The Girl with Two Mommies
What to do when the new neighbor's mother is a lesbian.
Early one Saturday morning the doorbell rang. “Last night we moved in across the street,” the girl on my doorstep said. “And I’ve heard you have a daughter my age. Can she come out to play?” My eleven-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son played with the new neighbor all morning, building a fort and planning a club.
Then my two came bursting back in, looking bewildered and upset. The seven-year-old had learned a new word: “Her mother is a lesbian!” he announced.
At this all my kids began talking at once, including the nine-year-old, who had missed the whole interesting episode and now was torn between sharing his recently acquired knowledge of the birds and the bees, and obscuring said information for the sake of his younger brother.
“Lesbians are like a cat trying to marry a bird,” he said, then immediately began arguing with himself. “Except a cat and a bird are totally different, and lesbians are the same. So maybe they’re more like an oak tree trying to marry an oak tree.”
His brother’s eyes glazed over. Their sister, frustrated, began to spell out, explicitly, the problem, which provoked the older boy into covering the younger boy’s ears, which resulted, inevitably, in a wrestling match.
Desperately I called a halt to the racket and, giving each child a turn, pieced together what had happened. The conversation seems to have gone something like this:
Neighbor girl: “Do you think being a lesbian is okay?”
My daughter: “No.”
My son: “What’s a lesbian?”
Neighbor girl: “You know, like, gay.”
“Oh, you know. Like two men getting married, or two women getting married.”
My son’s eyes were big as he repeated this to me. “I told her she had to be confused,” he said. “Isn’t she confused?”
The new girl had waved off his protest. “I’m not confused,” she said. “Sometimes women marry women.”
“But babies have to have a mommy and a daddy —”
“Well, duh. I have a Dad. He just doesn’t live with us anymore. That happens sometimes, okay? It just happens. Women marry women. Or they would, if the government would let them. And” — turning back to my daughter — “you don’t think that’s okay?”
My daughter, calmly: “No.”
“Because the Bible says it’s not.”
“No, it doesn’t.”
“Yes, it really does. Would you like me to show you?”
Neighbor girl: “No. It doesn’t matter, because God probably doesn’t even exist. Or even if he does, there’s no such thing as heaven and hell, and anyway religion bores me. Don’t you think it’s boring?”
“Whatever. But here’s the thing: I know some lesbians. I know them really well. Really, really, really well.”
“I bet I can guess,” said my seven-year-old, relieved that the conversation was moving away from her anti-religious sentiments.
Neighbor girl: “It’s not me! It is so not me. Gross! Not me, not ever.”
My son nodded in the direction of the house across the street, where two women were shifting around furniture and boxes in the garage. “I was going to guess your mom,” he said.
“That’s right,” the girl said despondently. “She’s a lesbian. But I am not a lesbian. No way. But listen — don’t tell your Mom until tonight, okay?”
“Because then she won’t be able to go yell at my Mom until tomorrow, so we can be friends for the rest of today.”
My kids looked at each other. Here, finally, was a topic my son completely understood.
“Um, listen,” he said to the new girl. “I don’t know much about lesbians, but I know my mother. She is not going to go yell at your mother.”
“But she won’t let us be friends.”
“Why not? The girl who used to live in your house — her parents were divorced, and divorce isn’t a good thing, either, but we were friends with her anyway. And my mother was friends with her mother.”
“It isn’t the same thing. Everybody gets divorced — I mean, like duh, my parents are divorced. It’s not a big deal. But nobody likes lesbians.” We live, mind you, in the left-leaning, religion-shunning Pacific Northwest.
Then the girl began to cry. “Goodbye,” she said. “Nice knowing you. Have a good life.” That’s when my children came home.
“Of course you can be friends,” I said. “But tell her you’ll have to agree to disagree about her mother. Now, would you like to make brownies and take them over as a welcome-to-the-neighborhood gift?”
Quaint, They Thought
So we delivered brownies and I met the two women. They were pleasant, although they looked over my skirt, lipstick, and wedding ring with faintly ironic expressions on their faces. “Quaint,” I practically heard them thinking. I resisted commenting on the bumper sticker on the car in their driveway, which reads, “Narrow-minded people suck.”
That was several months ago, and other than waving at them when we happen to be getting our mail at the same time, I haven’t had much contact with them — they both work and have long commutes. But we’ve seen quite of bit of the girl. We’re usually home, and her own house is usually empty when she comes home from school.
She tends to be a bit sullen and mistrustful when it comes to the other neighborhood kids, avoiding in particular a certain boy who, when her puppy slipped his leash to frolic with another dog, called the animals “queer.”
Sometimes she talks my daughter into walking down the street to ask if another girl their age wants to come out and play; every time this happens I wince, knowing the “popular girl” will never agree to play with anyone outside her stratospheric circle. And she never does. My daughter shrugs off the refusals, taking each excuse at face value. “There are plenty of other kids to play with,” she tells the new girl, who nevertheless is sure her mother’s lesbianism is to blame for this and other deficiencies — perceived or otherwise — in her social life.
She obtained a cell phone and tries to get my younger son to talk to her friend—“who likes you because I told her you were cute.”
“I’m seven,” he said.
“You’re never too young to have a girlfriend,” she replied. “I mean, do you want people to think you’re gay?”
They Can’t Forget
My husband, in his Bible studies with the kids, has been focusing on people who decided to make an exception for themselves in obeying certain rules, either because they didn’t understand why God made such a rule, or simply because his law conflicted with their desires. He has not focused on homosexuality in particular; we’d just as soon our kids forget it exists for now.
They can’t, of course. Our older son said at supper one night, uneasily, “I like Aaron. I really, really like Aaron. . . .” Aaron is three years older and has a pellet gun. Of course he likes Aaron. But now he’s worried about it — at nine years old, he’s confused about what it means, about what people might think.
We tried to reassure him, mostly by shrugging it off. “Boys like to hang out with boys,” my husband said. “It’s fine.” It was with relief that we saw him, a few days later, do as he has always done and take his brother’s hand as they ran across the field to the playground.
So some of his innocence has been preserved, though a good bit of it has gone for good. I grieve for that, and I grieve for the girl, who is so unhappy and confused. So I do the only thing I know to do. I ask God to guide my children’s thoughts and attitudes. I ask him to guide the girl’s life. He is strong enough to work a miracle there, though it may be a slow miracle, one I may never see.
I have, however, been allowed to see something. Recently a new family moved in down the street, and the girl with the lesbian mom suggested that my children go with her to meet them.
“You never know,” she said hopefully. “They might be Christians, too.”
This is adapted from the original article, “Distant Neighbors,” which appeared in the April 2007 issue of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity.