Art archaeology

Art archaeology

Some of Indigo’s art gets tossed. Some gets framed and hung on the wall. Some, she tries to toss but we rescue. And some, none of us wants to keep or discard, so it goes into a pile for me to photograph some day. She’s actually getting quite good about photographing it as she goes, but I still have a boxful from her earlier years, and I am finally digitizing it.

A few nuggets from last night’s round:

First or second grade. I love the sand at the bottom of the ocean, and the way the partial coloring of the sky makes it look like something huge has just sent up a splash. Maybe it was a whale.

First rule of pre-printed paper: fill in the O’s, D’s and R’s.

Indi went through a phase when she made a lot of lists like this. Maybe an expansion of a school exercise? I will translate.

My life.

–I have two very good moms.

–I have two ears one nose two hands two eyes and one mouth.

–I have seven caves. (Ed. note: neither she nor I knows what she meant by this. I suggested that it might mean “orifices,” as in the old joke about having seven holes in one’s head, but she was sure she hadn’t heard of any such thing. My Spanish dictionary doesn’t give any figurative meaning for “cueva”: just “cave,” pure and simple.)

-I have a lot of books.

-I have a lot of stuffed animals.

-I have a lot of toys.

Sometimes she just listed words. This page is headed, “Words in English and Spanish.”

A photo from an Our Family Coalition event. I love what she wrote on top. Nas = nice, which is a logical guess.

“How dare you?”

One of Indigo’s favorite phrases is “How dare you?” She delivers it with great feeling at moments of high drama, such as when someone occupies her city in a game of Carcassonne. (See the photo on the previous entry for the accompanying facial expression.)

I’m going to borrow it right now, because I’m hearing the “We must protect your child” line, used, as it so often is, to vilify people my child loves and respects. And that is the very definition of chutzpah.

How dare you suggest that you are protecting her from trans* people? She doesn’t need to be protected from the fabulous camp counselor who led her in making snow forts and going cross-country skiing. The kid in her scouting group, whether they’re using the bathroom or learning how to make a fire in the wilderness: not a threat. The family friend who visited her in the hospital less than 24 hours after her birth, bringing love and a ritual of welcome from our faith: not scary. If you think these beloved people are her enemies, if you would harm them in her name, you reveal yourself to be the threat.

How dare you make people from certain countries out to be dangerous? Of all the people she missed at church and was thrilled to see after six months away, the longest hugs were for the two Iranian women who have taken care of her for countless Sunday hours ever since she graduated from the toddler room. They play with her, encourage her art, teach her a few words of Farsi, and tell her over and over how much she is loved. How dare you threaten them and their families in her name?

How dare you “protect” her from immigrants, with or without papers? Our country’s stupid, cruel policies invite people in from other countries to work, then scapegoat them for growing our food and changing our children’s diapers. My daughter does not want to be “protected” from her schoolmates, or from their abuelas who make melt-in-your-mouth tamales for the school fundraiser. This is our community. It is not frightening, but the people who are attacking it are.

How dare you?

On self-loathing, violence and children

One of the saddest things I learned in this sad week after the murder of 49 people at a gay club in Orlando was that the killer, despite his openly gay-hating rhetoric and his eventual massacre of a crowd of gay people, often went to the club and was on a gay dating site himself. Homophobia was well-named in his case. He was deathly afraid of something in himself and enraged by seeing it reflected in others. Earlier in the week, I accidentally referred to the “50 people” who were victims of this homophobic, homicidal rage, and a friend deftly reminded me that the number was 49. But my slip turns out to have been correct. All 50 were victims of a hatred of queer sexuality.

When I encounter adult homophobes, I admit I am without patience. Whatever they need to process is between them and their therapist–if only they had one, which would be good–and I don’t want to deal with it. But as out, queer parents of a school-aged child, we run into it from children more often, and it’s opened up patience and compassion in me. With them, I try to remember that when they say something like “You can’t have two moms!” or “That’s gross!” they are often begging for someone to say to them, calmly, “Yes, you can have two moms” or “There is nothing gross about two men who love each other,” because what is underneath the insults may be “I think I might be one of those. Is that wrong and bad and disgusting, the way some people think?”

