Thursday, September 21, 2006

Well, it was our son's third day at preschool, and I'm already stirring up trouble.
I would have done it on the second day, but I needed to confer with the wife, to make sure she thought I should jump in and stir up the pot.
I asked our son's teacher to use the word "parent" instead of "mom or dad".
It isn't really that I'm a politically-correct, anti-family, revisionist out to change the world, though, um, I don't really mind the idea of being culturally sensitive and some revisiting of history seems justified. Anti-family could never be said about me though, since family is my number one focus.
Family is why I asked Teacher Sam, a wonderful human being and quite willing to change her vocab if she can help it, to use "parent" in lieu of "mom" or "dad" when addressing the group. And not just for the sake of our family, where we have two moms (though our youngest is going through a phase where he stretches gender and calls my spouse "a mom and a dad", though I only get to have one role), or for the other two-mom family at the preschool, who are new to the whole school community thing, though as lesbian moms I'm sure they've thought all this out thoroughly.
"Parent" works because it addresses not just biology, but role. "Parent" can mean mom, dad, grandparent, step-parent, foster-parent, co-parent, single parent, or any adult who is taking a parenting role. It doesn't diminish the importance of any parenting category, it just makes it clear that there are many ways to have a parent, and all are included in the community. The kid who is raised by grandparents notices when the kids are asked to "Wait for mom or dad" and wonders if his family is OK because mom and dad aren't around. When he hears it constantly, he might begin to think his family is not OK.
Words can really matter. Fotunately, we're old hats at this stuff; we've been encouraging the use of "parent" for years, and use it ourselves. You can be a biological mom or dad and disappear forever and still be mom or dad to society (though not to me), but you have to do something to be a parent. It is a moniker of honor, a role to savor, and one we earn with hard work and strong hearts.
As I said, our son's preschool teacher is glad to make the change when she can remember, and even made an effort to refer to me as "Ber-Ber" (which is what our kids call me) instead of Mom (so our son wouldn't have to correct her) and refrained from calling him Mr. (which he hates). It's going to be a fun year.

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