We were driving around, trying to find the perfect back-to-school backpack, listening to one of our favourite radio stations when my eldest daughter, now 10 and enjoying one of her first car trips sitting in the front seat beside me asked “what’s the adult fun superstore?”.
The Adult Fun Superstore advertises quite a lot on the pop music radio station and this week, Pride week no less, they seemed to have amped it up even a bit more.
Well… I started, trying to buy some time. Time to find my presence of mind and remember the advice of one of my fave girlfriends who has kids older than mine to always be open and honest with them. Seems to have worked out wonderfully for her, so I said “it’s a place that sells sex toys” and explained that some adults sometimes buy toys to help them experience more pleasure when they’re having sex, and even costumes to dress up in.
That seemed to be enough to answer her question.
It had been quite a day.
On our drive to the kids’ riding camp they told me there was a stallion at the riding school and he could have babies.
I’ve become a little sensitive to the precision of the words we use to describe such things so I felt the need to clarify this a little bit.
He can make babies, I told them. He can’t “have babies” because stallions are male horses and they don’t have a uterus. They make sperm and when it connects with an egg then a new horse is created in the mare – the female horse – who has it in her uterus until it’s born.
They wondered why he was the only stallion at the barn and I told them most of the other male horses had been castrated, so they couldn’t produce sperm any more. They do that so they’re not so aggressive. Makes them better for riding.
My girls found this conversation quite interesting and we enjoyed the discussion.
The really tricky conversation we had with the kids was in the morning at breakfast. They declared it was rainbow week at the riding camp and they wanted to dress up their horses for the show with some rainbow coloured lei garlands they had.
Ok – sure.
But I’d told my husband the night before about what I’d heard had happened at an overnight camp from someone I’d met recently. That unbeknownst to the parents, the camp decided to give the kids a talk on what being transgender is all about. How, if you don’t feel exactly like a girl or a boy you can be something else instead.
This mom’s youngest son had; just the year before; become convinced he might be a girl, or “demi-girl” most appropriately, after a group waving the rainbow flag had come into his middle school and given a presentation – also without notice to parents. This event had sent this late developing 11 year old and his family into a nightmare of worry and stress which lasted the better part of a year before the false ideas had been carefully considered and finally dismissed.
The story of this parent was a good reminder for us that whoever gets the message out first often owns it. As the sex-ed debate blew up again this week in our province and many people think the opt-out clause is more than enough concession we’re beginning to realize that living in one of the most “woke” communities requires that we take certain precautions.
So we decided to tell our girls about what had happened to this family, how the school and then the camp counsellors had decided to teach the kind of things that our youngest had been taught by her teacher a couple of years ago, and what happened to the boy and how he got confused and thought he was really a girl for a while and how his parents helped him figure out it was ok to be a boy, no matter how he felt about himself.
That’s weird, they said.
And we told them that if at any time their counsellors decided to teach them stuff like that, or their teachers or anyone for that matter that they could tell them they didn’t think it was appropriate, that they were there to learn about horses, for example, and to make sure to tell us about it if it did happen.
They were ok with that.
So that was a little bit about my Friday this week. Trying as best I can to navigate life as a parent in the 21st century.
Listening to CBC Radio on my drive back from dropping the kids off at their summer camp, they were promoting a special series called “Chosen Family”; about LGBT people, of course. I have to admit I wasn’t able to focus much on the message.
It was the name “Chosen Family” that stuck out to me.
Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Getting to choose your family.
All rainbows and sparkles and everything nice; until you don’t fit in anymore.
Love is love, they say. Until you need it to be unconditional. Eternal. The kind of love only a parent knows.
It’s no wonder the families I’ve been talking to lately feel like it’s them against the world.
The challenge is to love people who aren’t like you.
– Lee Weissman
feature image source: Mino Watanabe