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Sep232010

What do you teach your kids about love?


When I talk to my kids about love, as in romantic love, we talk about sweethearts. Not boyfriends or girlfriends. Not husbands or wives.  I don't want to teach them that heterosexuality is the default. I don't want to teach them that marriage is the default either. When I talk about their future, I talk about the possibility of them having a sweetheart, who could be a man or a woman. I want them to know that they can love women or men or women and men. I want to teach them that before society teaches them something else. I want to teach them that long before they are at the stage of feeling romantic love and perhaps feeling that their love is wrong or misplaced if they love people of the same gender or if they love people of both genders.

In the spirit of Bi Visibility Day (September 23), consider reminding your children that they can love whomever they want to love.
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Reader Comments (56)

My daughter just asked the other day what the difference was between boyfriend, girlfriend, and a boy or girl who is a friend, and what the difference is from there and married and engaged.
She's six.
And I said something about people love all sorts of people in different ways when you get older... then, redirected the conversation. Because I wasn't quite sure how to distinguish without bringing the topics of romantic love and sexuality and monogamy and other things I'm not prepared to go into detail about... yet.

>>"When I talk about their future, I talk about the possibility of them having a sweetheart, who could be a man or a woman."

Do you actually say this - like, yes, you can have a boyfriend or a girlfriend or a husband or a wife (which, you really can't, legally, in many places - which brings up a whole other topic of fairness and equality and humanity), and that's perfectly okay?

I find myself leaning more towards a broad, everyone loves different people, and that's okay... because I'm not sure where to go when I'm coming from a place of heterosexuality and traditional marriage to teach that's not the default, but not sure that's the way to go about it.

September 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkelly @kellynaturally

My son just turned a year, so I haven't actually had conversations with him about his romantic future, but I have had LOTS of conversations with everyone who tells me that he's, "going to have all the girls calling him," or that "he's going to be breaking all the girls' hearts." When I first heard these things, I would get very uncomfortable and just smile along. When I was growing up there was no talk of husbands or boyfriends - it wasn't something my parents were interested in intrinsically supporting. So now, I'm faced with the universe sexualizing my infant, and heterosexualizing (is that a word?) him to boot. Every time someone comments to me, or to my husband about our son's potential girlfriends, we've taken to responding, "Or his boyfriends, or no one at all!" with smiles on our faces. I don't want him to grow up thinking that heterosexuality is the only option.

Of course, I think quite a few people think I'm being a jerk when I respond that way...

September 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTMae

kelly:

We tell them that they can have a sweetheart and then often they will offer up who that might be. Like "Grannie will be my sweetheart" and then we may explain that while they love Grannie, she can't be their sweetheart because she is already Grandpa's sweetheart and because your sweetheart can't be someone from your family. Then my son might say that he would like his friend "Mike" to be his sweetheart and we would say that yes, "Mike" could be his sweetheart. Then he might name girls too and we could say that "yes, Julie could be your sweetheart too or Mike or someone else, whatever you prefer".

We don't get into husband/wife at all. We just don't use those words and stick to "sweetheart" instead. I don't think it is important to distinguish between a couple that is legally married and one that is not legally married because I believe that both types of relationships are equally valid. Where we live, gay marriage is an option, but simply not getting married is an option too (for homosexual or heterosexual couples).

September 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

So...while I agree with you on many things, this is one I don't agree on but it's with love and respect that I choose to disagree.
In our faith we believe strongly that Marriage is between a Man and a Woman. Period.

However...we also believe that we are absolutely ALL children of our Heavenly Father and as such we each deserve love and respect. Period.

So for our family, we stress that right now it's appropriate to have FRIENDS...friends that are girls, friends that are boys...it doesn't matter...we can respect and appreciate everyone's individuality and choices as their own.

No matter what though...our boys know that they are to be respectful and kind. Whether our friends choices are the same as our own or different...above all else we must be kind and always stand up for anyone who is being treated unkindly. It's flat NOT okay to make someone feel 'small' for 'bad' for their choices even if you do not agree with them.

