Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Free Range Kids

So Cousin just told me about this Website and book (I am 42nd on the list at the library to borrow it at this time).

This is what Lenore Skenazy writes about her burgeoning movement: Do you ever...let your kid ride a bike to the library? Walk to school? Make dinner? Or are you thinking about it? If so, you are raising a Free-Range Kid! Free-Rangers believe in helmets, car seats, seat belts — safety! We just do NOT believe that every time school age kids go outside, they need a security detail. Share your stories, tell your tips and maybe I'll use them in a new book. Here's to common sense parenting in uncommonly overprotective times!

I've been thinking about this sort of thing a lot lately. Big is getting more and more independent and craves time outside, independent time, and exploring. When the sun is up he wants out.

He's little -- even according to Skenazy -- but I can see him already pushing his own envelope. He wants permission to ride his bike around the block by himself. He wants to be free to explore not only our yard, but the neighbors' yards too. When we bike together, he wants to go many blocks away, and I can see him struggling trying to remember directions, a little map of the neighborhood being constructed in his head.

This is new territory for us. Remember this?

Ten, to this day, has not pushed that envelope. She is happy to be indoors, hesitant to be independent, and with nearly zero practical sense.

In one direction, we live about three blocks (one long and two short) to a little local grocery store, a little hardware store and a great coffee shop.

She has no idea how to get there.

And you can imagine that we've been there a few times.

She has no idea how to get to her school.

It is nine blocks away and there is nearly a straight shot.

When Cousin and I were little (less than nine) we had the run of the neighborhood and I don't remember boundaries and I want that for my kids. I worry for Ten and her lack of practicality. And I wonder how far we'll let Big go. I'm tempted to let him go around the block. If it weren't for the cars in the alley, I'd already do it. We're learning about how drivers don't look for bikers generally, let alone bikers that are one foot off the ground.

I'm sure he'll push her too and they'll become independent. . . together.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


That's So Gay

So, Ten, being as she is now in the fourth grade, is beginning to experience her peers using the term "gay" in a derogatory way.

We had casually warned her about this.

And, from what we have read, we expected that one of her (their -- she and Big's) biggest issues-being children of gay or lesbian parents-will be their concern for us and wanting to protect us.

I didn't hear about it from her, but from a friend whose daughter is in Ten's class and who was on the receiving end of the slander, for no reason whatsoever, presumably.

They seem to be testing the word in a rather general way, although, of course, the only kid in the class that you could even slightly forecast homosexuality in his future, has become a clear target.

My heart aches for the kid.

I guess I thought that things would be different in a post-Ellen pre-pubescent world.

Not so much.

In any case, Ten was telling us a bit about it. Again, it sounds like, for the most part, the kids really don't know what they're saying; not even using the term in a consistently derogatory way, one kid even said that he was, himself, 'gay' to Ten.

After school one day Ten was telling me how she has been reacting, by informing kids in what sounds like a too-informed, too-mature way that the term they are using is "offensive" and hurtful and that they shouldn't use it.

The little mice in their head take a couple of spins around until they say "Oh... Your PARENTS are gay. . . . " or something like that.

My heart aches again.

For a couple of reasons.

First, I don't wish on her early maturity.

I had that and it was over-rated.

Second, I certainly don't wish on her to be the poster-child of some pro-gay agenda at her little Catholic school. You know how you sort of hope that your kid can sort of slide through middle school before shining in high school? Sort of get through the awkward years and early puberty without too much scarring?

So we had a little talk, she and BioMom and I. Urging her to really let some of her peers' pathetic attempts at trying out their new language roll off her back. To choose the most important battles -- like the one where the kid who we think might be gay gets teased.

Why do you think he might be gay? Asks she.

I let her in on the secret of our little club. How we know each other from across the room. How, at a restaurant or a coffee shop, I might say 'hi' to someone who seems like a stranger, and really, who is someone that we do not know, but who I know has had some of the same stuff happen to her as has happened to me. How can I tell? I dunno, I said. And we certainly could be wrong, but more often than not, we are right and it is sometimes a look, sometimes a way of dress, sometimes, a way of movement, but more often than not just a simple, inexplicable feeling of recognition.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Queering the Census

I don't know how many of you readers out there are dataheads like myself, but if you are, TUNE IN!

This will be the third U.S. Census in which we can (sort of) identify gay and lesbian individuals in the United States (1990, 2000, 2010).

I say "sort of" because well, it is not a COMPLETE measurement of gay and lesbian people. Far from it.

In the picture above, you can see that I am filling out our Census form (it is a $100 fine if you don't and an $500 fine if you lie btw).

If you combine the information about a person's sex and how they check the little box as to how the subsequent people in the household are related to the household head, you can get an idea of whether or not the COUPLE is a gay or lesbian couple.

For example, there will be some percentage of Americans who will check the box "husband or wife" and person 1 and person 2 will be of the same sex.

Similarly, there will be some percentage of Americans who will check the box "unmarried partner" and person 1 and person 2 will be of the same sex.

There are lots of problems with this (obviously).

The first of which is that we are only getting at COUPLED gay and lesbian Americans.

The second of many is that the Census, thanks to Fmr President Bush, follows the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (passed by Fmr President Clinton, liberal that he claimed to be) to the letter and will not recognize married gay and lesbian couples even if they are in states in which they are legally able to be married. So Census officials will (literally) RECODE these individuals in one of two ways:
1. they will change them to unmarried partners OR
2. they will change one individual's sex so that the couple will SEEM to be a heterosexual couple.

I shit you not. Welcome to America, 2010.

