This weekend, we discovered Gabe’s strawberry allergy. One moment, he was happily chomping on a strawberry popsicle. The next moment, it looked like someone had pressed his face into a Berber carpet. (Hey, they actually use real strawberries. Huzzah!)
Luckily, I’m a worrywart, so I always have children’s Benadryl on hand.
Yesterday morning we offered him almond-buttered toast; he insistently pointed to the strawberry jelly with an emphatic, “I want dat!”
Not going to happen, kiddo. Back and forth we went until Lori decided to add some explanation, even though we were unsure whether it would make sense to his two-year-old brain. “If you eat this,” she said, picking up the jar, “you will get yucky bumps on your face. Remember?” She touched his cheek to reinforce the point. “Itchy. Owie.”
“Itchy. Owie,” he repeated, before covering her hand with his own then finally accepting the toast – sans jelly.
That afternoon, when I picked Nick up from school, he ran to me, face radiating with joy, emphatically waving a flyer. “It’s a club! Just for boys! They do fun things! I want to go!”
“That’s awesome, kiddo! I bet – “ My heart sank when I saw the logo.
The Boy Scouts.
Great, we’re going to have that conversation.
“I bet,” I began again, as we drove home, “that it does look like a lot of fun, but here’s the thing – they don’t like families that have 2 mommies or 2 daddies. And I know it’s not fair, and it doesn’t feel good, but that’s just the way they think. It doesn’t make it right.”
“Oh.” I could see the spark fading from his eyes…then, an idea forming.
“What if only you or Mommy takes me, but not both of you and I tell them I have a daddy.”
“But you don’t have a daddy. You have 2 mommies, just like…” and I listed the same-sex families we had purposely surrounded ourselves with, knowing that the children of these relationships would need to see themselves reflected in others. “Oh, and don’t forget Joshua – he’s got 2 mommies and a daddy – how cool is that? And Elise, she has 1 mommy. And Kevin, he has 1 mommy and 1 daddy. See? There are lots of ways to make a family.”
Nick was silent, staring out the window, no doubt, still processing.
“Sweetie, if we told them that you had a daddy, that would be lying. Would that feel good?”
“No,” he sighed. “I just really wanted to go fishing.”
“Hey! We can all go fishing as a family, or maybe you and mommy can go?” But not on a boat that moves, ’cause your momma will turn all shades green…hmm, teaching moment! Link back to something he already knows…
“Hey Nick, do you remember Martin Luther King, Jr.?”
“And how he had a special day and wrote lots of letters and talked to lots of people?”
I saw him scrunching up his face, trying to reach back to January. “And he said we all have to love each other?”
“That’s right. Did you know that some people didn’t like him because of the color of his skin? It was brown like yours and mine. Did you know some people didn’t like people who were Chinese like Mommy – ”
“Nana,” Nick interrupted with his half-scolding-Barry-White-deep voice, which meant he was about to lay down some serious learning. “There is no brown skin or white skin. That’s just the ladder inside us that makes it that color.” Hurray for introducing DNA and the concept of pigmentation early!
“That’s exactly right.” My little six-year-old genius, so wise beyond his –
“Wait, are there any orange people?” And we’re back.
“Hmmm, I haven’t seen any, but if I did, I bet I would be nice to them.”
“Yeah, me too.”
That night, for story time, Nick reached for a book we hadn’t read in weeks – Leo Lionni’s Little Yellow and Little Blue. Maybe he just likes color theory, or maybe our mini lesson in prejudice stuck.
Whatever the reason, it didn’t matter.
We created this family – 2 moms, 3 kids and a dog – through love. And try as we might to protect these wonderful kids from the evil strawberries and outdated prejudices in the world, we can’t.
All we can do is explain what we know, and love them the best that we can.