “Good idea. They don’t have a lot of rides for babies. And what will it be?”

Bennett: “A Tower of Terror.”

Me: “Hmm… OK. Well, what are you going to call it?”

Bennett: “The Baby Tower of Terror.”

Me: “How is it going to be different from the regular Tower of Terror?”

Bennett: “It’s not.”

Me: “It’ll be just as tall?”

Bennett: “Yup!”

Me: “And just as dark?”

Bennett: “Yup!”

Me: “Don’t you think babies will be scared?”

Bennett: “Nope, because it’s for babies.”

minniemouseSutton: “I’m going to make a ride called Minnie’s Fashion Bow Ride.”

Me: “What happens in your ride?”

Sutton: “You ride in a bow and you see all of Minnie’s bows and beautiful dresses.”

Me: “How long does this ride last?”

Sutton: “15 or 20 hours.”

Our Disney Visit, in Pictures

FamilySelfieThe response to my Disney post has really blown me away. I’ve heard from so many cast members, many of whom have shared my post and all of whom have been astonishingly nice and complimentary. There have even been a few who remember my family from our trip! It’s never fun to come back from vacation, but all of you helped keep the magic going for a few more days, so thanks.

To everyone who read the post, I want to say a couple of things. One, many people wanted to make sure I know that Disney treats everyone as well as they treated my family. It’s their goal to make us all feel special. That couldn’t make me happier. I’d love to think that everyone who goes to Disney World has as wonderful a vacation as we did.

Two, the Fairy Godmother I wrote about is apparently well-known for being extra awesome. That makes me happy, too, because she definitely deserves the recognition. If you go to Orlando, make sure you pay her a visit.

Since people seemed to connect so well with that post, I figured I’d share a few more photos and anecdotes from our trip. Some of them have already appeared on my Facebook page, but I think they’re worth reposting here. Continue reading

5 More Secrets I Keep From My Kids

ShhHey guys. It’s Daddy again. Remember that post I wrote about the 10 biggest secrets I keep from you? Of course not! I only shared that with everyone except you. (Oh, and did we have some good chuckles about it, too!)

Well, it turns out, Daddy’s full of secrets, and since you still can’t read or use the internet, I’m ready to spill a few more. Yes, go on playing Legos. Just grown-ups talking here. Nothing you’d be interested in…

1. None of your friends nap anymore.

naptimeIt’s true. I’ve talked to all their parents, and they’re stunned that Daddy and I are still making you lie down for an hour every day at four years old. Their kids would never do that, they tell me. I usually leave out what a struggle it is to get you to follow through, and how every day I consider putting an end to nap time. But even our constant fighting over the nap is better than a day without naps — and I don’t mean for you.

I always say you have to nap because you get too cranky when you don’t, but the truth is, that doesn’t compare with how cranky it makes me. You may hate your naps, but I really, really like them. You might be ready to give them up, but I’m not. So until you learn the timeless childhood art of pleading, “But Jimmy’s parents don’t make him nap!”, you’re stuck with a daily snooze.

Seriously, kid. Start comparing notes. Jimmy’s got it a lot better than you do. A LOT.

2. Most of your artwork is garbage.

garbageOK, that sounds a bit harsh, but don’t take it too hard. I only mean it literally. As in, that’s where I put most of it. In the trash.

You know that picture you drew just for me, that you worked so hard on, that I swore was a masterpiece I would cherish forever? Well, five seconds after you went to bed, I crumpled it up and buried it deep, deep in the kitchen garbage can so you would never find it.

I know you won’t remember it tomorrow, and frankly, you make me way too many masterpieces, more than I can ever hang on the refrigerator or even store in an archive. I know you were especially proud of that dog dragon you drew me, but frankly, it wasn’t your best work. Sure, I took a picture of it before I dumped old coffee grounds and that half-eaten cup of yogurt on top of it, but don’t expect it to show up as my desktop wallpaper or anything.

Oh, and when we moved, Daddy and I threw away about five garbage bags full of your stuffed animals. You know why you didn’t notice? Because of the ten garbage bags full that we kept. Many of the things you love are garbage to us. I like that you have enough love in your heart to spread out among every crappy plush knickknack you take home from the Everybody Wins booth at the carnival, but the space in your heart is bigger than the space in our house, so some things just have to go.

3. We’re Going to Disney World!!!

You know how you’re constantly asking us if we can go to Disney World, and we respond, “Maybe someday”? Well, guess what, suckers? Someday is coming next February. We made the reservations, booked our flights, requested time off from work, reserved a dinner with Cinderella and even bought those Secret Guide to Disney books so we can make this the most awesome trip of your childhood. If you think we’re telling you about it anytime soon, though, you’re crazy. We planned this trip six months ahead of time.  Do you know how long that is in kid years? Of course not, and that’s the point. But in grown-up years, it’s six months of “Is today the day? Is today the day?”, and Daddy ain’t havin’ that.