We do have conversations about our own hopes for them...someday, after they are 16 (that's our family's rule...to each their own) they can choose to plan 'dates' with a group of their friends and then when they are in College they can start to choose to date one girl at a time (we have all sons) to decide which one might be a good choice to be a best friend and plan a forever family with.

But the bottom line in our family is to ALWAYS treat others with respect and love. We have several friends who live an alternative lifestyle and we completely adore them...and respect that their choices are their own.

In general...snide remarks or jokes at another's expense are NEVER tolerated in our home....and they never will be. That kind of humor is never modeled for our children and would not be tolerated...there are a million other ways to be funny than to stoop to victimizing someone for the sake of a few snickers and every one of God's children deserves to feel valued and respected no matter their choices.

I don't think a family has to choose between setting a vision for their children or modeling tolerance. I think it is possible to do both.

September 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElenaQTPie

ElenaQTPie:

I agree that a family doesn't have to choose between setting a vision for their children and modeling tolerance. Certainly it is possible to do both. However, I am not only looking to model tolerance. I also want my children to know that I will fully support (not just tolerate) them whether they decide to date men, women or both and whether they decide to get married or not.

September 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I appreciate the spirit of this post considering I'm in California and the entire world knows about all the crap we've gone through with Prop 8. I, too, struggle with figuring out how I'm going to explain love and relationships to my daughter.

I think it's important to explain that society does have traditional behaviors and practices. We're all socialized into a particular culture; it is unavoidable. And it seems to me that choosing not to address the pervading societal norms could result in some confusion by the child (e.g. "Why do my church friends make fun of me when I say that I want both a boyfriend and girlfriend?"). I'm leaning toward giving her all the facts, both normative and extreme, and encouraging her to be tolerant of it all.

Thankfully, I'm not at that point yet!

September 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commentershasta

Also, my example is in no way meant to imply that religious people aren't tolerant or loving or respectful. But as ElenaQTPie noted, religious faiths tend to have certain traditions and conventions regarding relationships, and those ideas tend to get passed on to kids rather easily.

September 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commentershasta

Love this. I have always taught my kids that they may love either man or woman and that either is a grand and beautiful thing. People of certain faiths like to wave the tolerance flag but I parted ways with Christianity when I had kids because I knew I would love them and support them no matter what, even if they chose one of those paths I am supposed to disagree with yet "tolerate". That is code for we will be nice to your face while we whisper about how you are going to going to hell behind your back. The greatest gift I can give my kids is to truly provide them with UNCONDITIONAL love and acceptance and teach them to do the same for others.

September 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTiffany

With my son, we talk about husbands, wives, boyfriend, girlfriends, sweeties, lover and special friends with equal respect. We talk about freedom of choice, sexuality and non monogamous relationships, he's a pretty clued-in child.

I've got a lot of reservations about most terms used to describe non heterosexual non monogamous relationships, the only terms I've ever found fit right with me are bisexual and polyamorous. I'm currently in a monogamous relationship (although that may change as relationships tend to evolve) so we talk about it a lot in theory now, but when he was younger he did spend time with my long term girlfriend. We also socialised together with his father. He's got a very open view of sexuality and relationships, which I love.

September 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

I totally agree with what you say, but practically speaking, I am finding this extremely difficult to manage. Society gets to these kids QUICK - my daughter started talking about "princes" at the same moment she realized what (in your words) a "sweetheart" was. So, its a constant battle to make her see beyond the "Disney" way. And I don't want to over-emphasize the point, because that often has the opposite effect with kids, particularly pre-schoolers. Any advice for tackling the constant bombardment kids have (age 18mo and up!) with society's message vs. mine?

