Recently our family participated in our fourth annual Orlando Come Out With Pride parade and celebration. Our entire family, including my almost-five-year-old son. To us, this is an exciting and much anticipated family event that we look forward to every year. We wear rainbows, and catch beads, and give hugs and blow kisses to all of the beautiful people walking in the parade and chant "LOVE IS LOVE" at the top of our lungs for hours on end. It's fantastic. In past years my son was definitely more interested in playing in the grassy lawn with the other little kids, but this year he was engaged, asking a lot of questions, dancing, finding shoulders to sit on, giving high fives to Drag Queens and waving a rainbow flag up and down the streets with a smile and light in his eyes. It's that light that inspires me to write this for you.
Children have an innate sense of happiness and love. So it is our choice to show him that ALL types of love and those expressions of love are natural and normal. We want the kind of child who isn't afraid to be a caring person with compassion who can act on his feelings. Whoever he becomes is totally fine with us. We cannot dictate the person our son will grow up to be in this world, but we can offer him unconditional love and support. We can dictate the environment he grows up in and show him love through actions and not just words. That is who we have chosen to be as parents. We do have lengthy discussions about whatever questions he has. This year he asked his father why everyone was smiling and so happy and his father explained that they were all very joyful about celebrating LOVE. Our boy immediately said with, "I LOVE this!" You could visibly see how excited he was to share in that feeling of joy. It is in those moments that we, as his parents, brush our shoulders off a bit and high five one another, because thats a sign we are doing something right. Parenting win!
We don't look at it as "exposing" him to anything. I don't find that complimentary at all. In fact, this is an insult beyond measure. To imply that we "expose" makes it sounds as if we are putting him into danger, or forcing him to be around something negative. We simply choose to let our son be part of our lives. We introduce him to our friends and colleagues who are positive influences in our own lives. We try to make new friends all the time, and in turn give him a wide social network of people. The expression "it takes a village" is very true. I want my son be given the opportunity to know many different kinds of people and for him to make connections to those people based on how he feels. I want to raise a son who is around strong men with character and manners, social conscious, ethics, and honor. I want my son to see strong women who have drive and passion, who are to be seen as equal to him and to be respected. I want my son to use the language of love and not to play into the social "norms" and callous disregard for others. This isn't who we want our children to be. We want them to hold on to their natural sense of warmth toward people.
I also want my son to see that families come in all forms. I want him to be proud of his family, albeit not the "norm" of the "typical" family we are a strong unit and parent him with the same morals and ethics as any other...just from two households. He had the opportunity at Pride to see families of all kinds and to support families of all kinds. He loves to play with all of the kids that show up and trust me, Orlando Pride is all about kids and families. Every year we see the same kiddos and B loves making new friends, he talks to grown ups and just like any other little boy if hand him a flag and he will wave that thing with all of his might. We are fortunate enough to have some very cool hosts every year that really enjoy seeing our son's presence at Pride. Just like we ask that acceptance from our community, we return that encouragement and support.
Pride to us is about so much more than rainbows and glitter and parades. Its about having the opportunity to allow our son to be a citizen of the world that he, and his generation of children, will mold and shape and change and better through their own life experiences and the compassion that they have cultivated by learning inclusivity and appreciation for all types of people. We need that more than ever these days.