“Daddy, why don’t you like girls anymore?”
I shifted the grocery bags onto one arm and knee while I fumbled for the apartment keys in my pocket. My six year old trained his big blue eyes up on me. Just behind him, his little brother, 3, made the jaws on his toy shark Chomp-Chomp open and close.
“What do you mean, J? I like lots of girls.” I fumbled the key into the lock.
“Yeah, but not like a wife likes a husband.”
I nodded as I pushed the door open and shifted the groceries back into two hands. “Well, that’s true. I like girls like friends, but not like a wife likes a husband.”
J followed me in as I dumped the groceries on the kitchen counter. “You used to like mommy like a wife likes a husband, but now you don’t, right?”
“A, you and Chomp-Chomp come in and close the door!” I yelled at my toddler out in the hallway. I looked down at my older son. “Yes, that’s right. Mommy likes boys and I like boys, too. You know that.”
A made his way in and somehow closed the door with his hindquarters while still manipulating the shark’s jaws. “Dad, Chomp-Chomp is a nice shark, he only eats mean fish!” He was yelling despite my being a few feet away.
“I know, buddy. Chomp-Chomp is your best friend, huh?”
“Yeah!” He and the shark went zooming into the room.
I started emptying the grocery bags on to the counter, J still standing there looking up at me. “But why?”
J’s been curious about his origins lately, asking all kinds of questions about his birth, what foods he liked as a baby, what his first words were. He asks about the house Megan and I lived in when we were married, the pet cockatiels we had, the trees that grew outside. His kindergarten teacher has him writing short stories and little plays, and they all seem to feature animal couples getting married and having babies, and he’s always wanting to look at photos of himself as an infant. His curiosity about the world and his place in it constantly brings a smile to my face. I love learning about the world through his eyes. Some answers just aren’t easy to provide to a 6 year old boy, though.
My brain flashed over to a commercial I had seen years before, an ad placed against gay marriage during the Proposition 8 trials in California. A cute little blonde girl being raised by two dads turns to them with poignant questions about marriage, looking hurt and baffled that she doesn’t have opposite sex Christian parents to raise her, the commercial ignoring completely the loving home she has.
I moved the eggs, apples, and spinach into their places in the fridge, my brain rehearsing all of the answers I could give to this beautiful little child who looks so much like me it is startling. I could talk about my Mormon upbringing and the religious counsel I’d had to cure my homosexuality through service. I could talk about how his mom knew I was gay before we’d married and how the marriage had lasted until I was going to break. I could talk about how happy I am now that I am out and all the puzzle pieces of my insides are put together. I could tell him how lucky I am to have he and his brother despite the crazy circumstances that brought them into the world. But he’s six, and all he needs to know is that I love him.
I turned around and drop down to my knees, getting on his level. “Well, Mommy and I used to be married, and now we aren’t, and we both like boys for marrying instead of girls, and we both love you. Mommy and I are still friends, it’s okay, and we both think you and your brother are the best things ever.”
J twisted his lips like he does when he’s thinking. “If you get married again, will you be a husband or a wife?”
“Well, I would get married to a boy, so we would both be husbands. Later this year, Aunt Sheri is marrying Heather. They love each other and they will both be wives.”
He nodded, still thinking. “I’ll probably get married when I grow up and have some kids, too.”
I gave an oh-so-serious look. “Yeah, I bet I know who you’ll marry, too.”
He gave me a look, recognizing that shift I get in my voice when I’m about to be silly. “Who will I marry?”
I looked innocent as I reach my hands up. “Oh, I don’t know. Probably a tickle monster.”
He screamed in mock protest as I grabbed at his knees, his shoulders, his tummy with tickling fingers. He fell against me in laughter, arms around my neck, and I squeezed him in tight.
“I love you, dad.”
“I love you, too, son.”
And suddenly there is a shark eating the back of my neck, and the next several minutes are spent wrestling and being monsters (nice ones, of course, who only eat mean things) and practicing standing on one foot. The afternoon is filled with a blanket fort and a cheese pizza and Dora the Explorer, who (I suddenly realize after my 1000th episode) yells everything instead of speaking.
It’s hours later as I watch my boys sleeping, J on the top bunk with his arms stretched out over his head, A on his stomach with his knees and arms folded underneath him (and his faithful shark at his side) when I realize, once again, how grateful I am for these incredible men in my lives, and how thankful I am that the world is changing, one generation at a time. These two well-adjusted happy little boys will grow up with a straight mom and a gay dad, and it will be normal to them because it is normal to us. A non-traditional family, yet a family still.