My guest blogger today is Leslie Penkunas, editor of nola baby and family magazine in New Orleans.
Leslie has two children, ages 8 and 10, and blogs about parenting on her blog: theparentinggig.com
As editor of a parenting magazine, I review books or assign articles tackling myriad parenting topics—how to have a happy, healthy pregnancy, how to get your baby to sleep through the night, how to potty train your child, etc. Those that have really resonated with me as an editor as well as a mom are those that tackle how to talk with my kids about sex. I’m really glad that due to my editorship, I started reading these books and writing or editing these articles when my older child was still in preschool.
My son—quickly followed by his younger sister—learned about the “biological” aspect of the birds and the bees early on, in bits and pieces. I’d received an encyclopedia just for kids—One Million Things—that had a really cool section on human reproduction; they were fascinated and I would walk them through the stunning photos and explain the development of the baby in utero. As all the “experts” said, they’d tune out when they’d heard enough. Yes, we even used the anatomically correct names for body parts, to some of my neighbors’ horror.
Later on, when my son was in first grade, my preschool-aged daughter became fascinated with fairy tales and romances and the like. I don’t know how the conversations began; I do know that they took place over the course of several weeks, and my son started coming into her room at story time to join in them.
One night my daughter said that she wanted to grow up and marry one of our beloved pet dogs. My son laughed and said he didn’t think you could do that. And my daughter got upset and said that if that’s whom she loved, she should be able to marry her. My son said, no, she had to marry a BOY. (I think he thought a boy dog would be just fine.)
That’s when I decided the time was right to let them know about true love. I explained that while the love she felt for a pet as a child was not the romantic and eventually deep, everlasting, start-and-build-a-family love she’d feel with a human as she gets older, her brother was wrong. Some girls grow up to fall in love with and marry girls, and boys grow up to fall in love with and marry boys.
They looked at me in surprise. And no wonder. None of their fairy tale books ever presented this scenario.
My four-year-old daughter asked me a few weeks later what I would do if she grew up to marry a girl. I said, “Love you like always. And love your partner, too. Just like Grammy and PopPop love your Dad.”
Ever since that conversation started, we’ve been matter-of-fact about the topic of being gay. My kids are eight and 10 now and know that gay parents can adopt or be artificially inseminated. They know some states allow marriage. And they know that many are adamantly opposed to this. They don’t get it.
“Love is love. Right?” my daughter asks.
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.