Does Michelle Have a Husband?

18 comments
Chicks dig a John Deere! Photo credit: K. Stevenson
Chicks dig a John Deere!
Photo credit: K. Stevenson

It was a beautiful day for a drive.  My girl and I were on our way to my friends’ Michelle and Brittany’s house for the afternoon.  The promise of a tractor ride was more than enough to get my usually slow child up and moving.  She loves Michelle and follows her around like a puppy.  As we drove to their house, she had a lot of questions.  Out of the blue, she asked me if they had a cage.  It took me a minute to grasp that she was a little nervous about their dog.  Then she asked me, “Mommy, does Michelley have a husband?” Um, no she doesn’t.  “Why not?” Because she lives with Britt.  “Why?” Um…

I usually am pretty good at handling all the “Why?” that she throws my way but this one had me at a momentary loss for words.  You see, Michelle is gay.  She lives with her girlfriend, soon to be wife in a cute little house with their dog.   They have a great, loving relationship.  One I’m proud to have as a model for my daughter.  But I didn’t know the right words to describe it to her without confusing her and, I admit, opening the gates of a thousand more questions.   

I’m not sure when my girl became obsessed with husbands, boyfriends and getting married.  Most days she still insists that she doesn’t want to get married—Thank goodness.  She’s only five!—but she still is very curious about it.  Michelle is Zoey’s first gay friend. It just hasn’t come up before.  There are two things that bummed me out about our conversation.  First, that this even needs to be explained.  To anyone.  I believe that love is love, no matter who it’s with.  The other reason is that I felt so unprepared for this conversation.  And then I felt dumb.  I mean, plenty of kids have two moms or two dads.  It’s been their normal since they were babies.  So why was I worried about explaining this to my 5-year old?  What harm could it do to tell her the truth?  I’m not talking about a birds and the bees and “equipment” type of truth, but one about love.

At first I started telling her that Michelle didn’t need a husband.  But that didn’t feel right.  I want her to develop healthy relationships, not hate men!  So I explained that Michelle and Britt were very good friends who love each other.  That seemed to work for her.  We arrived and were greeted by hugs and a tour of the house.  I held my breath when Michelle showed Zoey “her room”, the guest room that was sleepover-ready, and then the only other bedroom that was shared by Michelle and Britt.  I expected a bunch of questions but none came.  Maybe letting her know that it’s about love is enough.   When Michelle and Britt get married, now THAT  is going to blow her mind.  I’ll cross that bridge later.

18 comments on “Does Michelle Have a Husband?”

  1. Great post! It’s funny because on our experience, most kids just ask the question once, get an answer and then move on. My boys have lots of “aunts” that live with their girlfriends, an uncle who has a blended family and also friends that have single moms. So, the fact that they have 2 mommies while some people have one mommy, or one daddy or both one mommy and one daddy, is totally acceptable.
    One thing that I think when they are really young is that they are just curious about the family. They don’t look at the question as gender/sex or any other adult concept, they just pick up that it may be different than their own and want reassurance that “different” isn’t “weird” or “bad”.
    We will surely encounter this for years as the boys get older and have more playdates. But I will say that the parents that we’ve encountered so far have been amazing and very quickly explain to their kids that Andrew has two mommies without flinching.
    And I always am willing to offer a quick matter-of-fact response when a parent gets asked the question in front of me and gets the deer in the headlights look.

  2. Interesting post and regarding an issue it never occurred to me we might have to cross at a later date. My kids are too young yet to even understand that most of their friends have a pair of parents. They just know that THEY have a mommy and daddy, and that their friends have whichever adult drops them off at daycare.

    I’m taking notes on everyone’s responses on what to do when the time comes. That’s the best part about this blog site and group of ladies – you all bring a perspective and thoughts to things I just never would have known what to do! Thank you!

  3. Really liked this post. My youngest went to first true colors conference and is just so open afterwards about lgbtq issues, people and lifestyles. The best thingabout the conference was hugs and lots of love.