September 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmie

Not too long ago, my daughter (three years old at the time) made a new best friend, S, whom she insisted she was going to marry. One afternoon, coming home from preschool, she is talking about how she is going to marry S because she just LOVES her and then she stops, pauses, and asks very seriously, as if it it had just struck her, 'Mama can a girl marry a girl like a girl marries a boy?' We had recently defined marriage as a relationship where people love each other so much that they want to live together and see each other every day and share everything (best I could do on a moment's notice). So I tell her 'sure honey, why not' and she smiles, relieved, and goes right back to rhapsodizing about S.

I however did *not* just return to whatever previous train of thought I'd had (probably "what the heck can I throw together for dinner") but was struck by the difference between her childhood and mine; I would never have even asked that question, and I certainly wouldn't have gotten that answer. That seems hopeful. Yet obviously she had soaked up from somewhere enough default heterosexuality to find herself needing to ask the question...maybe that is simply because her basic model for a marriage relationship (mine) is hetero, but I suspect it's also that the models she sees around her, in pictures, in the pairing up of dolls in dollhouse sets, etc., reinforce it implicitly. Overt condemnation is unnecessary--we teach these things through omission as much as anything else.

I like the idea of "sweetheart" talk and will start using it, thanks! Sometimes it's just hard to construct gender-neutral sentences, and "sweetheart" helps avoid some of that difficulty.

September 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJTB

I like the term sweetheart - I'm sure it can be expanded upon/clarified as the kids get older.

But I guess where I'm still stuck is on the marriage part. Because, as I said, coming from a place of being a married couple, while yes, I agree the word married doesn't really matter in terms of validity of feelings & commitment - in that a "married" couple can cheat and an "unmarried" couple can be monogamous - it does matter, to me, that s/he see that mom & dad decided to get married because marriage represents a certain level of committment and conjoining to us, and that is important to me - that when you make a conscious choice to get into a serious physical relationship with someone that there is a certain level of commitment to that person that really isn't negotiable.

And also it does matter that when my child might ask specifically, can I marry Jane, that I can give an accurate and truthful answer.

Maybe its more a matter of getting into the discussion of romantic relationship intricacies, committments, etc. at some point - further down the road. For now I can just answer "yes" - while it may not be utterly truthful (as shamefully not everywhere in the US recognizes unions of same-sex couples as "real" marriages) - it suffices for now. That yes, you can "marry" whomever you want.

September 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkelly @kellynaturally

We explain committed partnerships in nearly the same way, except we use the term "darling". We have married hetero friends, unmarried but partnered friends with and without kids, lesbian partnered friends with kids, a family in our friendship group who are transgender. We needed a term to explain committed adult loving relationships. My kids understand that you don't need to be married to be darlings with someone, that some darlings choose to marry and others choose not to marry, that sometimes the government won't let some darlings marry even if they want to, and that sometimes people don't stay darlings for ever, and might have a different darling at another time. My kids rail against the discrimination towards same sex couples, and think nothing of lesbian couples parenting children. I'm really glad that we have been able to give them
this kind of outlook towards different partnerships at a time when politics and societal norms don't really factor into their outlook, and diversity is their default outlook.

Darling has been a handy term to use to describe mating, for example when my son asked if we could have baby chicks, and I told him we didn't have a rooster. He isn't ready to know about the nitty gritty of the mechanics of mating, but was satisfied with the idea that the chicken and the rooster need to be darlings in order to make fertile eggs with chicks inside.

September 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKate

[...] we teach our children about love every day [...]

I love this concept. My son is 2 but is exceptionally aware and bright. He has already asked about Marriage, love, where babies come from, why he sometimes has an 'Auntie and Uncle' and other times has an 'Uncle and Uncle'.
We use the term (borrowed from Tantra) 'Beloved' in a similar way to how you use 'sweetheart'. Our son doesn't believe Marriage is a requisite for having children, and he doesn't have a hierarchy of Marriage above De facto. He has been taught "when two people love each other very much..." It makes my heart sing when he points to a gay couple and says 'they love each other very much - they might have babies one day'.

