The start of a new school year leads to events like curriculum night, PTO fundraisers at local restaurants and the highly-anticipated fall festival. These gatherings serve as opportunities to interface with those responsible for teaching your children, as well as the parents and caregivers of their classmates. When my twins started preschool two years ago, I was more anxious than excited. I lost sleep wondering how our two-mom family would be received by the school community. Were we the only LGBT+ family in the school? How would non-traditional families be represented or recognized in the classroom? I shared these feelings with a friend who conceived her now teenage daughter through fertility treatment as a single woman. She successfully navigated elementary school, middle school and high school as a non-traditional family, so I was curious how she approached the issue. She offered me three pieces of advice that I took to heart:
1. Put Yourself Out There As soon as I received the contact information for the boys’ teachers, I reached out to introduce myself and our family. This included what the boys call me (Mommy) and what they call my wife (Momma).
I also offered to buy The Family Book by Todd Parr for each classroom, which describes and celebrates all kinds of families. I was pleased to learn both teachers were familiar with the book, and planned on including it as part of their classroom reading.
2. Get Involved Beyond the classroom, I discovered the school was working to create more inclusive opportunities for students and families at the first PTO meeting I attended. One way they did this was by rethinking events that single out genders, swapping the Father-Daughter Dance for Family Date Night, for example. By doing so, students could invite their parent(s), guardians or other adults in their lives who want to spend time and support them. 3. Answer Questions The twins were very curious about the family dynamics of their new friends, which were different than theirs. I answered their questions, as we want to have an open dialogue about our family and how it came to be.
I have a feeling that similar conversations were happening in their classmates homes, although instead of “Why don’t I have a dad like Lily?” it was more like “Why don’t I have two moms like Mo and Eli?” Some parents have shared tidbits of these conversations with me, which put a smile on my face. I've also received questions from parents about how our family came to be. I get the curiosity, because I'm also inquisitive. We aren't a traditional family, so when people are interested in how our family came to be, I'm an open book. The twins started pre-k last month, and in all of the back-to-school paperwork, the district had listed two moms on the pre-filled emergency contact forms. This may not seem like a big deal to most, but for a non-traditional families (or maybe just me), it made me stop and pull out my phone to snap a photo. The gestures I've experienced after two years of preschool and our first month of pre-k underscore the welcoming and inclusive environment I’ve experienced at our elementary school. I'm grateful to have a found an educational environment that has fully welcomed our non-traditional family into its community.