Explaining it all

            My husband and I met doing theater in college.  I was a free agent, working on shows with different groups, not to mention dating around the theater community.  I spent a good deal of time with members of the campus Glee Club, which was composed of a group of guys who liked to get on stage and sing hokey songs.

            J, on the other hand, was committed.  He was a member of Mask & Wig, an all-male burlesque group.  Mask & Wig was not just a performing arts group; it was a club.  The crew, cast, business staff and actors all worked together for four years, after undergoing a few initiation rites that involved wearing feather boas around campus for a week.  These guys worked together, partied together, toured together, and generally had very little life outside the demanding rehearsal and performance schedule.  J did a few other shows, which was how we met.

            (I want to clarify for a moment that J was in the crew.  I feel I need this caveat in case you ever meet him in person because, cute though he is, this man was not made to go around in drag.  There were some fantastic drags in Mask & Wig, but J was definitely not one of them.  We’re working on getting him to choose a t-shirt and shorts that don’t clash before we start thinking about allowing him to dress in sparkles and heels.)

            Given the circles we moved in, it probably does not shock you to learn that we have quite a number of gay friends.  Between the Glee Club and Mask & Wig, we managed to assemble a large assortment of gay male friends, not to mention a few straight but very metro men. 

            And yet, there has been some confusion on Zachary’s part. 

            Thinking it would be easier to explain adoption in terms of a gay couple, I brought up some friends he had a great time with on our last trip east.  “Well, think about Ian and Theo.  Can they make babies?”

            “No,” he scoffed.  “They aren’t ladies.”

            “Right,” I said.  “But they are looking for a lady who has a baby in her belly that she cannot take care of.  Then she can give the baby to them and they can be the baby’s daddies.  Do you think they would make good daddies?”

            “No,” he answers again, as though the question is patently absurd. 

            “Why not?”

            “Because they don’t have any toys!”

            OK, so we’ve cleared up the problem.  It is not that two men should not raise children together, but that two men without toys are clearly unfit to be parents. 

Unfortunately, due to a lovely picture book that our nanny brought home from the library, there have been more questions.  (OK, it may also be because the kid is four.)

            You see, we have very few gay friends who he knows who are in relationships.  Our kids love one friend out here, but he’s single.  Most of our old friends, however, are on the East Coast.  So, there are few natural examples, and he has not come to take different kinds of couples as a matter of course.  I always assumed our kids would, but most of what he sees are single people and heterosexual couples.  So, trying to explain And Tango Makes Three was more complicated than I expected.

            “You know how Mommy and Daddy are a couple, right?  Well, that’s because Daddy wanted to be in love with a woman.  But, our friend Oliver wants to be in love with a man.  And when he finds someone to marry, it will be a man.”

            “Why?”  As if I expected any other response.

            “Because he wants to be in love with a man.  Some people want to be in love with women, and some people want to be in love with men.”  Somehow, this answer passed muster, and we were clear.  Until dinner a few nights later.

            Not quite sure how it happened, but I found myself again wading through the there-are-all-different-kinds-of-families conversation.  I tried using a family with two daddies from his school as an example, but Zach doesn’t really know the kids, so that was a dead end.  Then, I explained how Laurie in his class has just a mommy.

            “But how does her mommy take care of her and her brother?” he wanted to know.  I liked that question.  I had an answer to it.

            Leave it to my husband to complicate matters.  “What happened to her daddy?” he wanted to know.  Because, really, he couldn’t wait till we were alone to ask something like that?  Seriously?  You had to know right at that moment, in front of the kids?

            And, THAT is how I ended up explaining sperm donors to a four-year-old.

9 responses to “Explaining it all

  1. Wow, and I thought we had it rough trying to explain biological parents and step-parents to our kids the other day. lol.

    Explaining complicated issues like sex, love and family to kids is always a good time. SOunds like you tackled it with grace and compasion, and that’s truely one of the best thing swe can do for our children.

  2. I love the bit about people without toys being unfit as parents. Happily, the acquisition of toys is one of the easier facets of becoming a parent. (But I have to boast that Zachary would have thought that my husband and I were good candidates for parenting, seeing as our house had plenty of toys well before we were ready for kids. We just both like toys.)

  3. Wow. Sperm doners! I have several gay friends too. My girls are very close with one specific couple she refers to as Uncle Matt and Uncle John. She’s just always known they were a couple. She found out about a year ago that they weren’t married. So we discussed it and I explained that if the government would let them they would be. Which she decided was just plain unfair (so I’ve done my job!! LOL). I’ve explained that love comes in all shapes and forms and that sometimes men want to share their life with another man or woman, women might want to share their life with another woman or man. They seem to have just taken it as the norm. And I’m really glad for that. What I had a hard time explaining was that my neighbors adopted a little boy. And they were very concerned why his parents let him go. and someone told my oldest his dad was in jail. Thta was good for a long conversation! I sure hope I don’t have to explain sperm doners any time soon.

  4. Oh dude, I wish I coulda heard that explanation.

    I’m honest with my kids too and sometimes I laugh for hours at what I had to explain to my kids that day. Two daddies or two mommies, yes. Sperm donor….not yet.

  5. well, now that’s a fun story!

    I have a friend who is trying to get pregnant through a sperm donor, she would probably love to hear your explanation!

  6. Oh my – that is a good story…

    Your explanations were awesome!

  7. Aaaah LOL! Well, did you explain sperm donors to his father, too? Seems like he was just as curious as the little guy!

  8. Sperm donors . . . oh, to have been a fly on the wall! LOL

  9. We haven’t yet talked about sperm donors but my guys have gotten the adoption thing– they have a cousin who is adopted. Again trust a Todd Parr book to help out with this stuff.

    Meanwhile, one of my fellas was recently astounded to hear that our friends Jason & Delfin are not married. I explained that the state of CT won’t let them be. My guy, C, was indignant. Just indignant. “But that’s unfair,” he proclaimed (for once really labeling something unfair that actually IS unfair, not just a bummer to him personally). C wanted to know if the police made that law. Then he said, “Oh, I know– it was the lawmakers. When I grow up and become a lawmaker, I am going to make sure that men who love other men and women who love other women can get married.”

    Oh, I hope that when he grows up that law will well be in place. But yeah, do I love this kid.