September 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRachael Stott

We are very fortunate to have friends who are in a variety of relationships... "traditional" marriage w/ kids, living together w/ kids, friends who will never have kids by choice, gay couples w/ kids, gay couples w/out kids, etc. so hopefully our two boys will learn from an early age that their love path is filled with options.

Where I get stuck is when to discuss the challenges? Not just if either boy is gay but if they choose any path that differs from the so-called norm. When is it too much information or age-appropriate? It will be interesting to see when the boys raise these questions!

September 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRae

I expect them to have normal, heterosexual marriages, and that's what I talk to them about. "When you marry some little woman, you'll hardly think of your old mama any more!"

But, honestly, if one of them turns out to be gay, I wouldn't disown him. Be less than ideal, but I'm pretty convinced there is nothing people can do about it, so compassion is in order.

I just don't particularly care for the idea of having precious tedious conversations about the whole thing for the next 15 years.

The ideal is marriage, grandchildren, a college graduation, good health. Not the army or a string of live-in sexual partners or obesity. You know?

I really appreciate this post. I'm the lesbian mother of a 1 year old. Her biological father is a gay male friend of mine. For those of you wondering how to talk about these issues, I can speak from personal experience that it's important to actually have conversations about it. I grew up in a very progressive household. We talked about racism, sexism, classism, but never once did may parents mention the possibility that someone might be gay or that homophobia existed. The absence of those conversations, particularly in a household where other forms of discrimination were explicitly addressed, sent a pretty explicit message to me that there was something wrong with homosexuality. If my progressive, political parents didn't talk about it, it must be really bad! While I think times have changed somewhat - some, though by no means all, of the comments suggest they have - it's still important to make sure we have conversations with our children about these issues, no matter how awkward they may make us feel. The conversations Annie describes are a perfect start. There's 15 comments here so far - statistically, there's a good chance that one of your kids is gay.

September 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFiona

I appreciate where you're coming from Kelly, but it sounds like it's the marriage part that's preventing you from achieving your other goals of inclusiveness. If you live in a jurisdiction that doesn't allow same-sex marriage then your focus on marriage necessarily precludes conversations designed to address the possiblity of same-sex attraction. In my experience as a lesbian woman being told you can "love everyone" isn't really getting at the crux of the issue: that you can romantically love someone of the same sex.

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFiona

"That is code for we will be nice to your face while we whisper about how you are going to going to hell behind your back."

That is exactly what we WON'T tolerate (I felt I was pretty clear but perhaps not)...we are kind and respectful to your face and ALSO kind and respectful of you when you're not there. We are factual about the tenets of our faith (which are also very respectful and does NOT involve people going to hell...murderers and such yes but someone making other lifestyle choices NO way!) and in EVERY conversation we have with our children regarding choices...whether they be about big things like marriage and family or less significant things like day-to-day nutritional choices...the point stressed is that every family is different and every family's rules are different...and that's a REALLY GOOD THING. We shouldn't be critical of other family's choices just like we would expect them to respect our own family's choices.

That goes the same way with individual people. God made us different and that's beautiful because He has a specific plan for each of us. It's not our place to decide for someone else what they should choose because their path is unique to them and God is preparing them for the place He will need them to be one day...whether that is to be a true friend for someone in a specific situation one day or if it is a specific career they will one day excel in and help LOTS of people (or critters...my son is passionate about helping animals and wants to be a Veterinarian)...

So we do discuss our ideal (I mentioned it before) It would be dishonest of me not to discuss it because I DO have an ideal...heterosexual marriage before physical intimacy, educating yourself, having a family, and working hard at a chosen vocation that brings you JOY...etc. However, if they ultimately chose otherwise I wouldn't love them any less...truly.

When I say we always model tolerance and respect...it's because we ALWAYS model it...whether WITH friends with lifestyle choices different from ours or whether questions come up about things later on...the answers are the SAME and always shared with love and respect. My husband likewise is VERY emphatic about stressing love and respect for others and our language (spoken and body language) and humor and stories...etc...are never at someone's expense but rather uplifting of others, supportive and appreciative of our unique qualities that make each of us our own selves...