Oh, and don’t take this to mean that “maybe someday” is always code for yes. When you ask us for a puppy, “Maybe someday” is our way of ending the conversation. But that one’s a definite no. Not someday, not ever. Sorry.

4. If I ever played a game against you at my full ability, I would whoop your sorry ass.

See anything you need? Oh, come on!

See anything you need? Oh, come on!

You really think you could beat me on a race to the tree and back? I know I’m not Jesse Owens, kid, but seriously, if I ran as fast as I could, I would mop up the front yard with you. The same goes for when we play Zingo, that kiddie version of Bingo you love so much. There are only nine squares on the board, but when Kite comes up, I’ll sit and wait like two whole minutes for you to realize you have Kite in your center square.

Hello! I have two kites on my board, but I’m not going to swipe that tile away from you, because I guess the whole point of this is to get you to learn about image recognition or spatial relationships or something. I don’t know what the point is, but whatever it is, it’s something I already know. I don’t need the validation, so I’m going to let you have it. Let’s just move it along, OK?

Honestly, though, the bigger secret is that sometimes you win fair and square. Want to know how to tell the difference? When I’m smiling, that means I let you win. If you actually earned your victory, you’ll notice me quietly giving you the stink eye.

5. When daddy and I spell things, we’re usually talking about you.

In fact, we’re usually talking about either nap time, Disney World, how I smoked you at Zingo or how soon we can throw something of yours away after you go to bed. I don’t know what we’re going to do when you guys learn to spell, because Daddy and I have really come to rely on our secret code. Maybe we’ll start learning Russian or something.

*****

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Who is Funny, According to Sutton

funnycup“Daddy, some people are funny, and some people are serious. Daddy’s funny.”

“Am I funny?”

“No. You’re serious.”

“Are you funny?”

“Yes.”

“Is Bennett funny?”

“Yes.”

“So I’m the only serious one?”

“Yes.”

“What about your teacher?”

“She’s serious.”

“Oh, good. So it’s not just me.”

“But sometimes she’s funny.”

“Am I funny sometimes?”

“No.”

“Who else is funny?”

“Um… the cup.”

“The cup is funnier than me?!”

“Can I play with the iPad now?”

The Two Stages of Grief (for Preschoolers)

Sutton and Matilda

Sutton and Matilda

We did a little bit of bargaining in the wake of my daughter’s fish’s death — if that’s what you’d call it when we offered to get her a new fish, and five seconds later she was thinking up names for it. Other than that, my kids skipped right over denial, anger and depression and went straight to acceptance.

This morning, we brought home Sutton’s new fish, Matilda, named after her favorite book, musical and second-favorite movie (behind James and the Giant Peach). Before we’d even transferred Matilda into her permanent tank, Sutton was thinking up names for the next fish she’d get after Matilda died. (The current front-runner for the next fish’s name: Sutton). Then, Bennett started thinking up names for the fish he’d get after his current fish, Sulley, died. (Current front-runner: Bennett).

Drew and I tried to keep the conversation about fish, but it didn’t take long before the kids made the connection that people die, too.

“Someday, I’m going to die,” Bennett announced. He sounded almost happy about it, like he was just pleased to be included in something that had been such a big topic of conversation for us. Little did he know he was uttering my worst fear out loud.

“Not for a long time,” we assured him. “A long, long, long, long, long, long, long [I actually think we’re still saying ‘long’] time.”

Sutton took it a step further. “Someday, Roald Dahl is going to die,” she said.

“He already did, actually. Quite a few years ago.”

“Oh. Well, I think he left some stories for after he died.”

“Yeah, that’s the nice thing about when people die. They always leave behind wonderful things for us, whether it’s their books or the memories they gave to all the people who loved them.”

There’s something both wonderful and incredibly disturbing about seeing my kids so at peace with death. I know they don’t fully understand what they’re talking about, and that’s part of what makes me so uncomfortable. I’m torn between changing the subject and shaking them violently and screaming, “Death is everywhere, and it’s permanent and horrible and it’s coming for all of us and sometimes, it’s all I think about! Fear death! Fear death!”

But I calm myself down, acknowledge what they say and try to move on, because they’re still processing what happened, and for now at least, I’m the one who has a problem with it, not them. It’s probably the right course to take, but it does require me and Drew to have our guts ripped out over and over from the things they come up with. Like this gem, from Bennett, which I typed down verbatim after he said it:

“The day before I die, I’m going to say goodbye to you guys and I’m going to do a happy dance and then I’m going to die and you’re going to drive me to the cemetery.”

I hear things like that coming from my 4-year-old’s mouth and wonder how I can go on. Then I realize what beautiful and amazing kids I have, and I picture my son doing his happy dance, and once again, I’ve forgotten about death and I’m thinking about life instead.