I am adding an extra post this week and skewing a bit off the Guatemalan trail and onto the mommy track. I will be back online with another post on our Guatemala trip in a couple of weeks.
I had been waiting for the right time to broach the subject with the children. I thought this was it: Sunday morning, quiet, not a lot going on yet, and we were all together. That’s another way of saying that I had them captive at the breakfast table. Antonio was reaching for more bacon, Jody was buttering her toast, and Crystel was eating her cereal.
I went to the livingroom and grabbed the book, My Two Moms, by Zach Wahls.
Sitting down, I flashed the cover. The front showed a young man in a suit jacket and tie being kissed on the cheeks by two women. This book wasn’t new to them. I had been reading the library book the past two weeks and it had sat around the house in plain view. One evening Antonio asked me what it was about. “This guy has two moms just like you,” I said. “He also has a sister. I am reading what it was like for him growing up. He’s in college now.”
There were a couple of things I read that surprised me. One was disturbing. I told Jody about it while we were walking the dogs. Zach said he felt bad that sometimes he lied about his home life when he was growing up. He wasn’t always truthful in responding to other children when they asked about his father (artificial insemination) or his family. This started when he was about the same age that Antonio and Crystel are now.
I was surprised to know that Antonio and Crystel might already be getting awkward questions. And if they are like Zach Wahls, they might already be making up answers. I told Jody that I didn’t ever want our kids to feel bad about being less than truthful about their personal stories. Children have enough weight to carry on their short little shoulders. I think it’s unrealistic to expect children to say, “I don’t choose to answer that question. My story is my personal story.” Sometimes it is easier for children to lie and that is the route they go.
Certainly that was the route I took when Antonio and Crystel first came home, as infants, even though I hold honesty in high regard. I got a lot of questions while standing in checkout lines. The most frequent was, “Are they twins?” At first, I answered with the truth and nothing but the truth. “No they are six weeks apart”. The truth didn’t feel right. It was incomplete and not acknowledging their bond as brother and sister. So I added, “They have been together since they were born.” I’d look at these two infants in their stroller shake my head and wonder what they were making of my conversation. I’d chastise myself for giving too much information. Information the children didn’t even have yet. I was afraid that I had a grace period to get the answers down before the children understood what I was saying. Sometimes I would just say, “Yes, they’re twins.” Neither answer was comfortable.
Since I had trouble responding to even the most basic inquiry, I didn’t hold any illusion that Antonio and Crystel could negotiate every question that came their way as grade-schoolers. Sometimes the questions weren’t so simple. One time, while bagging our groceries, I was asked, “How much do they cost?” They were referring to the toddlers and not the milk and eggs.
On our walk I let Jody know that this was a discussion I meant to have with Antonio and Crystel. It wasn’t a complete surprise to her when I came back to the table with the book.
“I want to talk to you guys about something,” I said. “You know this book? This is about a guy just like you who had two moms. He wrote about what it was like for him growing up. He said he felt bad when sometimes he would lie about his family.”
Crystel turned away from me, waving her hands, “Why do we always have to talk about this . . . ” she started.
I stopped her, “No, this is important.” The children know how I feel about them being honest. I think she was expecting that I was going to tell her and Antonio that no matter what, I never want them to lie, even if it is uncomfortable, even if it is intrusive, even if they don’t want to answer.
“If someone ever asks you about your personal story and you don’t want to talk about it, and you lie, that’s okay. I don’t want you to ever feel bad about that. You love your moms, we love you, and that is all that counts. When it comes to your story, it is your story. Don’t ever feel bad about not being truthful. We know you love us. We love you.”
Finished, I got up and put the book back on the shelf. Sitting down, we continued on with breakfast.