I used to be terrified of this little cutie. I first met DB when she was three days old and was instantly in love. DB is the daughter of my stepsister and the first of the next generation of my blended family. I knew from the moment we met that DB and I would be pals. I love kids and, at the time, I didn’t think that I would ever have any of my own. This child was my chance to make a mark on a kids life. To be the type of adult that I wish I would have had around when I was a kid.
But, for most of her life, I’ve obsessed over the moment that I would out myself to her. DB’s mom (my sister) seems to be accepting of my gayness and, though we’ve never talked about it, I think her dad is as well. They won’t raise DB to hate people who are gay. However, I’ve wondered if my sister, accepting or not, was a little uncomfortable with how to handle my lifestyle. Hearing her call my partner my “friend” in mixed company made me wonder how these things would be explained to my niece.
I decided early on that I needed to take some control over how this information was imparted. After all, it wasn’t a secret but it was my news. The best way was to begin subtly giving her facts about my gayness while she was young. The easiest way to do that was to be in a relationship and make sure she knew it so that she could naturally put my relationship into the same box as those of my brothers and her parents. Unfortunately, I was hopelessly single while she was toddling around and absorbing the basic social structures of our family.
There didn’t seem to be any point to having an actual conversation about this with a preschooler. So, I waited, thinking that someday I would find a way to break the ice. Then came Caroline. I met my wonderful partner when DB was just about to turn four and soon she, too, was obsessed with how DB was going to take the news and whether we would offend her parents by making her aware that we are gay.
While we agonized, DB grew from toddlerhood into a little girl who had her own obsessions. She is fiercely devoted to all things princess (as befits her station) and very interested in how princesses act with princes. Shortly after I met Caroline, DB went to her second wedding, for the second of her uncles to get married in consecutive years. At the wedding, she told me that her mommy and daddy were getting married (a falsehood) and that mommies and daddies made babies. Would Uncle Matt and Aunt Julie have babies, too?
I knew that it was time to let this kid know that there were other types of families and that I was planning on having one of them. But how? When DB first met Caroline, she was too new to be introduced as Aunt Caroline and I was too nervous to do something so bold as to hold my girlfriend’s hand in front of this child. But, I still didn’t want to make a big deal of it by just explaining the situation outright.
We thought that the time had come in January 2013, when DB spent the weekend at our house for the first time. Caroline had just moved in and we spent a lot of time getting the spare room just right for DB’s first visit. That night, she asked when Caroline was going to leave and we told DB that she lived in the house with me. She said, “oh,” and went back to TV. No questions at all. Caroline and I looked at each other and then it seemed as if the moment passed. Mission failed.
We hugged once or twice in front of DB the next day and she did look at us and cock her head once but, again, no questions, no good opportunity to provide explanation. DB left to go back to her own home, three hours away, without any real progress on our part to provide a teachable moment. After that, we continued making sure that she got to say hi to Caroline during monthly calls so that she would perceive Caroline as an extension of me but made no attempt to take it any further via phone.
The next time we saw DB, Caroline and I were engaged. We didn’t have any alone time with DB and, though we did sport our shiny new rings in front of her and her mother, no one in the family actually mentioned what they meant in front of her. Again, no questions, no real attempt to discuss. We had moved past pathetic and on to depressingly embarrassed. Why was it so hard? How could this child be so intimidating? She idolizes me and yet I was afraid that she’d…what? Think I’m strange? Who cares? She wasn’t even five yet.
About a month later, I got to see DB again when we met our newest family member: my older brother’s baby, Sweet Pea. I was distracting DB with pictures from my phone so that someone else could hold the baby without interference and DB noticed a picture of a big, beautiful house with a gorgeous yard. She asked what it was and I said, “that’s where Caroline and I are getting married.”
“You’re getting married? To Caroline?” she said. When I answered yes, her next words were, “Can I come?”
Yeah. She’s pretty scary.