Thursday, November 13, 2008

Love in all its many forms

Eliana has entered a new phase in her artwork. Whereas before she was more abstract, her drawings now tend to reflect what is going with her today. Let's take a look at a recent piece:





Cute, yes? Now let's zoom in for a closer look:




If you look at the center of the photo, you'll see a little person with a line extending from her lips to another person, and a heart next to him. Yes, I said him. His name is Tommy.
I first heard of Tommy on the way from school a few weeks back. Eliana told me she had made up a song for a boy in her after-school program. It went something like this: Tommy cutie, Tommy funny, Tommy sweetie, I love Tommy. This may have been wishful thinking, but I assumed Tommy was another 5-year-old whom she was chasing in the playground, or something equally innocent and innocuous like that. So I asked her:

"Eliana, how old is Tommy?"
"Umm....I don't know."
"Is he in kindergarten?
"No. I don't know how old he is, but he's definitely not in kindergarten."

Well that had me a bit more curious, so I made a mental note to ask her to point him out next time I picked her up. Her after school teacher, Ms. Jodie, beat me to it. A couple days after the Tommy song, Ms. Jodie asked to speak with me before I gathered my child and headed out for the day. She told me that Eliana tends to follow Tommy around most days, and he tolerates it very well and is very nice to her. That particular day, however, Tommy wanted to play with friends his own age. Meaning boys who are 10 years old. Yup, Tommy's in 4th grade. An older man, if you will. Anyway, Eliana was apparently beside herself, wailing and sobbing about how she loved Tommy and he didn't love her back.

Sometimes, as a parent, you experience things you didn't really prepare yourself for. This was one of those times.

I stared back at Ms. Jodie with what I'm sure was a blank look on my face, totally unsure what the appropriate parental response was supposed to be. Ms. Jodie said that she thought it was fine, she just wanted me to know. Ok.

The next day, Ms. Jodie once again pulled me aside, this time telling me that Eliana crawled into her lap with a big smile on her face and announced that she had given Tommy a big ol' kiss. Apparently, she was pleased as punch about it.

Sometimes, as a parent, you experience things you didn't really prepare yourself for. This was one of those times.

I stared back at Ms. Jodie with what I'm sure was a blank look on my face, totally unsure what the appropriate parental response was supposed to be, and feeling a little inadequate that I was now 2 for 2 in that area. Ms. Jodie went on to explain what seemed to me to be a very complicated conversation she had with Eliana about how Eliana had to get our permission to kiss Tommy, and Tommy needed to make sure his parents were OK with it, and then Eliana had to ask Tommy if it was OK, and then I guess it was fine?

Paul handled it thusly:

"Eliana, at school there is a rule that you can't be kissing boys. So no kissing boys at school, OK?"

As far as I know, she has not made any further advances on Tommy. She did, however, tell us the other day that she kissed one of her girlfriends on the mouth, because the other girl asked her to.

Again, not ready. Just so not ready! If I thought this was her way of imitating behavior, if she was talking about having boyfriends but clearly didn't know what that meant, if emotionally she seemed to be feeling no differently toward boys than anyone else, I wouldn't care. But you can see it in her eyes when she talks about boys (she also loves a boy in her class named Anthony, or as she apparently refers to him, Sweetie Pie): she has feelings for them! She's only five!!! I was supposed to have at least 4 more years of opposite gender aversion!! Better yet, I was still holding out hope that she would prefer girls, which hasn't been ruled out given her kiss-on-the-mouth experience with that other girl, but you could tell it was different. She didn't dig this girl the way she digs Tommy Boy. I can't even believe I'm writing this. What on earth am I in for?!

Complete topic change

Speaking of preferring girls, I want to take a moment and get what may be perceived as a bit political. It breaks my heart that California's gay marriage ban passed. When there are so many horrible things happening in the world - rape, abuse, starvation, preventable diseases, unimaginable poverty - why do we expend so many of our financial and emotional resources fighting love? Millions of dollars go into these campaigns to ban gay marriage. Think of how many microloans could be made with that money that could transform third world communities by providing women with the start-up funding they need for their own business. And instead, we're spending it to say that marriage needs to be between a man and a women. Why? Because that's the way it's supposed to be because that's the way it has always been. Which is the most nonsensical reason I've ever heard. What if those in power had successfully used that rationale to prevent women from voting, or to prevent black Americans from having equal rights under the law? What if we used that rationale to justify slavery? After all, the Bible talks about slaves, and slavery in some form has existed throughout the history of civilization. Doesn't that mean it should always exist? So has spousal abuse. So has prostitution. We talk about the sanctity of marriage, so then why not ban divorce if we're so concerned about it? Oh, right, then it might affect us, the majority, and that's not the point at all.

If Jim and John who live next door to you get married, express their desire to be committed to each other until death do they part, how exactly does that affect you? How exactly does it affect anyone?

I get so sad when I think of the thousands, perhaps millions, of couples who have once again had to hear that their love for each other is not valid because it is directed at the wrong gender. It's love, people. Please think through whatever gut-level aversion you may have to the idea of a man with a man, or a woman with a woman, and remember that they are people in love. How would you feel if that were you? Go ahead and believe that it's wrong. Go ahead and attend a church that agrees with you. I don't care, quite honestly, and you have the right to believe whatever you want to. But why the need to turn that into a law?