11.12.2013

making my son gay and other worthwhile endeavors

I had posted the following photo and caption on my Instagram earlier today:


Boredom means at home exfoliating Dead Sea salt pedicures for me and the little dude. He's insisting I do my toes pink and he gets purple. No fair.

I later received a message on Facebook asking me if I was serious and if I was trying to make Ethan gay. I sat and read the message a couple of times, turning it over in my head and asking a wiser, more rational friend for advice on how to respond. The said friend gave me a couple of politely formed but serious lines but I just couldn't bring myself to end it with a "if you don't like my parenting, tough." My problem is, each point I wanted to make to the sender fought for time and space in my brain which was overflowing in words that I was sputtering to type out as fast as I was thinking them.

So, to the sender, here is my answer -- in no particular order.

Let's step back and assess this scenario to make sure we're all on the same page. My son is at home sick and we're both going a little stir-crazy. I'm a couple of days out from a foot tattoo appointment and clinging onto hope that miracles will happen and I can make it so my feet don't look like I insist upon walking four miles to and from Starbucks in flip-flops regularly. My child and I filled up some bowls with some water and 7th Generation bubbles, splashed our toes around and exfoliated them with dead sea salt. We dried them, put on some lotion and painted our toenails. He picked purple out of the few options on hand in our bathroom cabinet: purple, red, pink, blackish maroon. In turn, we spent a half hour laughing and kicking our toes in bubbles, topping our toenails with fun colors (if you can believe it, toddlers aren't necessarily drawn to blackish maroon) and moving onto the next activity (which was painting a construction paper wreath, if you must know). Try as I might, I can't find the ugliness or wrongdoing in this scenario. You know what I would find weird? If there I was, splashing my toes in bubbles and playing with brightly colored polishes and Ethan had no interest in moving or participating. All of these are essentially part of our daily routine: bubble baths or sea salt baths, lotion before bedtime. Is it weird if we do these things before bedtime or only during the day? Or is the lotion and sea salt not the problem here, but the nail polish in itself or the fact I used the word "pedicure?" Because, you're right, I'm not a good pedicurist. It's still dreadfully obvious I walk four miles in flip-flops to Starbucks regularly.

You also can't make someone gay. If Ethan is gay, then he's gay, and there's nothing I or anyone can do about it. When he took his first breaths of air in this world, my primary concern was that he was healthy. I wasn't sitting there vomiting in my own hair wondering if he was gay or not, but if he was breathing fine on his own -- which he was. If my son is gay, he's already gay. And I don't care now as much as I won't care if he's a teenager and tells me that he's gay. The fact that I could have a child who is gay doesn't hurt me. You know what hurts me? The thought that my child could ever feel fear in his heart that I, his mother, could not accept him for who he is. That I could be disappointed or feel shame in him. The thought that my child thinks he could tell me something about how he feels and I will not accept it as okay. That, message sender, breaks my heart and it's simply not reality for this family -- in any instance. My arms will always be my son's safe place. I will always be the one place he can run to when the outside world gets too scary, when he needs someone who will listen and love him unconditionally.

My son is two. He sees a few colors and one of them is this bright, metallic purple -- what do you think his eyes will be drawn to? What is the difference between a two year old girl who responds to glitter and color and brightness and beauty and a two year old boy? Are you trying to tell me that I should slap his hand away and explain to him that he should stop seeing in color right now, he should stop seeing in sparkles, he should stop seeing anything but dullness because he is a boy and he should act like one? And that acting like one, apparently, means willing yourself to be colorblind and unimpressed with shine and sparkle and things that are still new to a two year old because they're still new to this life? The amazing part about children is how pure they are in seeing the outside world. My son describes people by their t-shirt color, not their skin color. He doesn't see race. He sees children, people; all of whom are exactly the same. He loves to make art and listen to music and do the monkey bars at the playground with his daddy's help. And these things make me sad, because his window of societal acceptance is so small. He already got side-eyes when he went to meet Hello Kitty, because apparently cats are just for girls -- which is a hard lesson to try and teach a boy with four cats at home. I sit idly by and watch the window slowly start to shut before he isn't so pure, before he isn't so innocent, before he starts to recognize the limits put on him and the pressure to conform and be some uniform idea of who all people should be -- before he is afraid to admit to liking a certain style of music, or dress, or television show. Before he spends middle school eating lunch in the bathroom like his mother. And so, message sender, I will let him explore art and mess and color with all of the zest of life a two year old has in hopes his sparkle will never dull. In hopes he will fight a little harder to always be proud of who he is, and what he likes, and what he thinks. My mother, as much as I love her, recently mentioned to me that she is worried if my sister colors her hair multiple colors, people will ostracize her and in that moment, my heart ached. Because what kind of people don't talk to you because of your hair color? Certainly not people you'd want to be around. And what kind of people feel compelled to send angry messages because a two year old likes the color purple and painted his itty-bitty toenails with his mommy? Well, you see where I'm going with this.

I'm not sure the point of the message. Was it the poorly executed pedicures? Was it the fact that I let Ethan paint his toenails (are we still having this great societal debate?)? Was it the fact that being gay is supposed to be bad or wrong or that I'm supposed to somehow already start wishing my son is different than who he is, whoever he is? Because, dear message sender, I love my son. I love him and will never stop loving him. I will love whoever loves him, whoever is worthy of his love, whoever he chooses to raise a family with because we will always have that in common: we will love him. And like all children, he is worthy of love. So if you're sticking to your "pedicures make people gay" argument, rest assured: this kid has it good in the family department.

But, you see, I'm still confused. Was this message an implication that gay men all paint their toenails purple? Is "who has the purple toenails" some kind of Spot The Gay Person game? Does it apply to women? What are the rules to this game, because I'm unfamiliar. Was this an implication that heterosexual men never get pedicures and that gay men can't be masculine? I would hate to think that there are children being raised, regardless of your beliefs (and, for the record, our household belief is that love is what makes up a family), to view stereotypes as fact. You know, like I was naively hoping my "if you're Jewish, why isn't your nose big?" run-in back in college was a once in a lifetime thing. And, while we're at it, let's define "masculine" and "feminine." Because my 6'4", big, burly husband is never someone anyone wanted to mess with in high school but yet he loves math and plays music and also played football for a short while and guess what else? He has feelings. It's true. His feelings include the fact that he doesn't care if our son is gay. He doesn't care if our son is gay and plays football, or our son is heterosexual and dances ballet, or any combination of these things or anything at all. You know what he cares about? Our son's happiness. And today, at two and a half, his son was happy splashing his feet in bubbles with his mommy and putting fun colors on his toenails. One day he will be sixteen and his happiness will not be so easy to come by. Like all children, he deserves to be happy.

So, message sender, I hope I've answered your question. Every night before Ethan goes to bed, since he was born, I whisper to him, "I had the best day with you today." Tonight, he whispered to me "had the best day with you, mommy." You know what I made my kid today, message sender? Happy. I made him able to fall asleep with his heart content and safe, snuggled up in his bed and knowing that his mommy is always there if he should need me. That's a reality all children deserve and so many don't have and that, more than purple toenails, is a great tragedy and injustice in this world.

6 comments:

  1. Good for you for putting this post together. I hope "sender" gets the message. It is refreshing to see a mother who just "mothers". Mothering to provide safety & love to our children, no matter who they are or who they turn out to be. I LOVE that you are THAT kind of mom. You rock!

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  2. People are ridiculous. It makes my heart hurt that there are still people like 'sender' in the world. The saddest part is, they'll never get it.They'll never understand.

    ...for the record, when I saw that, I simply wondered how you got Ethan to sit still to not only paint the nails, but let them dry. Did this with Jack once at his request (sparkly pink, for the record) and they were smudged in .08 seconds ;)

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  3. Jamie@HandlingWGraceNovember 13, 2013 at 9:51 AM

    People are stupid. Beautiful post.

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  4. This is beautifully written. I have also received flack from "friends" and "family" who disapproved of me painting my son's nails. I was not as eloquent as this when I told them to shove it.
    I also crocheted him a purse, which I thought he would really like due to his obsession with my old purse collection. I was told by some of the same people that it should be called a "messenger bag" instead of a purse. I told them that it wasn't a "messenger bag", it was, in fact, a purse and would be referred to as such. Funny story: he still likes his red leather purse better than the black and blue one I made for him.

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  5. [slow clap] bravo! I get this from family all the time bc AJ has some pink hand me down toys. I'm not going to make him gay. I want him to be happy! We are the best examples for our boys. How are they going to be tolerant of all kinds of kinds if we aren't ourselves? I think your message is right on

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