In a word: yes. Wednesday evening treated us to a series of conversations in which Rowan ping-ponged back and forth on that very question. “I’m not going to that school ever again,” he would say, and then, immediately afterwards, “And I’m going to play with the marble run!” followed by, “But I’m not going to school,” followed by, “And there are going to be balloons for Avery’s birthday!” And so on.
Thursday morning, I still wasn’t sure what would happen. My guess was that he wanted to go, but couldn’t quite bring himself to fully admit that — and that any hint of sentimentality or moment of doubt would set him off. So when he said he wanted to ride his bike to school, I jumped on it — until Rachel reminded me that his bike was in the shop. “I want to go in the car, then, “ said Rowan, and, a hot minute later, I had him buckled in the backseat and we were off. Like a prom dress.
I was so on the ball, in fact, that we were the first kids to arrive. We wandered into the senior kindergarten courtyard and hung out for a while until the teacher’s assistant, Mrs. T., showed up. I met Mrs. T. approximately, oh, infinity times last year during Rowan’s tenure in JK, and yet, every single time we meet her, he feels the need to introduce her to me.
“That’s Mrs. T.,” he’ll say, and then be genuinely shocked and puzzled when I explain that I know who she is. “But how do you know her?” he says, and I explain, patiently, that I have met her before, right here at school. And he looks both impressed and doubtful.
In any case, this being a new year and all, Rowan obviously felt some justification in introducing me and Mrs. T. again.
“Mom, this is Mrs. T.,” he said. “And this is my mom. One of my moms. I have two moms. And I also have a dad, Rob. But he doesn’t live here.”
He said this all, characteristically, while walking in a circle waving his hands, as he is wont is a to do when he explains things to adults. Mrs. T. and I nod and smile — she’s heard all this before. Rowan talks about his family, like all kids talk about their families — at least, when they’ve never been given a reason not to. The four-year-old daughter of my friends Fiona and Jen has been telling supermarket cashiers that she has two moms since she could put words together. Another toddler-daughter-o-dykes I know recently shouted at the corner of a busy downtown Toronto intersection, “No Dadda! More mamas!”
Which is fantastic. And not necessarily because we’re not ashamed of our queer families (which we aren’t), or because were proud of them (which we are), but because we exist for the most part in a world where we can exist, where we can talk openly about our two moms or our two dads, or our donors, and the like. We’ve never explicitly explained to Rowan that there is anything unusual or different about his family. He simply has two moms, and a Rob, who doesn’t live here — and an entire network of biological and chosen family to support him. No secrets, no shame, no worries.
So, tell me this: how am I going to explain to my sons how this:
outside a gay bar in downtown Thunder Bay last Friday night?
I don’t know Jake Raynard, the gay man who was savagely beaten gay with bricks by a crowd of young men. The man to whom police took more than an hour to respond when the employees at the fast food restaurant called them to report his distress. The man with 15 fractures to his cheekbone, a broken palate, a broken eye socket, and a broken jaw. I don’t know Jake, but I know the daughter he helped my two friends here conceive. I know he has a supportive community in this city, who have organized a rally this evening in order to support him to welcome him back into the community, and to send the message, in their words, that our response to this action — and not this action — will define our community.
We are going as a family to the rally tonight. I suspect it will be an emotional event, a conflicted event, an event that has the potential to be healing but that could also pit community against community if we aren’t very careful. And I’m not yet sure how to answer the questions that Rowan might ask about why we’re there and what’s going on.
These are lessons way beyond the scope of senior kindergarten. And yet, our kids have to learn them, now.