Kids Really Do Say The Funniest Things
Dinner times with the family are precious moments. The children are bursting to tell us stories from their day, and we’re excited to hear them. Very often, these meals become a chance for my husband and me to share with our children the values that we care for as a family and the attributes that we hope they will inculcate as they grow up.
It was during one such family dinner, not too long ago, that my five-year-old daughter made an interesting announcement.
“Daddy, Mummy, I have to tell you something!” she said, bouncing up and down in her chair trying to get some control of the airwaves, which her older brothers had been monopolizing.
“I am gay!”
My husband sputtered a mouthful of lentils onto his plate. My ten-year-old son started laughing while holding onto his sides. My middle son, who is nearly seven, asked a very relevant question: “What’s gay, Daddy?”
“What’s going on? She’s only five!” my husband whispered to me in a rather anxious tone of voice.
“I guess she’s taking in more of the ‘Modern Family’ episodes than I thought when she’s coloring while I watch. But that’s okay.” I whispered back to him.
“What’s okay?” he whispered in a hissing voice. “What if she is?”
I glared at him.
My oldest son continued to laugh while my daughter looked pleased as punch with her announcement—which had quite clearly created ripples at the dining table.
“Sweetheart, you can’t be gay,” said my husband to our daughter.
“But, I am!” she insisted.
“What’s gay?” yelled our middle child, feeling very left out of the conversation.
“Hold on, everyone!” I had to interject. “Now, you’re a little too young for this, and we don’t know how you really feel, but I think this is a good time for Mummy and Daddy to tell you that no matter what you become when you grow up, we will always support you and love you.”
My husband opened his mouth to protest and got a sharp kick in the shin from me from under the dining table. His protest tapered down to a wimper.
“You can be gay. Or you can be straight. Either way, the only thing we care about is your happiness.” I looked at my husband, expecting him to echo my statement, and said, “Correct, Daddy?”
He took a while to react, and I was just about to kick his other shin when he guessed my intention and mumbled “Correct” in self-defense.
“Can anyone tell me what gay is?” pleaded my middle son, close to tuning out the conversation.
“But Mummy, Nikki can’t possibly be gay!” said my oldest son.
I saw a flicker of a smile on my husband’s face. Finally, someone who agreed with him!
But I was going to have none of it. I can’t control my grown husband’s reaction (other than by brute force), but I’m not going to raise a child who isn’t open-minded and tolerant in the 21st century. As their mother, I’m going to make sure my children are understanding and respectful of differences and perspectives—both around the world and the dinner table.
“We’re not saying that she is,” I said firmly. “But if she feels that way when she grows up, I’ll be the first one to support her. And I will expect each of you to do the same.”
“Mummy, you don’t understand,” said my son.
“And what, exactly, do I not understand?” I said impatiently to my son. I was getting increasingly frustrated with his comments.
“Mom,” he said in that condescending ‘I-am-too-cool-for-my-parents’ tone. “If a girl likes another girl, she’s not gay, she’s Lebanese!”
Lentils splattered all over my husband’s dinner plate again, but this time, they were from his uncontrolled laughter.
“Nikki, you can be Lebanese any day you want!” he said, still chuckling.
My middle son was now even more perplexed.
“Who are the Lebanese?” he asked.
And just like that, another family meal, which was meant to be an opportunity for us to discuss our values, was reduced to chaos amid peals of laughter. But, I do hope that the kids got a message that evening—that the love their parents have for them is unconditional and that, no matter what, we will always be there for them with open arms—and the occasional bruised shin.
(P.S. My apologies to the Lebanese for the stereotyping by my son.)