I want these kids to hear, from me, from other adults, “You know LGBTQ people. You love them. I know and love them too. They’re good people.” In case their clumsy lashing out is the sign of the first stirrings of queer sexuality in them, as it may well be, I want them to know that the answer to the question they don’t dare to pose is “Yes, I accept you as you are.”

Our school is blessed with a wonderful social worker who takes homophobia seriously and responds in this loving way. When a kid wrote some homophobic graffiti and poked fun at Mookie last year, the social worker brought them in and said to him, “Do you know anyone who’s gay?” He said, “My cousin.” And she said, “When you say things like that, it hurts people like your cousin. We don’t want to do that.” I don’t know if this kid will turn out to be gay, but what he took away was surely a message that if he is, he already has friends and supporters. And if he keeps hearing that, then he will not pick up a gun to try to blow his homosexuality to smithereens and try to wash it away in a tide of blood.

LGBT diversity at school

We have an LGBT diversity event at Mookie’s school each year. Last year, the kids’ activities leading up to it were about their families, and a self portrait of every family was on the cafeteria wall. I wasn’t sure the message that families are all different and okay–including ones with LGBT parents–got through to the kids, based on some clueless comments we hear from a few of them. (No, Mookie’s daddy is not dead, small rude child. She doesn’t have one and never did.)

This year, at least some of the kids led up to LGBT diversity night by learning about . . . LGBT people. The result of their art projects was this stunning patchwork:


It’s a good thing I saw it Monday, so I could get my teariness out of the way before the event tonight.

Aren’t these squares great? I think that’s shark-dolphin love in the second one, very daring.



And I love Mookie’s. I’ve cropped it here to omit her name, but it says “Respeto es compartir,” “Respect is sharing.”


She’s in the right place.

One of those conversations

There is no way to prevent Mookie from encountering people’s strange and hurtful ideas about her parents. It’s all part of the lesson that when the world tells you you need to be different, that’s usually because there’s something wrong with the world, not you–but it is hard to have to begin learning it so young. We try to immunize her with a strong affirmation of who she is, our own refusal to hide or be ashamed, and of course, lots and lots of love. I try not to let her know how my stomach clenches when the issue comes up, such as during this exchange with her yesterday:

Mookie, putting wombat stuffie* under her shirt: We’re a wombat family and I’m going to have a baby. We already have Mustard** and he’s eight, and I’m going to adopt him.
Me: Oh, exciting!
Mookie: You be the daddy.
Me: Can’t we be two mommies? And you be the mama who’s having the baby.
Mookie: But then we’ll be teased.
Me, dropping out of character, but trying to keep it light: Have you had teasing about having two mommies?
Mookie: Yes. People say “that’s weird.”
Me: We can handle that. We know how.

(a few minutes later, post-birth, amid much jubilation from the delighted older brother)

Mookie: I don’t want there to be any teasing in this game. I think you should be a daddy.


Mookie, age 2

So we talked some more about who had said “That’s weird.” She said it was not just the kid in her class who did it in the first month of school, but other friends, more recently. I hugged her, asked her to bring these things up as they happen because there’s things we can do, and resolved to talk to her first grade teacher on day one about some proactive education about Different Kinds of Families, since some of them clearly still don’t get it. I added that kids tend to say “That’s weird” about things that are new to them, which is very annoying. And we ended with this reassuring bit of sweetness.

Me: Of course, I am weird. (makes weird noise)
Mookie: You are not!
Me: Yes, I am. And so is Mommy. She goes like this. (makes another weird noise)
Mookie, throwing herself into my lap and her arms around me: No, she’s not. You’re perfect.

Got that, heteronormative world? You’ve heard it from the world’s foremost expert on Amy and Joy, Queer Moms: We’re perfect!

*Yes, we have a wombat stuffie, brought by Australian friends. Thank you, Tabouli and Pilgrim!
**Mustard is a cat stuffie. Maybe the multi-species thing explains the adoption?

Excellent response to nosy questions

When you’re a mama not married to a man, you get some overly-personal questions, though I’m pleased to say it’s been a long time since anyone has asked how we conceived our daughter. Too bad, because I enjoyed saying, “I picked up some guy in a bar” and watching them try to figure out if I was joking.

In case it happens again, I’ll be ready with a better answer, thanks to this excellent suggestion from a commenter on Miss Manners’ column this week (handle: CalypsoSummer).

Asker: [Personal question]

Answerer: Why do you want to know?