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElenaQTPie

C is only 20 months, so we don't talk with her about (romantic) love all that much.

That said, she has a non-traditional family. The year I started dating my husband was the year his father came out. He still lives with my husband's mother, but they are no longer married. My sister-in-law and her long-term boyfriend also live with them (they've been together about as long as my husband and I have, but have chosen not to "make it official" or whatever).

We also have friends who are gay, bi, and straight and in a variety of relationships--some healthy and successful, others not so much.

Our plan is to let C know that she will love whom she will...and that we hope one day she will fall in love and find someone special with whom she wants to spend her life, because it's very nice to have a partner. In the end, she's my girl, and all I want is for her to be happy, healthy, and safe.

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSaisquoi

"someone making other lifestyle choices ..." "We shouldn’t be critical of other family’s choices ..." "However, if they ultimately chose otherwise I wouldn’t love them any less…truly. "

A person's sexual orientation isn't a choice, though.

So, what I think is at issue here is that if your child is homosexual, and you choose to give preference to heterosexual marriage & having babies (which, I understand, is difficult not to do so by default when you are heterosexual & married), no matter how much tolerance of "lifestyle choices" you have, it may fall short of sending the message to your child that you unconditionally accept the way s/he IS...

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkelly @kellynaturally

My 6-year-old son Charlie knows a few gay couples and has asked questions like "Why doesn't Barry have a wife?" and I've explained to him that Mark *is* his partner, in the same way that I am Daddy's partner, and that some people love someone from their own sex, and some people love people from the opposite sex. He accepted it without question, and once in awhile he brings up marriage and says things like "I might marry a lady, or I might marry a man." He also has a friend at school who have two mommies, so the whole thing seems perfectly normal to him. It's not time to talk about homophobia or gay bashing yet, although we have had talks about racism and a few about sexism. It's really important to me that he grows up believing that there are lots of different ways of being in the world, and that no one way is better than another way, as long as nobody is being, you know, hurt or murdered or whatever.

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

"Sweethearts": I like the idea. Haven't had any such conversations with our 2-yo, and I imagine that as time goes on, such conversations will become more complicated, but "sweethearts" sounds like a lovely place to start. Thanks.

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRachael

DD is five. We talk about homosexual relationships as normal. My standard line that I trot out is "most times, women fall in love with men and men fall in love with women. Sometimes, women fall in love with women, and men with men. (Which I assume reflects the demographics in North America in a general way). The important thing is to find someone who treats you well." This isn't forced - it's how I feel and I want DD to know that I will celebrate love with her - no matter what her gender turns out to be.

For some reason we haven't really discussed "marriage" much as a concept yet, but I think we have talked about the fact that homosexual marriage is just as valid (legally where we live, and morally in our opinion). When she's older she'll learn more about the shades of grey that society imposes.

It's not really something I've spent a lot of time thinking about, though. Regardless of my children's sexuality, I will support them and celebrate with them. If it happens that one or both are gay, I'll try to make up for society's tacit disapproval by being as supportive as I can be.

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJuliette

You may believe that a person's sexual orientation isn't a choice, but some people feel differently. I feel that IN GENERAL women are attracted to men and men to women. Of course, some are attracted naturally to the same sex, but that doesn't mean that they don't have the choice to not act on that tendency on their part. As a person who does respect the Bible's view of marriage, I feel that marriage and sexual relationships are only to be between a man and a woman, and that God has given us the choice to follow that command or not. For some people it may be easier than for others, due to our currently sunful nature, but that doesn't change my belief that if we follow the counsel in the Bible that marriage=man+woman and then sex, then children, that we will be happier and benefit from the family arrangement as God intended.

No one said that anyone was going to hell- I certainly don't read anything about people burning forever in a fiery torment in the Bible, and I wouldn't voluntarily serve a God that did that do people. If my child decided to disobey God and act on homosexual desire I would still love them, but NO I would not support them in that decision as I feel that it is contrary to nature and the way man and woman are designed and would lead to nothing but unhappiness in the long run.

