Sometimes you find out how your parenting is going based on passive observation. Of course, we all sit down and have purposeful, intentional conversations with our children. We share our values and beliefs. That's super important. One of the ways we see if those conversations are sinking in or not is when we witness what our kids think is normal. How do they respond when exposed to something in real life that you've tried to normalize at home?
I was just sitting at the table with the kids scarfing pizza and working on my Harry Potter puzzle. Macy casually mentioned that her friend one year older is gay. My heart leapt but I tried to keep a poker face. I asked some questions about how her friend told her and how Macy responded. It was clear that Macy thought this was a totally normal thing. Then we started talking about all the people in our lives who are in the LGBTQ community. We talked about the married couples at church and the friend who identifies as queer. We talked about how numerically it's more common to be straight but that it's totally normal to be gay. And it wasn't me preaching at a skeptical kid. It was her being like, "duh Mom."
I had to jump on here and capture this feeling. I am elated. "Duh Mom" was not a given in this area based on my conservative upbringing. One of my goals as a parent is to normalize things that are in fact, normal. When we act like normal things aren't normal, we target normal people and cause harm. It is normal to be gay. It is normal to be straight. These are both well within a normal spectrum of human sexuality. I don't say that to minimize the very real struggle the LGBTQ community has and continues to face. Absolutely not. But would that resistance and pain be there if we did, in fact, just stop acting like it's abnormal? Because it's not. Science.
I took Macy to see Fiddler on the Roof last week. In the midst of "the mamas" and "the papas" I started to fret. Ugh. Tradition! Of course, if you've seen the show, bucking and wrestling with, maintaining and subverting tradition is the whole point. It's not about saying all traditions are great and we should just stick with it. But the struggle is real and it is damn hard to challenge tradition. And some things still couldn't abide for dear Tevye. That's human. Seeing the show was another opportunity to see what was or wasn't sinking in with Macy in regards to feminism. When all the singing about gender based roles started, Macy leaned over and said "this is weird." I snickered delightedly. Later when the daughter who married outside the faith was ostracized from the family, she said "this is awful." In the end, the part that bothered her the most was that it didn't end happily.
Boy, did we have a lot to talk about on the way home!
I think before I had kids, I thought parenting lay in the conversations on the way home. The pausing of the TV to discuss sexist tropes. The natural consequences for reckless or dangerous choices. And parenting lies there. No doubt. But parenting is not just about what you invest in, it's also about what comes back out. Ultimately, she will make her own choices and that won't fully be about my parenting. Even if her choices are incredible and amazing. That will be her. Who she becomes and what she does with what I teach her will be about what she wants to do and who she wants to be. And that's cool. But my piece of this parenting at age 10 includes what we consider normal as a family. And I hadn't quite put my finger on that until I saw it coming back out. This is her base reality. And I'm really excited that her base reality includes thinking being gay is normal and fathers rejecting daughters based on their choice of spouse is inexcusable. Yes!