  4. When my kids were younger (about 4 and 12) I had a boss who was gay. He was a really great person and we would visit his home occasionally. My son never asked why he wasn’t married and my daughter wasn’t old enough to pay attention really. He just had a lot of man-friends and it was explained to them that he likes men…that’s all. He was a nice guy and my kids liked him for who he was as a person. Now, I have a relative who just got engaged to her partner and I’m thrilled that they are so in love. My daughter however, is a bit puzzled. However, we just explained that love is what counts and although it’s not a life style that she is considering, it’s OK that our relative is and if she decided later in life that she did want that life, that’s OK too. “We are all different people with different ideas and that, my friend, is what makes the world go ’round.” The thing I think that we need to remember here so we don’t shy away from the true issue is that kids just understand the love. The rest (the details) will come soon enough when they are teens/adults. I find the best way to handle the tough questions is to just tell when what you think they can handle at that point. My daughter tends to pursue though and so my answer then is: “when I think that you are ready for more, I’ll tell you then”. It works pretty well. Answer them and educate them for sure when they ask but at a level that they can understand.

    1. Denise, I really love your reply of “when I think that you are ready for more, I’ll tell you then.” OMG I have a million uses for that! Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  5. We have many gay friends, so this was kind of a non-issue. I just told Nate that only grown ups can get married, and they marry someone they love. Our neighbors are even a two mom house, so it’s just how it was for Nate since he was a baby- honestly he’s never asked. Also, when I was teaching, I had a family of two moms who divorced then remarried, so this girl had FOUR moms. I second (third?) The Family Book by Todd!!!

  6. You know what’s funny about this? When I saw the headline and clicked to read more, I thought the topic was going to be explaining a single mom situation to a child who has only known two-parent families. It didn’t even occur to me that it’s still difficult to explain two mommies or two daddies to a child who has only experienced mommy-and-daddy couplings. It just doesn’t seem controversial to me. If my kid were is this situation, I imagine that I would just answer the question with “no” — not because I want to hide the details, but because that’s the simple answer. Some mommies have husbands who are the daddy, some have husbands or boyfriends who are not daddy, some mommies have wives, girlfriends — or none of the above — and all of those situations are ok. On a related note, I have been doing research on how transgender children are received in classrooms of young children, and what I find most striking is that it is the adults — not the children — who struggle and worry about the kids’ reactions, while the the kids just accept what they see at face value and don’t question it, and don’t struggle with the apparent discrepancy between social norms and this new situation. They just see it as that: a new, or different, situation.

    1. What I also think is funny is that we must be living such a sheltered life because most of the families we interact with are “basic” mom and dad plus kids families. Sometimes there’s an extra grandparent thrown in there but not a lot of variation. We need to get out more. As for your research, I can totally see how it would be the adults who struggle and not the kids. We’re always bringing our baggage to the table. I wasn’t so much worried that Zoey wouldn’t accept my friends’situation. I was just trying to find a way to explain it so that she would understand-one that satisfied her growing curiosity.

  7. We started really early with our son sort of “indoctrinating” him into the fact that couples can include F/F, M/M, or F/M. We also have always been really careful to always include men and women as possible future spouses for him like “when you grow up and get married, your husband or wife will blah blah blah.” Hard to say how much of it he has absorbed or understood, and it is certainly not an everyday conversation in our house, but I realized early on that because most of the people we spend time with are heterosexual couples, we would need to actively work to prevent him from assuming that all couples are F/M.

    I am a little worried with my (once-foster-now-adopted) daughter because although she is five, she has only lived with us for 2 years, and we haven’t had as many opportunities to prevent a heteronormative worldview from forming, which is the default for kids being raised by opposite sex couples, unless we make a concerted effort to explain that the way we live and the way our family looks is not the way that all families look. I definitely welcome the conversation.

    1. Good for you Pamela! I just hope that no matter whatever types of families my daughter encounters, she will have an accepting attitude! I’m doing my best as it comes up, but would love to be more proactive about it. Thanks for your input!

  8. This is an interesting one. Olivia was in daycare (from the time she was an infant) with a friend who has two moms. So this is just a normal variation to her. She’s never asked about it or how it’s different from the makeup at our house — because, underneath the surface, it’s not. We all love our families. The Family Book by our buddy Todd Parr is awesome. Some families have two moms. Some families have two dads. Some families only have one parent. We read that and she identifies families we know who fit those criteria.

  9. Great post, Kriste. I feel the same — we shouldn’t have to explain this, it should just be normal — but I guess we still do. Hopefully not for long. In the meantime, I feel like I’ve been preparing to have this conversation for such a long time, I just need my kids to give me the opportunity! In the meantime, I try to interject the subject of love-who-you-love whenever I can (much to my mister’s chagrin).

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