As I was putting my 6 year old son to bed recently, he suddenly and apropos of nothing whatsoever asked me whether marriages had to be between a man and a woman.
Now there's a question.
I believe strongly in teaching my children the values of tolerance and diversity, so I told him the truth. Usually marriages are between a man and a woman, but sometimes two women or two men want to get married. Unfortunately, our government doesn't allow them to.
"Why mommy?" (Here is where I begin to fumble a bit.)
"Because the religious (establishment) don't believe in it, and they want to keep the government from making laws they don't agree with." (You can see where this is going, right? Here is also where I add that Israel doesn't have the same separation of church and state that the US does, and religious coercion in your daily life is a much more immediate issue, and obviously a personal hot button for me.)
"Why do they think it's not okay mommy?"
"Do you remember Itai when we talked about the fact that religious people have a lot of rules that they follow and our family doesn't? Like they're not allowed to ride bikes or go to the beach or even *gasp* watch videos on Saturdays? (My subversiveness is astounding in its subtlety.) Well, this is another one of those things where different people have to decide for themselves what they believe. In our family we believe that people can decide for themselves which rules to follow and who to love. But yes, when most people get married it is a man and a woman."
This parenting thing is not for the faint of heart. On the one hand, I do strongly support the right of a consenting adult to love (or even just have sex with) any other consenting adult he or she so chooses, and I do want to raise my children to be accepting of others regardless of their sexual orientation (or race, creed or anything else for that matter). On the other hand, he is the product of a loving heterosexual household and is surrounded in his daily life by other loving heterosexual households, and there is no reason for him not to see this as the "norm". Another minor but not completely insignificant issue is sadly the problems it could create for him if he suddenly went into school spouting off about same-sex marriages in my somewhat provincial and not all that liberal town. Nor do I want to him to think badly of the religious for their rejection of this. (Bringing religion into this of my own volition was probably not my best tactic I admit, but I was caught off guard.) Rather, I want to raise my children to think, to question, to choose. Not to blindly follow, and even less to blindly hate or reject. I will love my child the same no matter what path he follows in life. I want him to know that and never doubt it, and I want him to learn to extend that same tolerance toward those he meets along the way.
I think this conversation might have been easier a few years from now. At six everything is still very black and white. Which is right? Which is wrong? There are not yet shades of gray.
I really wish I remembered where I put that damn parenting manual...