We are at one of the “it” parks in South Orange County. A place where anyone who is anyone playdates. (Yes, that’s a verb.) A place where the South Orange County Mommy Mafia arrives in True Religion jeans carrying Coach purses, Starbucks and sippy cups. It’s not my normal scene. But, my boys dig the park; so we went with no clique, no mommy entourage, no nanny in tow, no organic snacks. We are rebels.
The park is hopping. It’s one of the first sunny days we’ve seen in weeks, with temperatures in the 70s. We’re doing our thing. C.J. climbs to the top of the highest play structure. It looks like a castle with slide off-shoots, firefighter-style poles to slide down and staircases galore.
“Maaaaa-meeeeeeeeee,” he yells from the highest perch. (I sometimes still forget that “Mommy” is my official title.) “Maaaaaa-meeeeeeeee” he yells even louder.
Everyone is looking and judging in my direction as I, unknowingly, continue my inner dialogue about the size of my thighs, jeggings and if it’s okay to shop at Forever 21 after the age of 31.
C.J.’s Brother comes over to me. “MOM! C.J. is calling you!” he says with little patience and big attitude. I look up at C.J. and wave, when, in his loudest outside voice, he screams in declaration: “I’m a princess! The most beautiful princess in all the land. I’m Rapuznel letting my hair down.” He proceeds to let his imaginary yards of tendrils down the side of the tower.
Gasps and giggles galore come from the South Orange County Mommy Mafia and their little maniacs.
“Yes you are baby!” I shout back in support. Seriously, what was I supposed to do? What was I supposed to say? Who cares if my son is the most beautiful princess in all the land?
C.J.’s Brother does. He cares. He wants to leave immediately. I give him the standard “five more minutes” and he sulks on the bench for all of them. We get in the car and he is upset. “I’m sorry,” I say.
It’s quiet as we drive home and I realize that C.J.’s slightly effeminate, possibly gay, totally fabulous qualities affect C.J. the least of anybody at this point. They affect us – his Mom , Dad and Brother – the most, because we have been on this earth long enough to learn what judgment and insult look, feel and sound like.
C.J.’s Brother wouldn’t talk to me about it, but he would talk to C.J.’s Dad. “The kids tease me because my brother likes girl stuff. They ask me every day if he is still into girl stuff and when I tell them yes they run away from me and tease me on the playground,” he says fighting back tears.
“Why don’t you just tell them no, that he’s not into girls stuff anymore?” C.J.’s Dad says. “Because that would be lying and you told me never to lie,” he says. Tough-as-hell parenting moment #5,763.
We decided to tell C.J.’s Brother that it’s okay to give someone a not-totally-truthful answer when it really is none of their business and in the name of self-protection. “Celebrities do it all the time,” I interject. C.J.’s Dad looks at me like I am a lunatic. I’m used to it.
One thing I learned in PFLAG (which I started to attend years after my brother came out) is that when a person comes out of the closet, so must his or her loved ones, in their own time. C.J. – at this point – is living an “out” life. He’s living his life exactly as he wants to live it, with no secrets, no hiding, no care for the social norms. But, sometimes his unabashed way of life makes his brother feel embarrassed, uncomfortable, even angry, at inopportune times and at less than ideal locations.
I’ve always worried about C.J. getting bullied for his slightly effeminate, possibly gay, totally fabulous ways; now I worry about C.J.’s Brother getting bullied because of them too. Yet another worry that this mom didn’t anticipate.
C.J.’s Brother had a new friend over to play this weekend. One hour before the coolest kid in the second grade was to arrive, we were running around discreetly hiding all of C.J.’s girl toys to save C.J.’s brother from possible embarrassment and ridicule. While we protect C.J.’s brother are we teaching C.J. to hide his true self? Is this an opportunity to teach someone else’s child about celebrating uniqueness in others? Is that my place?
The lesson we have learned from C.J.? Sometimes we don’t owe anybody answers, sometimes we don’t have answers, and sometimes, we lie like celebrities.