Our House: The playground stigma of having two moms

Sarah Milston’s daughter finally got judged for having gay parents by a little boy who caused more distress for the mom than he did for the daughter.

Photo by: tpurk

I just knew this day would happen. And frankly, after seven years of parenting, I had expected this to happen already. Here is the scenario of the day that my heart broke.

The setting was a local church Fall Festival–one of those cutesy pumpkin, bake sale, and kids activities type of things sponsored by a local church that will occupy busy and stir-crazy kids for at least an hour. This one is extra special because it is attached to a fenced-in playground, which is like a parenting dream, because you can take a deep breath and be fairly confident that your three-year-old won’t run into traffic the first time you close your eyes to sneeze.

The girls were playing and meeting new friends when Lily Jaymes, my seven-year-old, walked over to me with a very heavy expression on her face.

“Ama,1 something weird just happened. That boy I was playing with asked me where my dad was. I told him I didn’t have a dad, and he asked me if my dad was dead. When I said no, he asked me if my parents were G-A-Y. I told him yes, and he just walked away from me. Why did he spell it out like it was a bad word?”

Now this is one of those strange parenting moments where inside you are fuming and cursing like a sailor, searching the playground for this demon child while on the exterior you seem calm and collected.

I said, “Honey, remember when we talked about the Gay Rights Movement? And how some people thought that a man and a man in love and a woman and a woman in love was a bad thing? I think maybe his family still believes that.”

“Oh.” She replied, not entirely satisfied with my gentle answer.

“Gay isn’t a bad word. It’s a word just like woman or man.” Giant dramatic pause. “Now, do you need a hug?”

“Yes, please.” She said as she literally sunk into my body and took the deepest breath.

Since that moment, Lily Jaymes has brought up the incident once or twice. I found myself surprised that it hasn’t come up more. But the truth is, it was a devastating moment for me–for her it was just a little moment on a playground. For me, this was loaded with symbolism, happening on the grounds of a Christian church, a place that in general feels a little unsafe. For her, this was just a silly boy she met one day.

I was never worried about the impact of raising kids in a same-sex household. There are many studies (73 to be exact) that show kids with same-sex parents are resilient and well adjusted. I intuitively know that I can raise a child just as well as a mom who’s in a relationship with a man. But what I worry about as the kids get older and nuances and greys enter their life, is how they might be treated, the day someone questions their loving homes, the day they feel judgment. And my biggest fear: the day they face discrimination because they are the children of same-sex parents.

This is all I can do for now. We read awesome books like Rad American Women A-Z and start conversations on all of the -isms in the world. I try to surround them with some families that look like theirs and some that look completely different. I work to arm my kids with facts and as much self-esteem as I can cultivate in their tiny bodies. One day, the world will catch up.

  1. Ama is my chosen parenting name. Her other mom is called Mommy. 
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Sarah Milston

Sarah Milston spends her non-work hours attempting to raise good humans by loving and wrangling two lovely girls, almost 7 and almost 3, and playing in the dirt trying to force vegetables to grow without full sun.

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. Robin on said:

    I’m 52 years old and the world has changed a lot in my lifetime. NOBODY talked about homosexuality, gender identification or same-sex marriage when I was growing up, and even into my teens and young adulthood. Huge taboo. I think that you and your partner are living and parenting in a new and emerging world. Tolerance is taking over…. slowly, but surely. Thank goodness! Hang in there. I forsee playgrounds with many diverse children and parents in our future.

  2. Mary-Catherine on said:

    First of all, thank you for sharing. I’m raising two children with my husband and please know that my kids will not be one of those kids who thinks gay is a bad word. We will add two more little ones to this world who value differences. Please know that if it weren’t the topic of “gay,” that little boy may have found something else to isolate a child for.
    You go mamas! Be more awesome than that kid and his parents.

  3. Gloria Mills on said:

    Sarah I met Lily about 3 years ago and I told Arona what a great job you and Amber have done and what a great example they are to same sex couples she seem very happy and well adjusted

  4. PageH on said:

    I echo Mary-Catherine. We’re teaching that “gay” is not a bad word. And she’s right too, that some little jerks can always find something to make kids feel bad.

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