When AC was approaching the age where she was figuring out that boys and girls are different, I bought her a book. It’s a great book – it covers puberty, the basics of sex, etc, in an age-appropriate way. I explained to her what it was, encouraged her to read it and come to me with questions about anything and everything. Very cool, very straightforward.
I was a "good parent." Hell, I write romance novels for a living; I don’t see sex as dirty or shameful or something that we don’t talk about. I had the only seven-year-old who could use “mistress” properly in a sentence. I had to define “sexy” when she was six. (Thank you, Victoria’s Secret catalogue.) AC had probably overheard far more than she let on just because the Playfriends tend to talk about things like sexual tension. I was ready to be there for my child as she entered puberty and the wild waters of boys and hormones.
I pictured it as a scene straight from a Lifetime movie--- AC would come to me, and we’d have this long, lovely, mother-daughter bonding moment while sitting on her bed with her stuffed animals. We’d talk about love, and finding the right man, and how beautiful it can be. Cue the music, the hugging…
That’s not how it works at all, ya know?
No, children are far more likely to ask “but what do you do with your legs?” while you’re at the dinner table so that you can spit pasta across the table. Kids are much more likely to casually ask from the back seat “Mom, what’s oral sex?” while you’re trying to merge across six lanes of traffic at 60mph. They’re going to ask “What’s a hooker?” in front of the priest.
No Lifetime movie moments for me. Just sputtering and the occasional Heimlich maneuver. But, by dog, I still tried. I still held out hope that AC would give me the opportunity to prove that I can be Cool Mom.
And then it looked like my chance had come. We’re setting the table for dinner, and AC asked “What’s a homosexual?” Imagine my big smile because I’ve got this. Not only can I answer this in a cool-mom, straightforward manner, but depending on where she heard it, it might be a teachable moment that can springboard us to larger issues about bigotry and acceptance, the power of love and the rights of all people. It doesn’t matter; I’m ready. (As long as she doesn’t ask where their legs go.) Here’s my chance to reset the clock and live down that oral sex lane-swerving curse-fest. It’s my moment, people. Cue my music.
I start my warm-up. “Well, some boys want to date girls and some boys want to date boys. And some girls want to date girls…”
AC interrupts. “Oh, so they’re gay people.”
Me: “Yes. Homosexual people are gay people.”
AC: “So lesbians are gay girls.”
Me: “Uh-huh.” I take a deep breath, ready for the next question. Where will we go from here?
AC: “I need Dad to help me with my math after dinner.”
I felt slightly deflated, but not defeated. “Gay people are just people. There’s nothing wrong with being gay.”
AC nodded. “I know. Can I have a Sprite?”
And the moment had passed. I did make a point of telling her that “gay” had other definitions, but she already knew that, too. I even tried to explain the hetero/homo prefix thing, but I was grasping at that point and had already lost my audience.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad AC hadn’t heard something horrible that I had to sort out. I’m glad that the biggest issue she has with other people’s sexuality is vocabulary. But it was my moment, and it was snatched away, dammit, before I had a chance to shine.
(Hey, the next time some mini-van swerves across three lanes of traffic, be kind. Dog only knows what question just came from the backseat…)