Asker: Oh, I was just curious.

Answerer: Oh.

It works for all sorts of situations. The one Miss Manners’ Dear Reader was requesting help with was “Why are you using a walker?”

Birth mom and . . .

Mookie has been interested in how babies are made for a long time. I’ve answered numerous times, since my dear wife’s response is invariably to say “That’s Mama’s department” and hide in her cave. She claims it’s because I’m the go-to person on what she calls “the squishy sciences”–i.e., biology–and it’s true, when Mookie has physics or engineering questions, I refer her to Mommy (but don’t hide in my cave, because I’d like to know the answers too). I do like biology and know more about anatomy and physiology than she does, dating to my 3rd grade ambition of becoming a doctor, but we both know the truth: she’s avoiding That Topic.

So Mookie and I have often consulted “the body book,” a favorite of mine from back in that 3rd grade year, which I’m sorry to see is out of print because it’s terrific. She knows quite a lot about how our bodies work. Nevertheless, different pieces of the puzzle fall into place at different times. Last week, I made a comment about some trait she got from Mommy, and she said, “No, I didn’t, because she isn’t my birth mom.” That was the first time we heard her put together the concepts “mother who gave birth to you” (amply demonstrated by photos of me pregnant) and “mother from whom you get some of your traits.” Actually that isn’t necessarily the same person, but she doesn’t know about IVF and that one mom can contribute the egg while the other mom gestates the baby, and as it happens, that isn’t what we did, so she is right: the egg that made Mookie came from me.

Other questions she’s raised have been about adoption (“Did you adopt me or did you have a baby and it was me?,” which I think probably didn’t arise from her having two moms but from her knowing that many people are adopted, including some of her school friends) and what childbirth feels like (having received an honest answer, she is dead set against it and intends either to adopt children, or else have her friend S., whom she plans to marry unless she marries that nice boy we met in the airport the other day, be the birth mom). But one question she hasn’t asked is how two women managed to conceive a child in the first place. She has all the information she needs to figure out that she’s missing a step of the process, but the penny hasn’t dropped. One of these days she’s going to say, “Hey, wait a minute!” the way she did yesterday when she finally made the connection between Chewie the Wookiee and Chewie our late cat.

I wonder, though, whether the imbalance of having one parent who conceived and bore her, and one parent whose role is less evident, has been on her mind, because a few days after her “I don’t take after Mommy” declaration, while we were visiting family, we had this conversation.

Mookie: How do you make babies?

Me: [I offer silent prayer of gratitude that my dad and stepmother are on the other end of the house, explain the man-has-sperm, woman-has-egg thing again]

Mookie: And then the baby comes out of the birth mama. I’m never going to do that. Maybe S. could be the birth mama.

Me: Maybe. You’ll have to ask S. about that.

Mookie: Or I could adopt a baby.

Me: Great idea.

Mookie: What names did you have for me before you named me?

Me: You mean, what other names did we think of?

This was a departure. We’ve told her how we chose her name, but she’s never asked about it in the context of pregnancy and birth before.

Mookie: Yes.

Me: Well, you know we were thinking of names that began with __, after your great-grandma . . . [I tell her a few names we considered]

Mookie: Why didn’t you pick those?

Me: Oh, I would like one but Mommy wouldn’t like it as much. And Mommy liked _____, but it’s my middle name, and I thought you should have a different name than mine.

Mookie: I’m glad you didn’t choose that one. I would choose ______ [her actual name, which I’ll call {Mookie} from now on to add a little more confusion].

Me: Well, that worked out perfectly. We must have known.

Mookie: So how did you choose it?

Again, this is all old territory, but she’s never asked about it step by step like this.

Me: So we were talking about this name and that name, and then one day Mommy called me and said, “How about [Mookie]?” “[Mookie]!” I said. “That’s beautiful!” And we named you [Mookie].

Mookie: So you’re my birth mom and Mommy is my namer mom.

Me: Yes!

Mookie: [laughs]

Me: You’ll have to tell Mommy that when we get back home.

Mookie: I want to tell her right now!

So we are now her Birth Mama and Namer Mommy. Maybe it is her way of making sense of our different roles. But I still think she takes after her Mommy. Smart as a whip, stubborn as a nut on a rusted bolt, sweet as maple syrup.