Truth Telling

Truth: Antonio doesn’t know that Crystel is providing rabbit ears. Truth: They love each other and are best friends.

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.

Truth Telling

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.

Boy Scout Summer Camp

by Elizabeth

Antonio and Elizabeth

“Antonio, why don’t you want to go to Cub Scout summer camp?” I had already asked him a number of times but I just wasn’t satisfied with his answer. He always said, “No” when I asked. “Too many bugs,” he offered once in explanation. I didn’t remember any bugs, and I was with him when we went two years ago. I had even brought us a mosquito netting to put over our cots.

Equally troubling to me was why I cared. Why I just couldn’t drop it. Last summer I had signed us up for camp and then fretted the summer away until August as a stubborn Cub Scout Bear growled, Noooo, whenever I broached the subject. Finally, I just gave our spots away to another parent and scout.

Now here we were at year three. I studied Antonio. Sitting on the lowest rung of a  step stool, his arms draped over my knees. Reaching a hand down, I rubbed his dark hair. How I loved him. Yet, there was something not being said. I could feel it, just out of my grasp. Air was thickening with every nanosecond. Then it came to me, fleeting as it had that first year at summer camp when we were making our way up the hill to the mess hall. Waves of men and boys moved about us. Where one group ended another began. I grabbed for the thought, held it: all those men and all those boys.

“Do you not want to go because there are mostly dads with their sons? Does it make you miss not having a dad?” Antonio’s pained look and the dive under his bed told me the answer.

“Buddy, you can ask Uncle Scott or Uncle Marty to take you,” I said.

Peering out at me with a smile, he said with enthusiasm, “You could dress up as a boy.”

I thought, well that’s nice. It’s not that he doesn’t want to be with me. It’s just that he’d like me to be his dad.

I laughed, “I tried being a boy once when I was about your age. I told this kid that my name was Dan, and he wanted to be my friend. It didn’t work out so well. I was always worried about being found out.”

I paused, “What if we invite your cousin?” His cousin is the same age and also a Cub Scout.

“What about Jacob?”

Once Antonio said that, I knew we would be going. He had moved from “No” to bargaining.

I suddenly realized why I couldn’t drop his attending camp. Just like I couldn’t make myself into a boy, he couldn’t make a dad appear.

Sometimes the obvious needed stating. “Antonio, the reason this is so important to me is because you don’t have a dad in your life. You’re a boy and you live with two moms and a sister. We’re all girls. You need to know how to navigate in the world of boys and men. When we go to camp you can look at all the dads and pick out the stuff you like and know that’s the kind of dad you want to be when you grow up and you’ll be able to hang with a bunch of boys and do what boys do.”

Antonio seemed satisfied with the answer.

Sometimes there is no getting past the pain of our lives. Instead of walking away from it Antonio, his friend, and I would buddy up, jump in the pond, and swim to the other side.