Teaching Tolerance in a Blended Family
National Coming Out Day matters to me because several people that I love went through great pains earlier in life to come out of the closet and tell the world the truth about themselves. I’m proud of their choice to come out, impressed with who they are and thankful they are in my life.
As a parent, I’ve sought to teach tolerance to my kids, and so far that has gone well. My son understands that we are all born how we’re born, we love who we love, and it’s all good. My daughter is too young to understand any of this yet, except that she loves Kurt on Glee.
But in the past few years, we’ve been so busy tending to the (welcome) demands of becoming a blended family that I haven’t been as thoughtful about incorporating teachable moments about tolerance into our lives. Also, as Todd and I have been blending not just as romantic partners but also as parents, we’ve had a lot of things to figure out–will we attempt to raise our kids the same way? Will there be differences in what we teach our children? Are he and I on the same page about this issue in particular?
I always appreciated that my ex is totally open-minded and non-judgmental, and Todd is the same way. But when a co-worker of mine invited me and my kids to the Come Out With Pride parade last weekend, I wondered if Todd and his kids would be joining us. Here in conservative Orlando, bringing your family to a pro-gay event is a strong statement that won’t necessarily be met with enthusiasm by friends and neighbors. But we all went together, and Todd was more than just cool with it, afterward he talked to the kids about why we went, and why it was important.
As it turns out, the parade was full of kids–they were on the floats and lining the streets. By the time it was all over, our children were filthy with beads, candy and toys tossed to them by paraders, and they went home knowing they had been a part of something good. The experience was generally family-friendly, although there was a ripped fellow in a Speedo elevated on a float 10 feet above the ground, the sight of whom made Xander uncomfortable.
If you’ve ever read articles on Since My Divorce, you know what a helpful resource it is for parents after they’ve been divorced, or even leading up to it. Yesterday I was clicking around on the site reading their recent posts and I came accross this one, which spells out suggestions for parenting when you and your ex haven’t established a comfortable co-parenting relationship yet. The topic caught my attention because teaching values and establishing rules is tricky if your values and rules aren’t supported by your ex. But, as Debbie Pincus, the author of the article says,
“You are the only one in charge when your kids are with you. The key is to make rules and enforce those that support your principles.”
The rules that have come from my position on tolerance are simple: (1) Don’t use derogatory terms to describe gays. (2) Don’t speak in an unkind way to or about gays. I’m lucky in that my ex supports the same set of principles that I do with our children. He has always encouraged tolerance. But in families of divorce where such views aren’t shared, this can really be a hot button issue.
Ifyou’re divorced and your ex is teaching a different set of views with regard to tolerance and sexual orientation, how do you handle it?