I’m driving my 6-year-old to his buddy’s birthday party. I’m a bit anxious about the party. The birthday boy, Aidan, has two dads. My son and I have talked a lot about how different kinds of families look. We’ve always tried to celebrate differences in our family. My son’s best friend and his brother are adopted. The boys look different from one another and different from their parents, but my son never brought it up. Either he hasn’t noticed. Or ideally, he doesn’t care.
But up until now, none of my son’s friends have had a same-sex couple as parents. My son thinks of marriage as two people who really like each other. He wants to marry Tina, the girl who sits next to him in kindergarten because, “She has cute cheeks and a big head.” He’s too young to understand what a sexual preference means and still can’t figure out why he and I can’t get married someday.
When it comes to differences, I always try to be age-appropriately honest with my kids. When my son asked if he could marry a girl, I said yes. When he asked if he could marry a boy, I said yes (in some parts of the world!). But we left it at that, and he didn’t ask why. But I’m curious to see if being around Aidan’s two dads brings up other questions from my son, questions I’m not ready to tackle just yet.
And then of course, there’s the potential “kids all have diarrhoea of the mouth” syndrome that will automatically force my son to say something embarrassing or inappropriate to Aidan’s dads. This, mind you, is the same child who would walk up to any overweight person he saw on the street and say, “You have a big tummy” as if he was providing a public service. The potential for him to say something uncomfortable to the dads is high. We proceed into the party with caution.
It’s the typical bouncy-castle party with the kids bouncing and jumping wildly before stopping for 7-seconds to eat pizza with unwashed hands. The kids barely notice their own parents are there, much less somebody else’s. They’re too busy having a blast. I relax and stop worrying that my son will offend the hosts.
We nearly get out of the party with the subject not coming up. Nearly. The kids are all putting on their shoes and devouring their goody bags when my son walks up to one of Aidan’s dads and says, “Are you Aidan’s dad?” His dad, Paul, says yes. My son continues, pointing toward Aidan’s other dad. “But he’s also Aidan’s dad?” Paul says yes again. I clinch my teeth hoping my kid doesn’t say something that might make Paul feel like he’s on display. My son thinks for a second, smiles and says, “Cool,” before walking away to say goodbye to his friends.
We thank Aidan and his dads for the party and get in the car to head home. We’ve got a long car ride home and my son is quiet for most of the ride. A few minutes before home, he brings up the subject of Aidan having two dads. “Mummy,” he says quietly from the back of the car. “How come Aidan doesn’t have a mummy?” he asks. I tell him I don’t know. That’s just how Aidan’s family looks. “Will I ever not have a mummy?” he asks cautiously. I assure him that he’ll always have a mummy. That’s just how his family looks.
He keeps talking, telling me that he wishes he could have more than one dad and more than one mum. “I just wish I could have more parents. Then I would never be alone, ” he says as we pull up to our house. I assure him he’ll never be alone even if he “only has one dad.” He confesses to feeling jealous of Aidan. “Two dads seems better than one,” he says before changing the subject. I chuckle to myself having gone from feeling anxious about how my son would handle Aidan’s two dads to feeling like a failure because my son only has one.