Thursday November 17, 2016
Most parents will agree the moment that little bundle is delivered into your life, your priorities change; you are compelled to protect your children to the ends of the earth. My wife and I share a nagging sense of uncertainty over our family set up. Will the fact that we are same sex parents lead to our kids having a hard time at school? Will that be the one weakness that the bullies pick up on and use as an instrument of torture over our girls?
There’s no way to predict this. Who knows where our girls will end up in the social pecking order. Right now, one is leaning towards the ‘Geek Group’ (her words, not mine) and the other is Little Miss Sporty without a care in the world for anything much other than football and chips. We can’t plan what ‘Geek’ and ‘Sporty’ will morph into over time and whether they will be impacted by bullying, but my wife and I can plan as best we can, to arm our children with a fierce sense of pride in their ‘different’ family.
Hurdles have presented themselves along the way: when the new childminder just didn’t ‘get it’ and asked where my wife lives. When she finally understood, she grew embarrassed and spent an agonising number of minutes expressing how much she really loves ‘those kinds of people’. (She didn’t turn up for her second shift)… The builder who accidentally texted me instead of his contractor to ask for an order of ‘lesbian kitchen tiles’... and it goes on.
As adults, you can shrug this off and get on with it, sweeping it swiftly under the carpet before the children notice your discomfort. All the while we proudly walk hand-in-hand together with our kids; we look people in the eye and challenge them to double take, or blush, or squirm if they dare.
We can’t see how that public image manifests itself when we leave the kids in the school playground and it often leaves us worried. This week, anti-bullying week, our kids’ Primary school is ready to bring in Diversity Role Models, and our Facilitator Amie and Role Model Pritpal joined my girls’ classes today.
Both my wife and I have been role models ourselves for DRM workshops, and without fail, there’s an overwhelming sense of positivity. DRM drives and delivers a change in thinking for most of the students. That sense of progress is backed up by the kids’ reactions themselves throughout the workshops.
Now today, I asked my children to be secret agents, to challenge their peers on what they really thought of the workshop. Their response was overwhelming. Pure love and respect on every level. “Don’t feel sad if someone bullies you because inside your happiness is huge”, and “You don’t have to treat someone differently just because they are in a different relationship.” My daughters’ peers said they were willing to support and celebrate the different family that my kids are so proud of.
I’m absolutely convinced in the positive change that Diversity Role Models’ workshops delivers to students. It’s refreshing to be able to feel that optimism from both sides of the coin, as a parent and as the Chair of DRM.
With that same need to protect my children as I’ve had since they were born, I can only hope that the sense of pride and of camaraderie endures with those students throughout primary and secondary school. I can only hold my breath and hope that the negativity and vitriol lurking in the shadows, brought to the fore by recent political change and powerful media influence, somehow dissipates as my children grow, to allow them to continue to be proud children of same sex parents.