Marriage is an abstract concept that, frankly, most young children don’t fully understand. For them, it’s usually good enough to know that when grown-ups love each other very much and want to be a family together, they get often get married. There’s no need to discuss the tax implications or workplace benefits or hospital visitation rights with a three-year-old. But is it necessary to limit the concept to the traditional one-man-one-woman definition just because you’re talking to a three-year-old? Even if you, personally, are okay with the idea of same-sex marriage? Even if you live in a country where same-sex marriage is legal? Lisa van de Geyn, writing in Today’s Parent, seems to think so, because talking about same-sex marriage is hard.
When the subject of marriage came up between her and her three-year-old daughter — after Mrs. van de Geyn suggested that the cartoon character Handy Manny ought to marry his friend Kelly — she laid down the law on same-sex marriage: “Girls don’t marry other girls. Girls marry boys and boys marry girls.”
She goes on to say that it’s not a religious or political matter for her, or even her own personal beliefs, but instead that the “conversation totally came out of left field” and she simply wasn’t ready for it. Now, I’m not going to fault her for panicking and saying the wrong thing when she was put on the line by her kid — the girl asked if Handy Manny and Mr. Lopart should get married — even though she did bring up the topic. She could, very easily, revisit the subject, letting her daughter know that she made a mistake and that boys can indeed marry boys. Instead, it’s what she said at the end of her article that I want to call her out on.
Mrs. van de Geyn ends her piece by saying that “I don’t regret telling her that boys marry girls and girls marry boys. I don’t feel it’s a topic appropriate for her age.” Why isn’t same-sex marriage a suitable topic for a three-year-old? I can understand not wanting to discuss, for example, the use of bondage for sexual gratification or the meaning of the word santorum, but same-sex marriage is a problem? Seriously?
What Mrs. van de Geyn is really saying is that boy-girl marriage is okay but boy-boy or girl-girl marriage is icky-poo-poo. And that’s not an okay message for parents to tell their kids.
There have been far too many suicides and murders because of this precise point of view to let it continue for another generation. There are far too many wonderful people being treated like second-class citizens to let this go. There are too many loving couples who can’t legally say “I do” because of people who feel this way. You don’t get to perpetuate bigotry simply because talking to your kids makes you uncomfortable. If you have kids, you have to deal with the difficult stuff along with the cute stuff. You can’t weasel out of it at someone else’s expense.
In her article, Mrs. van de Geyn asks “what would you have told your kid?” and my answer is what I have already told my three-year-old — that marriage is when people love each other very much and want to become a family, they may choose to get married. That way, they know what’s important about marriage — love. There are no judgments, no limitations, no prerequisites, other than love. What matters is what’s inside. That’s a lesson it seems some adults need to learn as well.