Trying to explain what gay means to my 4 year-old and finding out I have no idea what to say.

No-Hate1Now that she’s almost 4, the hummingbird is asking questions that can be harder to answer than I thought, as she doesn’t really understand.

I’m clueless as to how to talk to her about religion, being gay, my side of the looney family tree, and every other freaking thing I thought I would figure out how to explain when it eventually came along but having no idea after all.

She absolutely LOVES the song Call Me Maybe and requests to watch the video on you tube. Sidenote: She’s also requesting Adele… I finally have a parenting win!! Screw you, Elmo!

If you haven’t seen already, at the end of the video for Call Me Maybe, the guy ends up giving his number to another guy in the video. The hummingbird asked why. I said because that boy likes other boys.

She didn’t understand so I said that boy doesn’t like girls, but boys, because he’s gay. I didn’t even think I would be opening up a whole other can of worms when I used the word gay.

I gave her the most simple answer I could think of. When you’re gay, boys like other boys and girls like other girls.

Like Madison?, she answered.

Me: No, Madison is your friend from preschool and while you’re best friends, you like her in a different way.

Hummingbird…. ???

Me: Ummmm…. uhhhh… look, a squirrel!

Hummingbird…. They’re friends?

Me…. Yes, they’re friends but that also means they like the same sex… digging myself fucking deeper.

Hummingbird: Why does he like the other boy?

Me… When boys like other boys and girls like other girls, that means they are gay. It’s not a bad thing and you can choose whoever you want to love… when you’re 40 and I finally let you move out of the house and date.

Hummingbird: Gives me the “what the fuck, mommy?!” look.

Me:…. When boys like boys… (yes, that’s the ONLY thing I could think of and kept on repeating that, thinking it would help her to understand. Guess what? It didn’t… big fucking surprise).

Hummingbird: …..??

Me: Because he was born that way….

Baby, I was born this way.

Ooh, there ain’t no other way.

Baby, I was born this way.

I’m on the right track, baby.

I was born this way.

Okay, maybe I only said that first part.

Anyway, I remember I asked my mom what gay meant when I was about 10 and we were watching Queen play live on the television. I kind of understood it but didn’t really. That makes total sense, right?

I know I was naive but in the parenting guide book that I have in my mind,  I wasn’t even thinking or expecting to answer these kind of questions for a little while.

I don’t want to fuck it up.

I’ve always planned on teaching the hummingbird to have an open mind but I skipped the whole part on how to actually teach her that.

I’m at a loss at how to explain what it means to be gay to my soon to be 4 year-old.

Should I get out the sock puppets? Those are usually my solution for practically everything. Bad day, sore throat, an underwear wedgie, dismemberment? Sock puppets to the rescue!!

Okay, sock puppets aren’t always the answer. Yes, yes they are.

Have you had “the talk” yet?  Have any suggestions on how I can make it understandable to someone so young? 

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6 Responses to Trying to explain what gay means to my 4 year-old and finding out I have no idea what to say.

  1. Parker March 17, 2013 at 23:16 #

    The best way that I’ve seen it handled, is breaking it down into something kids already understand. They don’t understand ‘liking’ quite yet, but marriage is all over the place. “Some boys want to marry boys when they grow up, some girls want to marry girls.”

    I know a lot of states don’t support it, but that’s not something she’s likely to come across at four either. She knows mommies marry daddies.. so it’s not too alien to suggest that some daddies just want to marry other daddies.

