My daughter was probably 2 or 3 when she realized that one of her friends had two mommies and no daddies. She was perplexed.
“Why doesn’t she have a daddy?” she asked.
“She has two mommies instead,” I told her. “Some families have two mommies, some have two daddies, some have a mommy and a daddy.” The conversation evolved from there into what different types of families looked like: divorced families, etc. Then she came back to it.
“But…are they married?”
Now, this I didn’t know the answer to. Had it been a heterosexual couple, I probably would have said, “Yes, of course,” and assumed that I was correct. But this was before gay marriage was legal so there was a pretty good chance that they weren’t married. So I told her that I didn’t know.
As New York State was considering making gay marriage legal, my husband and I excitedly talked to our children about it in the context of equal rights. We reminded them about how women have had to work hard to become recognized as equal to men. We recalled long conversations we’d had about the Civil War with them and how African Americans were treated badly. Then we introduced the idea that men who love men and women who love women were not currently allowed to get married.
“What? Why not?” my daughter demanded.
“Because some people think that only men and women should get married. But that wouldn’t be very fair to some of your friends’ parents, would it?”
By that time, we had a few more families with two mommies or two daddies in our lives and it was becoming more normal for the kids. Our kids agreed that it would be unjust.
They were minorly excited when gay marriage passed in New York. However, as the newspapers arrived, with photos of brides and grooms covering the pages, my 5-year-old son seemed to think it was strange. Of course, he had never been to a wedding so it was hard for him to know the difference.
When the Supreme Court made their decision last year, we told the children that a new decision had been made that would allow gay people to marry throughout all of the United States.
“But they’re already allowed to marry each other,” my son told us.
We explained that each state had been slowly making their own decisions but that this was a decision for the whole country; it would mean that people wouldn’t have to go to different states to get married. They would get to celebrate their weddings with their families and friends just like Daddy and I had.
It was simultaneously impactful to me and insignificant to them. They didn’t know anyone who was suddenly allowed to get married, so they couldn’t feel the huge shift that had happened. But the fact that they were so blasé was impactful for me—they were already used to the idea of gay marriage.
It all came down to one beautiful moment recently. My daughter had long had plans to marry one of her male friends, name their children after Star Wars characters, and become a doctor. The two of them had talked about it for months. As school was ending, however, she came home and told us that he had decided not to go through with that plan but to marry another friend of theirs…a boy.
My son questioned the choice and my daughter said, “What? Boys are allowed to marry boys,” to which my son replied, “I know! My friend’s daddies are married!”
I sat back in awe and was grateful that the entire conversation had happened without my help. They knew it. They got it. And it will now be normal for them going forward.