Monday, November 09, 2009

The Dad Question (Revisited)

On Mondays I usually pick up Big and Sidekick's little sister from preschool. We are lucky that the younger two go together to the same school and the older two go together to the same K-8 school, so we can share rides.

When I went to pick up Big and Sidekick's little sister today at the end of their preschool day, one of the teachers came up to me to tell me about something that had happened that day.

They had been discussing family origin that day and had paid some attention to Sidekick's little sister who is adopted from China, noting that her parents, her "mom" and "dad" were from China.

The teacher then said that Big had asked where his "dad" came from.

The discussion was awkward and quite poorly planned.

The end of the day at that school is pure chaos, and picking up two little ones only compounds the issue. They are thrilled to be showing me the things they did that day, while simultaneously needing to get a drink, needing to pee, or gathering their things or saying their long and loving goodbyes to their friends while I am focusing on getting the (FOUR!) lunchboxes between the two of them, their backpacks, coats and extraneous (yet incredibly important-to-them as I have learned--the hard way--in the past as in "did you remember to bring home the crown I made in school today?" while I thought to myself "was that thing I threw away on the way to the car a CROWN?!?!?!") daily materials to found in each of their boxes.

I'm trying to focus on what the teacher is telling me while hearing "Baba. Baba. Baba. BABA!!! BABA!!!!! BABA!!!!!" at my ankles and Sidekick's sister reminding me that she needs her lunchbox.

"He asked where his DAD came from."

She repeated as if I hadn't heard.

I stopped and pushed back all of my incredulity at this woman, who I know to be loving and caring and sensitive, for not having the understanding to deal with this in a more nuanced way. We had been at this school before, five years ago now, and many of our lesbian-familied friends had gone there as well, so it is not as though it was the first time they'd dealt with families of our ilk.

I paused with her for a moment and as she was being swept away by the children demanding her attention, I pulled her back to the conversation:

"Please avoid using the term 'Dad'. He doesn't have one. And we will be using the term 'donor' to him. . . "

"When he is ready?" she interrupted.

"Yes. . . . "

She was swept away then and I noted, a little louder to be heard over the end-of-day din "Or just say Irish-German and let it go with that."

It was awkward and strange and, even now that I am thinking about it, they shouldn't really refer to Sidekick's sister's biological parents as her "mom" and "dad". But I was not composed enough to have said all of that at that moment.

All of this made me realize again that we can't just move through the world in an unthinking way. Big hadn't started asking questions yet, so we hadn't really thought about it much. Although he does still, often, insist that I am a boy which, I think is sort of truish, but may be just denial on his part. It made me realize that even in the most liberal, accepting and loving setting that we may have to do some education around this topic.

So I turned to Lesbian Dad and her posts and her lists of resources for some help on this. You'll note that I've added some resources to this blog (to the right of this post) and links to some of her stuff. She also links to Mombian and a particularly well-crafted posts related to kids and schools. Lesbian Dad is truly a great resource for all of us out there and I hope that you look to her when you need some help like I have. I'll be putting together a list for our preschool in the hopes that they'll be better able to accommodate families like ours in the future and better able to address our kids' natural curiosities.

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