A pair of dads to a boy, age 9, and a girl, age 7, have appealed to advice columnist Dear Prudence with a most upsetting problem: they think none of their son’s friends will come to his sleepover because they are gay.
“Our son really wanted to have a sleepover for his birthday with four friends,” the couple, identified as “Guarded Dads” writes, “but three of the friends have declined, despite having similar sleepovers at other friends’ houses over the last couple of months that our son has been invited to. Our son is devastated and thinks it is about him and the boys not wanting to be his friends.”
“My husband and I have a sneaking suspicion that it is one of two other reasons: parents being uncomfortable with their sons in a house with two male adults, or some underlying discomfort about their sons spending the night with a ‘gay family,'” they confess. “Where we live is not particularly progressive, so we feel these are real possibilities.”
“My husband feels like we should sit our kids down and finally have that conversation about homophobia with them, and about why maybe the parents of our son’s friends might feel uncomfortable with them sleeping over, as we are worried our son is still thinking his friends hate him,” the Guarded Dads fret. “I want to talk about homophobia with our kids, but am not sure about directly accusing the parents of homophobia. I am 80 percent sure all of this is rooted in our sexuality, but I don’t want our kids to go to school and start talking to their friends about homophobic parents, as that could blow up and lead to a feud we don’t want, especially when this is just based on our suspicions. The parents haven’t seemed to have a problem with us before.”
“I feel if we just have a conservation about homophobia in general, and not lead our son directly down the path of talking about his friends’ parents, we will get there on our own,” they continue. “My husband wants us to be direct, because in his viewpoint, this is just the first time and will most likely happen again.”
“How candid should we be with our kids about this?” the dads conclude.
Prudence, as always, replies with her candid advice.
“It’s worth running this by a family therapist,” Prudence cautions, “but I think kids their age could probably handle something like, ‘A long time ago, lots of people didn’t understand that kids could have two dads and didn’t like it when two men or two women were in love. Many people get it now, but there are still some who are behind and don’t want to be around families like ours. We really don’t know what your friends’ parents were thinking about the birthday party because we can’t read their minds, but we think this might be it. It could also be that they were busy. The most important thing to remember is that you’re great kids, people like you, and none of what happened with the birthday party is your fault. You don’t have to do anything different. Is there anything you want to ask?'”
“Keep in mind that kids of color and kids with disabilities have already learned the sad truth about the world and how others see them (and treat them unfairly) at this age,” Prudence continues, “so your children won’t be the only ones having to grapple with something tough. Perhaps you could back up your talk with some good children’s books that reaffirm the way you want them to feel in a world where they will inevitably find out about homophobia.”
“It would also be nice if you could be intentional in trying to cultivate—maybe through out-of-school activities or LGBTQ groups that you join—a friend circle with confirmed non-backward parents, so there will be some contexts in which you and your kids won’t have to wonder whether people are treating you differently,” she also advises.
Sounds good to us. Despite a good deal of stigma around same-sex parenting, recent studies have shown same-sex parents tend to be more attentive than their straight counterparts, and their children grow up better adjusted and healthier as well.