Two of my co-workers are also pregnant, and one is due in early March. She’s beginning to make her plans to leave, even to the point that she realized she will miss the baby showers for the other two of us. So yesterday, to our surprise, she gave us both presents at lunch. As she handed them out, she said, “I hope I didn’t mix up the tags.” Everyone began to make jokes, because both N. and S. know the sex of their babies (girls, both) while we, of course, don’t.
When we opened the packages, we found picture frames with a scrapbooked background reading, “Now I lay me down to sleep; my parents are loving me,” along with stars and a crib. N. explained, “You put your picture in it and hang it above the crib.” We all oohed and aahed, admiring N.’s creativity and scrapbooking talent (as well as her organizational skills and planning at having our presents for us before she goes on leave!). Just before I headed back to class, I remembered her concern about the “right” packages and snuck a peek at S.’s frame. Hers read, “My mom and dad are loving me.” Ah, I thought, it wasn’t the sex of the baby.
Twenty-five eager 4th graders followed by 24 very, very needy second graders will drive all higher-order thinking right out of your head, so it wasn’t until I was driving to pick up Cait that I had a moment to think about the gifts. Once I did, I nearly broke down crying. It’s such a little thing, to change the words. But it says so much about welcoming and acceptance. And that’s not something I take for granted, especially as we move into a whole new world of being gay – gay parents, not just individual (or even coupled) lesbians.
I don’t even know how to express my feelings to N. when I write a thank-you note. I think she just logically saw that the regular words wouldn’t work, so she changed them. No big deal. But that it wasn’t a big deal, that she just did it and didn’t make a fuss – instead of 1) changing the language but calling major attention to it 2) pretending there is no issue and using the standard language** or 3) avoiding the issue and doing something altogether different for me, since I don’t fit the traditional model – that *IS* a big deal.
Elementary schools tend to reinforce notions of traditional family structure and heterosexism by their very nature. Even though many kids have families that don’t fit the nuclear model (one parent, grandparent-headed, blended, two moms/dads, etc.) the general assumption in many schools is that a kid has a mom and a dad, and by extension, if you’re a pregnant woman, you have a male partner. My school is NOT utopia, and I do deal with this fairly often, especially from parents. But the seamless way that the staff at my school has welcomed me and my family is really wonderful, and I am so glad we are surrounded by open-minded, creative, loving people.
*Ok, so the lines don’t scan right anymore. What-ever! The gesture is there.
**Oh, you’d be surprised. Some people just don’t THINK! Or care.