SO no, I will not teach my daughter that it is okay to love whoever she wants in a sexual way. She will grow up for now in a world where that is common, and we won't ever teach her to hate or mistreat those that do make that decision, but I could not go against my own faith and allow her to think that I would support her if she made that decision.

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSara

Your love and support is conditional then on your child meeting standards YOU set for them and not even standards of human decency ether, like not supporting them if they choose to murder. Judging someone for choosing love would be a darn shame. I will not teach my children that love is anything but a blessing. Any God that put us on this earth to make our lives such a struggle that we must deny ourselves love hen we find it, is no God I want my children to serve.

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTiffany

Everyone in my family, and my close friends, are always corrected BY ME whenever they tell my son, "Oh, you're going to be such a lady-killer," or "When you have a wife one day," and other such nonsense. I always immediately add, "Or boyfriend or husband." I don't know how he's going to develop and what his natural proclivities are going to be, but I certainly don't want to lay the ground work for self doubt and guilt by casual language. He'll already get those messages in every commercial, movie, and cartoon he ever sees: everyone is hetero, everyone is singly partnered, everyone is married.

I have lots of lesbian and gay friends and though I live a hetero life I don't fall entirely in that category. It's my personal experiences that have made me very sensitive to the default language regarding sexuality and I hope to pass on a tacit acceptance to my son no matter what.

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJessica - This is Worthwhile

with our 7y old son we talk about finding someone special who we'd like to spend a lifetime with, someone who makes you feel good and to whom you can return the favour. someone you can build a partnership with. he's aware of the ups and downs of a committed hetero relationship. he's already talking about his own children so we do mention a bit of basic sex ed (usually discussing what has been covered in school so far). i think we'll leave out the donor/surrogacy stuff for a while. he's aware of adoption. he's also aware that there are no siblings forthcoming but we'll leave the exact mechanics of this summer's intervention out for another little while.

at school among his peers, he's already experiencing what the norm is re: human relationship male/female. he's learning what a strong word 'love' is and when it's applied. pretty soon he'll come across more forceful peer pressure. what we hope to do at home is support alternative realities while reinforcing the strong relationship potentials. my wish for him as a singleton is that he does find (a) supportive life partner(s) full stop.

our sex ed/relationship stuff evolves on a daily basis. we don't use euphemisms and cute words. it arises when the questions or the needs arise.

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterpomomama aka ebbandflo

Sara:

For your daughter's sake, I truly hope that she is heterosexual. I think it is difficult enough for people to come out in today's society without know that they would lose the support of their parents in doing so. I find that very sad.

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

TEAM TIFFANY!

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShannon Drury

Normal? Ideal? Less than ideal? Man oh man, are you going to be one disappointed high school dropout parent.

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShannon Drury

Thank you Sara...I think we may be on the same page :)

Tiffany, our love is not conditional on our standards but yes...we do HAVE standards and we believe deeply that following those standards will bring our children true and lasting joy. You have standards too and it's completely okay that they are different.

You mentioned "Any God that put us on this earth to make our lives such a struggle that we must deny ourselves love when we find it, is no God I want my children to serve."
It is completely within your rights to teach what you wish to your children and I am grateful that I have that same freedom. I believe that struggles and the growth that comes through all the various struggles in life ARE the purpose and reason why we are here.

Sara mentioned "SO no, I will not teach my daughter that it is okay to love whoever she wants in a sexual way. She will grow up for now in a world where that is common, and we won’t ever teach her to hate or mistreat those that do make that decision, but I could not go against my own faith and allow her to think that I would support her if she made that decision."
I would venture to clarify (not in disagreement but in supporting her statement) that I could likewise not go against my own faith...not my own "church" but against my own FAITH...what I know to be true because I have prayerfully mediated and received clear answers for myself...not what a religion dictates...but MY FAITH. I am likewise teaching my children to know for THEMSELVES...to question answers handed to them...whether by me or by someone else. To have a personal relationship with God and to ask hard questions...and to know that THEY can receive answers to those hard questions.
Additionally, I would not allow my child to think I might LOVE them less...while I couldn't support their choice...that wouldn't diminish my love for them.

