Last year I bought my first iPhone. It was barely out of the box when, The Green Bean, who was thee at the time, asked if he could try it. I had never owned a smartphone before and I wasn’t convinced of my own ability to sort out the technology. But The Bean was eager and so I launched into an inelegant pre-school level tutorial on what a touch screen is.
My child stared at me as I blathered about the home button. Then he quietly took the phone from my hands and with a few deft finger strokes was happily immersed in a game of Angry Birds.
Helping our kids make sense of the world is part and parcel of the parenting gig. Sometimes the world is complicated for kids. And sometimes, as parents, we complicate it for them.
Recently the Institute for Canadian Values took the Toronto District School Board to tasks for what the ICV has dubbed their “pro-homosexual curriculum”. Critics of the program are upset because, amongst other things, “This TDSB curriculum is age inappropriate and confusing for our children.”
The curriculum, which is actually called the TDSB Equity Inclusive Curriculum, outlines lessons that expose students of all ages to diverse concepts regarding relationships, family, gender stereotypes and gender identity.
All those terms sound awfully sophisticated. The ICV ads are aggressive, transphobic and icky; however, the underlying idea that queer concepts are too advanced/complicated for children to understand is something a lot of parents (myself included) have struggled with.
More recently, The Bean asked if he could marry another boy in his class when they grow up. I paused before answering, “Yes, yes you can.”
“Good,” he declared. Apparently the girls in his class are “weird” and “gross”, so he was happy to have an alternative. I hesitated before answer, because to me legal same-sex marriage is a very recent, very significant event. But it happened before The Bean was born. Gender doesn’t restrict who my son may or may not marry some day. And yes it’s more than that, but for his four-year-old purposes it can just be an unremarkable fact of the world he lives in.
Traditional gender roles and heteronormative constructs aren’t easy realities. The inner workings of marriage are complicated. Raising children is challenging. The social expectations/restrictions associated with being a man or a woman are demanding. But the narratives are so familiar to most of us, that we can easily distill the basic ideas and teach them to our kids. Our culture abounds with youth-focused movies, books, paintings, plays, games, events and rites of passage that legitimize heterosexuality and gender norms. Strong boy chooses pretty girl and they live happily ever after. Heteronormativity in a preschool appropriate nutshell. If my son had asked about marrying a girl in class, I doubt I would have hesitated in my answer. I would have replied immediately and cooed to myself, because kids are so cute when they act straight!
When I was four we had one rotary dial phone and computers weren’t even in my consciousness. I look at my iPhone and marvel because holy shit, a technological revolution has happened in my lifetime and now I have a phone that *is* a computer! My son looks at my phone that’s a computer and shrugs because that’s all he’s ever known. My awareness of queer culture didn’t even start until my teens and my desire to be an ally came when I was well into adulthood. My son has been around gender/sexual diversity his entire life. He’s gonna avoid the gross-sity of girls and marry his friend. No big deal.
I have years to complicate my son’s life, as parents invariably do. But for the time being, I’d rather let him play Angry Birds, make wedding plans and enjoy the simple life.