Friday, October 15, 2010

“How ‘bout a kiss, buddy?”

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When I picked Jaxson up from school yesterday, I asked how he did that day. I always ask and then I hold my breath and hope for the best.

“Great. He was a little squirrelly for a while. Anytime we change something up he gets tense. Oh, there is something…”

Then his teacher walked over and told me Jax was chasing boys around the playground and when he caught them, he kissed them. “Yeah, we may want to figure out a way to get him to stop doing that.”

I had to laugh. Social story, perhaps? I love social stories. The teacher prints up these one page ‘stories’ that involve pictures and symbols to explain a teaching moment to the child that might not otherwise understand the lesson if given verbally without visual cues.

I know where the behavior comes from. Jax loves Popeye. We have DirecTV and he records episodes and watches them over and over. Popeye says it to Olive Oyl all the time and Jax has taken to saying it. Sometimes he grabs my face and says, “How ‘bout a kiss, buddy?” and then lays one on me. I think it’s cute. If chasing boys and kissing them is the worst faux pas he commits at school, I’m fine with that.

His father wasn’t as charmed as I after I relayed the story to him. Bread Winner said to Jaxson, “Don’t kiss boys, kiss girls.”

“Don’t tell him that!” I chastised. “He’s not supposed to be kissing ANYBODY. Kids pass around germs! Plus it’s not socially appropriate to be kissing his peers in a school setting. He needs to respect personal space.”

Bread Winner leaned in again and whispered to Jax, who was wriggling in his arms because he was being tickled. “Only kiss girls.”

I groaned. “You know, sometimes you’re not very smart. I could care less if he’s kissing boys or girls.” Bread Winner gave me an upward eyebrow and I silently said my standard prayer for at least one homosexual child.

You gasp?

Well the thing is, in his young life, my elder son, Jake, has done, said and asked more than a few questions that leave his not-yet-burgeoning-sexual-preferences up in the air. I want to make sure I’m open to all options so he knows that he, too, can be open to all options.

When he was five Jake asked me, “Mom, can a man and a man get married?”

I’d been cleaning up the back porch while he played on his swing set and I stopped sweeping, resting my chin on the end of the broom handle.

“Well, yes they can.” Because I knew he wasn’t asking if two men could go down to the county courthouse and obtain a marriage license or civil ceremony certificate, or move to Canada and marry without the Jesus freaks stoning them on the way in. He wanted to know if two men could live together, love together, and have a family. So I believe I gave the appropriate response.

“Is that weird?” he asked, sitting in the swing, using a toe to dig in the dirt.

“No, nothing’s weird if you don’t think it is, honey.”

“But is it normal?”

“What’s normal?” I asked, wondering how he defined the word.

“Mom! You know what normal means!” He’d become irritated, because Jake only likes to deal in facts. Black or white, right or wrong, his mind left no room for the possibility of fluidity in any circumstance. Yes or no answers should be given whenever possible, and as far as he was concerned, the world would be a much easier place to navigate if everyone conformed to that notion.

I can’t even remember now how I’d defined normal. With Jake, there were always these discussions that left me feeling anxious and slightly nauseous. Not because of the content, but because I was always afraid I might say something that would come back to bite me or him in the ass later in life. I wanted him to make his own choices; about sexuality, about politics, about religion, about people in general.

But his most recent questioning on the topic, at age twelve, now led me to believe that I couldn’t win for losing.

“Mom, can I read your book when it gets published?”

We were en route to school, and damn if I didn’t already have to deal with a hot topic.

“No, honey. It’s for adults.”

“What’s it about?”

“It’s about a young boy who leaves home when he’s seventeen and lives in New York for twenty years before he returns home.” The book in question was Far From Happy, a novel I’d recently signed a contract for publication on. My first published work.

The protagonist was a male hustler.

“Is it like your Macy movie? With the boys kissing?”

Yes, in fact. Macy’s Wait was a short film my mother and I had recently completed, and apparently he’d seen me editing the video, though this was the first time he’d mentioned it.

“Well, sort of. The boy is gay. Remember when I told you what gay means?”

“Yeah, that’s gross Mom.”

I had exactly nine minutes before I dropped him off in front of his middle school and I used every second of it explaining the facets of the word tolerance and how I didn’t actually like the word, because it presumed that there was something that needed to be tolerated about another individual and I preferred to believe that we are all equal and beautiful because of our differences and no matter who someone is, or what they believe, love was never wrong and it was nobody’s place to judge someone else for who they loved.

As we pulled into the parking lot, I finished with this, “Now, you understand that some men love men, and some men love women, and some women love men, and some women love women, right? And any of those combinations is perfectly acceptable. It’s okay that you would rather kiss a girl, but—”

“—eeeew, Mom! That’s even more gross!” he hissed as he opened the car door, grabbed his backpack and looked around to make sure none of his classmates had heard the end of the conversation.

When the car door slammed and I pulled around the circle, I was shaking my head; no closer to an answer about my own child’s sexual preferences. It seemed, at the moment, kissing anyone was gross.

And that was just fine with me.

At any rate, a gal can dream. In my version of future paradise, Jake will be the eccentric, homosexual Dog Groomer to the Stars, and take me with him on his international travels.

Jax—because he’s just recently become verbal—traipses around in my dreams, multi-lingually. He not only speaks perfect English, but goes on to master Spanish, French and whatever they speak in Yemen, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

Yes, my dreams include one kid escorting me to Broadway shows when I’m seventy, and the other, my personal translator while I experience a bit of long overdue globetrotting. I’m not saying they have to do these things, just that it would be a nice repayment for my maternal efforts.

But, as someone very smart once told me, hope in one hand and crap in the other—see which one fills up first.

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