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElenaQTPie

We haven't had any talk about boy/girlfriends yet, it's something I haven't even thought about, really... I want my son to know that he can love whomever he likes, regardless of sex/gender, but hadn't thought about what language to use to convey that. I love the idea of using "sweetheart" instead of boy/girlfriend (which is also a confusing term, depending on if there's that space there!). So, thanks for this. =)

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarcy

What I have a hard time wrapping my head around, is this idea that you can be fully respectful of someone doing (being) something(one) you think is inherently wrong. There's a judgement there, and disapproval, whether spoken or not.

That said, I applaud you for going so far out of your way to be respectful of differences, and teach it to your children. That's a rare trait in people who believe so strongly in the "wrongness" of being gay.

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarcy

Sweet heart is great! Thanks for this insight, Annie.

For the most part, I talk very little with my kids about romantic love. They're young, and as with so many things I just try to model what I live and hope they'll grow into their own healthy choices. They're at the Children's Museum with my girlfriend (or should I say "sweetheart"!) and her daughter now; they see me having a loving relationship with her and with their dad every day.

This post makes me think I should be doing more to actively counter these heteronormative assumptions with words, though, and not just hope that my actions will speak for themselves.

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSierra Black

[...] pride day yesterday, Annie at Phd. in Parenting offered up a lovely essay on her efforts to teach her children about love in all its [...]

Ah, there is a difference between "high school dropout parent" and "high-school dropout in parenting." :D

I think it's funny that this is a viewpoint that would have been considered positively progressive twenty years ago, but now the nice middleclass ladies are clutching their smelling salts at the primitive backwardness of it all.

Hardly anyone REALLY wants their kids to turn out gay, not any more than we really want them to have dyslexia or autism or obesity. Sure, we'd love them anyway, and sure, there are likely to be some genetic tendencies behind it, and sure, we'd want to help them make the best of a difficult situation.

But that doesn't mean I'm going to have a bajillion conversations about how it would be so wonderful in the meantime.

Speak for yourself. If any of my kids came to me and told me they were gay it would be as eventful as it would be if they told me their favorite color was blue. I have ZERO judgement in the area and it would be neither something I want or don't want, it would just be and it would be "just fine" with me. Although the fact I can say that and really mean it shows I have come a long way. I was raised.. er no I was victimized... in strict Christian family. I "might" be a little upset if my kids came to me and told me they found Jesus, LOL.

Posts like this are important because we need IMO to help our kids also see how big a deal it is not.

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTiffany

Sierra Black:

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. You also bring up (through your example) the good point that we need not only challenge heteronormative assumptions when talking to our kids, but also challenge the assumption (versus choice) of monogamy. I think that modeling something for your kids speaks much louder than words, so I think your kids will be way ahead from that perspective. But I do think that words are important too and become increasingly important as kids do start to see what society considers the norm, because that is our opportunity to tell them that just because the majority lives one way doesn't mean it is the only way to live.

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

This post is so wonderful. My husband and I work hard to teach our children that the norms they see are not the what they have to be. (which only rhymes by chance. But makes it that much more awesome.)
I love the term sweethearts as a neutral conception of love and lovers.
It makes me wish we lived in the same neighborhood. My neighbors can't even get over my son wearing a tutu.

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlex@LateEnough

Amie -- Flood her with media that offer a wider perspective. Get as many books as you can find that feature same-gender relationships, families with two moms or two dads, princesses who reject the "need" for princes to rescue them, etc.

It also really helps if you actually know kids who have two or more moms or dads. But in that lack, books and shows and comics and whatever other media you can find (especially that are themselves engaging and not preachy) that show diversity can really help.