Furthermore, I'm not sure they will do this in any systematic way, nor are we researchers assured that such cases will be "flagged".

Third of many issues is that people eff up when they fill out the Census. Believe it or not, there is a small (and possibly significant) number of individuals who accidentally mark down the wrong sex. So, say a heterosexual male is filling out the Census and he marks himself down as a female accidentally. Then that couple will be seen as a lesbian couple who said they were married.

This problem translates into a statistical nightmare for researchers -- a small statistical error magnifies itself among minority populations.

I am writing all of this to say that if you are interested in getting a more thorough "snapshot" of America, then Queer the Census!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Are We Safe?

My brother who lives in Denver just told me about the case where the child of lesbian parents attending a Catholic school has gotten kicked out of school.

The Denver Archdiocese posted a statement Friday that the parents are "living in open discord with Catholic teaching."

Here's what the pastor at the school said on his blog.

The Archdiocese of Denver on Catholic School Admissions Policy

A principal reason parents place their children in Archdiocese of Denver Schools is to reinforce the Catholic beliefs and values that the family seeks to live at home. To preserve the mission of our schools, and to respect the faith of wider Catholic community, we expect all families who enroll students to live in accord with Catholic teaching. Our admission policy states clearly, “No person shall be admitted as a student in any Catholic school unless that person and his/her parent(s) subscribe to the school’s philosophy and agree to abide by the educational policies and regulations of the school and Archdiocese.”

Parents living in open discord with Catholic teaching in areas of faith and morals unfortunately choose by their actions to disqualify their children from enrollment. To allow children in these circumstances to continue in our school would be a cause of confusion for the student in that what they are being taught in school conflicts with what they experience in the home.

We communicated the policy to the couple at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic School as soon as we realized the situation. We discussed the reasons with them and have sought to respond in a way that does not abruptly displace the student but at the same time respects the integrity of the Catholic school’s philosophy.

Thoughts on Marriage

So I got a special little present from Cousin's Mom in the mail the other day.

As an adult, it is so fun to get little unexpected packages in the mail. Maybe that's why I order books so often.

Anyway, thanks Aunt Bev!

I called her to thank her and somehow we got into a conversation about marriage.

I've been getting into conversations about marriage a lot with people over the last year or so, what I call "The Marriage Project."

My nephew is getting married this spring, another friend of mine is thinking about getting married to her long-term boyfriend, and another friend of mine is having some doubts about her existing marriage--like, what it means to be married in general, what it means to be a heterosexual couple and not have kids, etc. (all that normal stuff), and finally, I've got marriage on my mind with the Perry v. Schwarzenneger Case that is currently going in in California (see this great New Yorker article for an overview).

I never really cared about marriage. Never wanted the ceremony for myself, never really thought about it as a civil right for gays and lesbians. I never cared one way or another. I didn't really care if my heterosexual friends got married or not, or even if my gay friends got married or not.

I did "get" the spiritual part of it, and the notion of standing up in front of all of your loved ones and announcing your intention to spend your life together. I got the idea that by doing so you were also asking for support from your friends and loved ones. I also "got" the institution of marriage and I think I get that marriage is generally good for a society in that it builds communities, makes us a bit more stable and that it probably helps kids in the long run too.

But I've always looked at it from an academic's distance, with a libertarian bent: we should all be able to chose what's best for us and for the most part, we'll all be better off if we do just that.

In that sense, gay marriage for me is not unlike polygamy (in its best sense -- not the whole marrying teenage brides shennanegans). Objectively, I'm not sure I've got anything against polygamy.

So now, in the midst of all these discussions with my friends, AND it coming upon tax season again where I usually get riled up when I realize (again) that the pesky government rules limit our choices because we are not strictly speaking *married*, I find myself thinking about the issue a lot.

So I was talking with Cousin's mom about marriage again the other day and one thing seems for certain: that marriage is really different now than it was for them. My mom (her sister) was married in 1944 when she was 19 years old. Her husband (my dad) worked three jobs at the time and she very quickly had two twin boys. They didn't have much choice, both scientifically and religiously-speaking, in terms of reproductive planning, she didn't have much choice in terms of work (there weren't many options for women in terms of education or occupation at the time, and many states had laws that forbade women from working once they were married, and finally once a woman had kids, there were few options regarding day care if she were to work, if any), and most people didn't have much money, so making ends meet was the main goal.

This is all to say that drastic changes in all of these areas have allowed us (middle and upper class Americans) to make deliberate choices in our lives and that the bottom line has changed. Now we make choices that will, hopefully, make us happier. Mom made choices in the same way, presumably, but I doubt that her goal in marrying dad, having kids, staying home with kids, earning, spending and saving money was in the context of costs and benefits around life satisfaction in the way that those decisions are in our current lives.

Let me be clear: I think that this change is unequivocally good. I'd rather not revert back to hunter-gatherer days in which my existence dependent on whether or not my tribe was successful in its hunt, and I'd rather not change lives with the 19th century pioneers who had very little leisure and spent most of their days producing the necessary goods necessary for life.

No, additional time and leisure is good. And changes in culture, society, technology and productivity that have expanded our choice set are unequivocally good.

But I'm not sure that it is easier in some senses of the word. We have become more existential in some ways. How does one even make major decisions like getting married and kids without the social dictum? How and why do we stay married without a social dictum? And what if the new dictum is: do what pleases you? What happens when marriage doesn't please? What do the role of institutions play in this world of pleasure and choice?

Monday, March 08, 2010


Happy Birthday, Ten!
I started writing this blog when you were four. FOUR. That's Big's age now.

How does an entire decade pass?

Here are some pictures from birthdays past with this year's photo to come.