    Best of luck with it, and it’s so wonderful that you want to be able to answer her questions no matter what age they come up at! <3

  2. Angie March 18, 2013 at 03:06 #

    I think what Parker said may be the best way for right now. My daughter hasn’t asked about that yet so I have not dealt with it.
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  3. Luna March 18, 2013 at 09:53 #

    Heh. Be grateful. When my daughter was 5 she asked me what “transsexual” meant. So then we talked about gay and trans and all those things. I think I did okay. For gay, we went with the marriage thing Parker mentioned. “You know how Mom and Dad love each other and are married?” “Yeah” “Well, sometimes people would rather marry someone who is the same as them. Men sometimes want to marry other men. And women sometimes want to marry other women.” “Oh. That’s all?” “Yes, baby, that’s all.” “Well that’s dumb.” “What’s dumb?” “I heard Caroline telling Michael that he was gay and Michael cried. Why’d he cry?” “Because some people think gay is bad.” “Why?” “I don’t know! If you figure it out, tell me!”

    For trans, I said, sometimes people feel like they should be a boy when their body is a girl’s. And sometimes it’s the other way. The feel like they should be a girl, but their body is a boy’s.” She looked at me like I was the dumbest person ever and said, “Girl’s mind, boy’s body. Got it. So… like my friend Kristin.” “Uh… Maybe? I don’t know.” “Moooooooooom. She wears boys underwear and says she’s going to make them give her a penis when she’s 18.” “Uh. Oh. Okay. So maybe yes, like Kristin.”

    LOL. I remember that conversation vividly.

  4. Emily March 18, 2013 at 12:01 #

    I’d say we’re all on the same page- she will understand that there is a difference between how she likes her friends and how people love each other when they get married (she may not understand what the difference is, just that there is one). We had it a little easier, because my son has friends who have 2 moms, so it was never something odd to him.

    For all of the questions we never realize are coming as soon as they did come (like when my then 6 yo got an ear-full from a classmate whose mom had a “surprise” bun in the oven and he wanted details on how that happens), I highly recommend the “It’s So Amazing” series (http://www.amazon.com/Its-So-Amazing-Families-Library/dp/0763613215). I only found them when my son was almost 7, so we got It’s So Amazing (for 7-10 year olds) and later got “It’s Perfectly Normal” (10 and up, for changing bodies, etc). There is also one called “It’s NOT the Stork” for smaller folk (4-8). I have loaned ISA to a ton of folk and they all really liked it (most went and bought their own copies to keep). My son liked the books and I found that he would get as much info as he wanted at the moment and would say “That’s enough” if it started to be TMI.

    Good luck!

  5. Joy@BundlesOfJoy March 18, 2013 at 14:46 #

    I have a 3 yr old and a 4 yr old. My policy is simplicity. They’re not looking for complex explanations, they can’t really grasp the complexity of the issue. I answer their questions, but with very short but honest answers. I don’t offer more than they ask, I wait to see what exactly they want to know.

    We live in a part of the city with lots of two-mommy families. Our upstairs neighbor is a single mom of 2 by choice (thanks to the miracle of science.) My girls ask where the daddies are. We just simply say that some families are like ours, with a mommy and a daddy, some have just mommies, some have just daddies, and some might just have aunts or grandmas. When they go to public school, I suspect they’ll encounter all sorts of family constellations and have even more questions. They’ve said on occasion, “That’s so sad that he doesn’t have a daddy!” While I personally do think it’s sad, I choose to point out, “I don’t think he’s sad about it. He has a mom, a grandma, and an aunt who all love him very much. I think he’s a lucky kid.”

    We’re in the position of having religious beliefs that are quite conservative, and know that this will bring many questions in the future. My plan is to continue answering their questions simply and honestly, trying not to place judgement on people who make different choices than we do. The girls have demonstrated themselves to be quite perceptive, so I have no doubt they’ll start asking big questions before too long. My plan is to just continue not offering more than they ask for, ask what they think things mean, take it from there, and help them place the most gentle and kind constructions on everything they encounter.

    Politics? I’m not going there for a very long time!!!

    Good luck muddling through these conversations. I think they’re way more complicated for us than they are for children.

  6. Fran March 21, 2013 at 17:58 #

    GOOD NEWS! She will forget about it now and figure it out from her friends/tv. She was only curious about It for like five seconds…no need for sock puppets… Please spare the sock puppets….:)

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