Yesterday morning, I scooped D up and headed over to Pennsylvania to go camping with a bunch of (mostly) total strangers. The trip was organized by the good folks at Philadelphia Family Pride, and had been on our calendar for months.
And even though SuperT ended up having to work, and my going would mean missing out on the celebration of the opening of Princeton Friends School's new building, and the forecast included some rain, I got out the tent.
I'm trying to inoculate us.
When my partner and I were expecting, the high school students I would sometimes speak to as part of their school's Gay Awareness Day were concerned about D's as-yet-only-imagined life. "Aren't you worried about bringing a kid into a hard situation?" And I said several things, including that I was counting on them to make this less of an issue by the time our kid got to their school. And that I was pretty confident I could help prepare a kid to deal with anti-gay rhetoric and actions, having been on the receiving end of both.
So this weekend we hung out with twelve or so other families who are led by gay men or lesbians. The kids ranged from toddlers up to early teens. I don't know what kind of prep work other parents did with their kids in advance of the weekend; I didn't say much of anything to D. What was important for him was that he got to sleep in his tent, poke at a fire, explore the woods, and sing songs at the evening campfire. At one point he ran over to me to ask, "Can I give my friend a piece of our banana bread?" "Sure, sweetie," I said. "What's your friend's name?" "I don't know," he called back over his shoulder as he dashed off, beloved banana bread in hand, "but he's really nice, and he's the one I'm playing with!" He's keyed into what matters.
Another young friend, a member of the one family we DID know before this weekend, looked at me quizzically as our time together drew to a close and asked, "Is D a cousin of mine?" I thought for a moment, and said, "Well, not exactly. But I can see how it might feel that way."
Children whose families might not fit with some of their classmates' ideas of what a family should look like are potentially vulnerable to teasing and harassment. Kids are tough on all sorts of differences. But in giving our son another opportunity to see for himself that families really DO come in all kinds of colors, shapes, and sizes, I am hoping that he'll be somewhat inoculated against this particular line of attack.
I'll let you know how it works out.