I write about some of the available options in a series here: http://www.raisingmyboychick.com/category/the-boychicks-bookshelf/

September 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterArwyn

I'm free to love whomever I want to love, and I so love you Annie. Thank you for this.

I'm another who doesn't really talk about future romantic possibilities with my 3.5 year old, but on the rare occasion it gets mentioned, I think I've used "partner" or "beloved", because that's what I call The Man (his dad, and my beloved partner). And I do swiftly correct the unfortunately less rare times when people say something about future/current "girlfriends".

And, of course, he has a mom who openly and often talks about being bisexual and about queer rights, so that helps.

Yet about half a year ago, at 3yo, he still at first tried to correct his friend when his friend said he had two moms and no dad. He was fine with the two moms part, but no dad? Preposterous! It took us about a month of correcting and pointing out the lack of dad in some families in his favorite books and talking about the wide array of family configurations possible (including two moms and a dad, which can happen in many ways) before he really got it. But now he does, and although he's going to encounter challenges to that from his wider culture, he has the foundation of knowing yeah, actually, some people really do fall in love with people of a similar gender and it's not just "ok" but fabulous that they do.

September 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterArwyn

I like your term of teaching about a sweetheart. That's awesome. I am already teaching them it's okay to love anyone you want, but I do find myself getting caught up over the words husband, wife, etc. So thank you for the new way of looking at this.

September 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMelodie

While your faith may not agree with homosexual or bisexual choices, your children are not necessarily going to choose that for themselves. I know many in the Christian, Morman, and Muslim faiths believe that either homosexuality is a choice or it simply doesn't exist in the way our "secular culture" conveys it, the truth is that your child can choose to love someone of the same gender or someone of the opposite gender now and same gender later (or vice versa). Whether or not you believe in it or teach it as a possibility in your home doesn't limit your child's choices. However, it certainly may affect your child's relationship with you if that is his/her choice.

September 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCasey

Casey, that is completely true.

They may or may not choose and the choice is indeed theirs.

My responsibility as their parent is to teach them how to make good and healthy choices for themselves...to question things and diligently seek answers. The risk of parenting that way is that they MAY make choices that I don't agree with and if I have done my job, they will be able to have confidence in their choices because those choices are right FOR THEM. It IS a risk to parent with the intention of independence but it is a risk I am willing to take and they will always know I love them...a choice they make might just make me really unhappy and impact our relationship. That is a true fact. But the only relationship that REALLY matters is their own internal relationship and their relationship with God. I'm not sure that the term 'internal relationship' even exists or fits with the definition of relationship so I may have just made up a new term....but I think you 'get' what I mean.
My children know and I will continue to reinforce that they are responsible for their own happiness. I can offer council or loving guidance but the bottom-line-final-decision rests with them...for better or worse.
Some people may interpret my 'good and healthy choices' comment as a judgment but in reality...I mean 'healthy' in regards to physical health, mental health, emotional health and spiritual health...and that is completely individual. I interpret healthy to be an internal sense of well-being so as long as my children have a strong sense of self and are confident in their choices...it really shouldn't matter what my opinion of their decision happens to be.

September 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElenaQTPie

The situation becomes difficult because of people being less than supportive (including assumptions of heterosexuality and calling homosexuality "less than ideal").

September 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

I love the distinction between tolerating and supporting.

September 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

Coming in a bit late, but with my four-year-old we've told her that she can love anybody she wants and we'll be happy if she finds someone to marry, boy or girl. We've made sure to tell her that some people love men and some people love women and it doesn't matter if they're a boy or a girl.

With my 13-year-old, I've been more explicit: "I don't care what gender you date. You can bring home boys, you can bring home girls, you can bring home I'm-not-sures to our house for dinner and hanging out. The one criteria we have is that whoever you bring home has to be nice. No bringing home jerks."

So far, she says both boys and girls are "weird" and has declared "there's no one up to my standards." Which is fine with me! I know it won't last, though! :)

October 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDevichan

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