My son is turning nine soon, and it frightens me. Nine is perilously close to ten, first of the double digits, rubbing shoulders with that phantasm of every parent’s nightmares, puberty. Nine seems like the last hurrah of young childhood before it gradually starts to give way to the moods, interests, and concerns of an older phase of life.
Puberty is the big transformation, of course, but nine reminds me that we’re well on our way towards it. The fact that my son has had a recent growth spurt, now wears my shoe size, and will probably see eye to eye with me before he’s out of elementary school may have something to do with it as well. I know; technically growth happens fastest in the infant and toddler years. But human perception seems to make each successive year go by faster and faster.
Nine may not be a milestone celebration in our family’s culture, but it seems to be causing more than my usual amount of birthday reminiscence. I find myself looking back on moments both big and small—when he learned to walk, talk, and ride a bike; the first day of school; our first family camping trip; any number of sunny afternoons on the playground and bedtime stories surrounded by teddy bears.
I think I am in this extra-reflective state because nine marks the halfway point to 18, when my son will be legally an adult and most likely moving out of our house. The past nine years have flown, and I’m scared of how fast the next nine will go. (I am under no delusions, though—I realize that parenting is in fact a lifetime honor and obligation. But when he hits 18, he starts doing his own laundry.)
I am writing this column in between baking a cake and filling gift bags for his birthday party. Despite the extra work, I am delighted that he has lots of friends who are coming to the party, who like him for who he is, and whose (mostly straight) parents do not mind that we are a two-mom household. That, to me, is one of the key ways we will win equality—not just by laws and court decisions, but by being active and visible in our communities, putting the realities of our everyday lives out there as examples of what it means to be an LGBT family. We can fill kids with sugar and give away cheesy party favors with the best of them. (Contrary to popular belief, not everything lesbians cook contains hummus or granola.)
We have been lucky, I know, living in a state with a good track record on LGBT issues and a generally liberal air. So far, our son has not experienced any negative comments from his classmates about his family. I hope that will last through the years to come—and if it doesn’t, that we have helped him develop the resilience to stand up to any negative comments or bullying that come his way.
Our son told us he wanted an “Avengers” theme for his party this year—which reminds me that, like many of his peers, he loves superheroes and is just as susceptible to mass merchandising. Watching him with his friends—at school or on the playground—one cannot tell which of them has two moms (or any other particular type of family structure).
I do notice, however, that he is one of few children his age who has invited members of the opposite gender to his party—only about a quarter of the total, but still more than at most of his friends’ parties. He plays with the girls pretty much as with the boys (except that he has developed an amusing tendency to address all his male friends as “Dude”). I hope that this willingness to view girls as friends and equals, not some alien species, continues as he gets older, even if a few friendships may in the future blossom into romance. (From things he’s said, he seems to be straight.) I’d like to think that’s a positive legacy of having two moms, even if it is not exclusive to us.
June is therefore a month of both personal and community pride for me. Despite my complicated feelings about my son turning nine, I am nevertheless filled with pride at the young man he is becoming. I’m proud of my spouse and myself for learning on the fly (as all parents do) and, I think, not doing too bad a job of raising him so far—although the most trying years may still be ahead of us.
I am also proud of the LGBT community for continuing to work, in ways large and small, so that my son—and all children—can grow up into a world more fair and welcoming for everyone.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go frost a cake. It’s for my son’s party—but in a way, it’s for all of us.