A Teaching Moment


Is it our responsibility to teach other kids that it’s perfectly normal to have two moms?

What a difference a year makes! Last winter was freezing, snow-filled and consistently grey. This winter, not so much. But because of last winter, my wife and I decided that a mid-winter vacation was in order. She did the research and found us a nice, relaxing spot in Aruba. We happily packed our suitcases and jetted off to the sun-soaked island with our daughter in tow.

We didn’t do much while we were there. We basically spent every day on the beach or by the pool. There were other families staying at the same hotel with young children, so Maggie got to socialize and play with other kids while we chatted poolside with other parents.

One afternoon, Maggie started playing with a girl who was a couple of years older than her. I had just relieved my wife from play duty so she could go work out. I think the little girl was five or six. She was very inquisitive, and at one point she noticed that Maggie had two moms. As soon as I entered the pool, the girl looked at me and asked, “Who are you?”

Maggie, of course, answered for me. “That’s my Mama,” she said. The little girl was perplexed. “No, that’s your mom,” she said, pointing to Melissa as she walked away from the pool. I gently explained to the little girl that Maggie had been blessed with two moms instead of one, to which she replied, “Why?”

That’s where I stopped myself. I think it’s okay for me to explain why Maggie has two moms to children of friends of ours, because there’s an established respect and understanding there. But to a complete stranger’s child? That’s not my responsibility. I don’t know what their family values are and I wasn’t about to overstep any boundaries. So, I gave the same lame answer most parents give when they don’t want to take the time to explain something that may be a tad bit complicated to explain—“Because.”

I cringed as soon as I said it. Then I looked up, a mere three feet away, to where the little girl’s mother was sunbathing and staring at her phone. She was within earshot but it was obvious she hadn’t heard the conversation. I watched her for a moment, wishing she had. And then the moment passed.

The little girl moved on to something else more exciting, as kids tend to do. She and Maggie began pouring pool water out of plastic cups, pretending they were making soup. I swam over to them and pretended to taste it. The little girl played with Maggie for another half hour or so before her mother ushered her off for lunch.

I felt as if a teaching moment had been wasted. Only, strangely enough, I felt as if I had been the one who wasted it.