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.

Echidna fever

Mookie wrote a big report on echidnas and made this great diorama.

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Ecihnas are monotremes, like platypuses–in fact, the only monotremes besides platypuses–which means that they lay eggs but are mammals in other respects. We have learned a lot about echidnas in the past few weeks, and I think the only reason we aren’t being begged for a pet echidna is that they live only in Australia and New Guinea and would be homesick.

Detail, so you can see the ants properly:

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Echidnas love ants. I love the log. And the use of sushi grass, and the drawing of the echidna.

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:

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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.

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

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She’s in the right place.

Three conversations

I was reading Mookie the instructions of her favorite pages in Puzzle Buzz.

Mama: Circle the one with the even number of fish.

Mookie: One, two, one, two, one, two, one, two, one, two. This one.

Mama: I didn’t know if you knew what “even” meant! Do you know what the opposite is called? What do you call a number that you can’t count off by twos?

Mookie: Bumpy?

I thought that was an excellent guess. I laughed and said so, and told her the term is “odd.” That made her laugh. “That’s very odd,” she said. “What an odd thing to say.”

———–

Last night at dinner we were talking about a kid in school, A., who is what is euphemistically called “a spirited child.” Smart, sweet, can’t hold still for five minutes to save his life.

Mama: Some kids need to move around a lot and some kids like to sit very still for a long time. You’re kind of in-between.

Mookie: I used to be more like A. In kindergarten I was. Now I like to sit still more.

Mama: Why do you think you’ve changed?

Mookie, with feeling: Old age.

I had had a theory as to the reason for the change, and had almost asked her, “Do you suppose that’s because you like to spend so much time reading now?” I’m glad I held back and asked the open-ended question instead, or we’d have missed out on that immortal answer.

———

For tonight’s homework, Mookie had to interview us about what countries she, we, and our parents were born in. (Friday is the international flag parade, a school tradition which kids carry a flag of their family heritage, so they’re preparing to make their flags.) The questions were in Spanish but she wrote “United States” all three times. I figured that was okay, but asked, “Do you know how to say ‘United States’ in Spanish?” She responded by saying “United States” in a convincing Mexican accent.

When I laughed helplessly, she laughed too and tried pronouncing it as if it were actually Spanish: “Oo-nee-ted Stah-tees.” But really, there was no improving on her first response. I’m pretty sure “learn how to imitate recent immigrants” is not in the school’s goals for its students.

Jorge el Pez Dorado

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First-day-of-school silliness

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Mookie will get a library book from school each Friday. Tonight Joy is reading her her first one, which is in English and Spanish and is about a goldfish named George, and how he dies and is buried in the yard, where he helps the flowers grow.

That’s right. My kid is learning about reading, Spanish, and death, all at the same time. Reason #27 to be happy about her school, which I am way overdue to write about given that the momentous first day of kindergarten was three weeks ago.

Her response to Joy’s boo-hooing (because of course “Harry”–the little boy with the goldfish–“esta triste”) is “That’s okay–he can get another one.” Now I have to look up “callous” in my Spanish-English dictionary. OK, found it. ¡Que insensible!

“It gets worse” update from J.:
the kids’ weekend homework is to read the book, write a sentence or phrase from/about it, and draw a picture. “Guess what she wants to draw. The box the kid buries him in.”