Zach Wahls was on Ellen yesterday. If you don’t know who Zach Wahls is, you should. He’s a pretty remarkable young man, most noticeably for the fact that he is a lot like other young men his age. Why then did he make it on Ellen? His moms are gay and when he decided to speak up about it he spoke beautifully.
I’m not here to write about Zach Wahls. I’ll leave the gushing about Zach to his own moms, who are entitled to gush all they want.
I am here to tell you what happened in my kitchen yesterday because of Zach.
Zach was on Ellen and my daughter watched. I will admit, my first reaction was to turn it off before she paid too much attention. I just wasn’t sure I was ready for the questions that would come. In the end, I didn’t turn it off. She watched and she asked.
“Why is he on television? What did he do?”
“He spoke to a group of people who were trying to make a law.” (Well, hello Vague McVaguepants.)
“He’s young. Why did he speak? What did he know about the law?”
I was quiet for a minute. I knew the day would come where the questions would get harder. I know, with more certainty than anything else in my life, how I feel about this issue. I am clear about what I want to pass on to my kids.
And yet, I was scared to start this dialogue with my eight year old because I was worried about protecting her once she had this new knowledge.
This is my girl whose compassion runs so deep that she often cries at bedtime for all the kids in her class who struggle to follow rules and the teacher who has to live with it. She is not sad for herself mind you, but for her friends.
“I feel sorry for them mom. It just all seems so hard for them.”
She has a picture on her wall of the Haitian men and women waiting for cleft palate surgery that she is helping to raise money for.
“I just want the picture there to remind me how lucky I am.”
She aches when her brothers are sick. She wants every last detail about her Aunt’s life with MS and her cousin who has to live with his mom fighting this disease.
“I just think it must be hard for him not to be able to make his mom better.”
She worries for the world.
She is also extremely outspoken. She has never shied away from telling people how she feels and loudly pointing out injustices of all kinds. On top of everything, she is just starting to meander down the path of feelings beyond friendship. She has her first crush. Is now the time to talk about this? Should I further muddy the waters of romantic love when they are still so fresh? If not now, then when?
Even more scary for me is what happens next. I have no doubt she can handle this information but is she ready to advocate. Because I know she will advocate.
What if she goes to school and starts a conversation about gay marriage? What will happen to her sweet little heart when someone she loves disagrees? What if that person disagrees in anger? What then? What about when the disagreements become more personal as she realizes that three women she cares so much about in her own life are gay. What then? How do I navigate this? How do I teach the values that are so important to me and protect her from the world all at the same time?
So, we talked about love. I told her sometimes two men or two women fall in love with each other.
How sometimes when these people fall in love they want to raise babies. She asked if BOTH of his moms had Zach. (Oh my gosh I didn’t even think about the biology of it!!) Then she asked if his moms were married. I told her that is exactly what Zach was talking about. How some people think they shouldn’t be allowed to marry and he thought they should. She was quiet as she mulled it all over. She thought maybe it was weird to love another girl. I asked her if she thought it was weird or just different. She agreed, just different.
I asked her what she did when her friends were different from her. Did she stop being their friend? Did she work to make them more like her?
She answered, “No, I like to hang around friends who are different because I learn from them and they make me better.”
“Yeah,” I answered. “It’s exactly like that.”
I can’t believe I was ever worried.
She’ll be just fine.
Quite possibly so will the world with people like her in it.
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.