So Ms. McAllister, Could You Say “Parent” Instead of “Mom or Dad”?

Heterosexism at your kid’s school and what you can do about it.

Don’t you get tired of heterosexism getting shoved down your child’s throat? Modern families come in all shapes and sizes, but the lingo hasn’t caught up to reality. What do you do when your child’s teacher always says “Be sure to tell your mom or dad…” when there isn’t a dad in your family? Asking your child’s teacher to use “parent” is the first step in making your child’s classroom reflect the image of today’s families in positive ways.

More unsolicited advice from a Gayby Boomer:

Develop a healthy relationship with your child’s teacher from day one—you, your child and the teacher are a team, working together to make the year a positive, educational one.

Be clear about your family structure from the beginning. Fill out school forms with relationships spelled out unapologetically; Billy has two moms, or two dads, or is being raised by foster parents/grandparents/his single mom or single dad.

Accentuate the positive when approaching the teacher; “Isn’t it great that there are so many different kinds of families at this school?” before making a specific request for altering language about families.

Make the request for all. “I would appreciate it if you would use the word parents, instead of using mom and dad, because there are kids here who don’t have a mom and dad in the household.”

If the teacher doesn’t immediately light up, as if suddenly realizing that using mom and dad doesn’t reflect the classroom community accurately, tell him or her that you would like “parent” used because it can apply to your family, to families with traditional moms and dads, and to less traditional family structures.

If the light bulb hasn’t lit, the teacher hasn’t jumped on the inclusion bandwagon and/or apologized profusely for not having thought about the issue herself, look up the non-discrimination policy at your school and ask about anti-bias curriculum at the front office to let the school community know that the issue has been raised. This may get action without saying another word.

Ask for a meeting with the teacher and principal, and while continuing to accent the positive, ask for the change in language. If unsatisfied with the answer, consider the following possibilities: volunteering in the classroom and using inclusive language while there, changing schools to a more open and welcoming environment, informing your child of your efforts to urge more inclusive language and the school’s response, while reinforcing your own positive feelings about the family structure in the home and diverse families. Only you know how important this is for your child at this time.


Sticks and stones can break bones, and words may start the action; language does matter, in terms of fighting or encouraging prejudice and solidifying or breaking down families. Asking for respectful language in your child’s classroom is reasonable. Reminding officials of the consequences of exclusionary language (damaged self-esteem, isolation, disregard or disdain for difference, encouragement of prejudice) is justified.

Note for when you’re really steamed

Resist any attack on traditional families; just ask that more than those families are stamped OK. Reminding administrators and teachers that not all kids have a mom and a dad doesn’t have to be anti-marriage—parent applies to single and divorced parents, widowed parents, foster parents, custodial parents, grandparents, godparents, same-sex parents and adoptive parents.


Blogger Bio: Beren deMotier is a Carol Brady in Levis/tattooed lesbian mama in a mini-van, obsessed with safety, doing the right thing and the amount of dog hair on her wood floors. She is a regular contributor to both Curve and Black Lamb, and has written for Hip Mama, And Baby, Pride Parenting,, and for her blog, “That Lesbian Mom Next Door.” Her multi-award-winning book, The Brides of March: Memoir of a Same-Sex Marriage, recounts her giddy leap through a legal window, straight onto the barbeque pit of public debate when she and her partner married in Oregon in 2004, their three children along for the raucous ride. (