Just yesterday, the wonderful actress Julianne Moore came over to shoot a short video supporting our Moms Clean Air Force campaign to stop air pollution. (Go, Moms! I was thrilled. More on this later. But this post is about something else entirely.)
I caught up with Julianne’s three books about the adorable Freckleface Strawberry, a girl who sorts out her feelings about herself and her friends, for young readers. Freckleface is based on Julianne’s childhood memories–and the books are really about how children develop moral compasses.
Julianne’s new book is Freckleface Strawberry: Best Friends Forever. One of Freckleface’s friends has two moms. He feels “different” from other kids in many ways, as of course, he is. Aren’t we all?
I have friends, a married couple, who have just had twins. These two moms could not be more thrilled–and more exhausted. As you can imagine. They live far from me, in a state I don’t visit often. I only recently caught up with them.
I was stunned to hear stories about the kinds of things they have to deal with now–what they confront when they go out for walks with the babies in the stroller. Relative strangers–people who live nearby but who are not at all friends–feel they have the right to stop them and ask all sorts of inappropriate questions. One is particularly aggressive.
“So, who’s the father?”
“Where’d you get the sperm?”
“Do you have any genetic relationship with these children?” was another question, first for one mom, then the other.
“What is your relationship to these babies?”
Even the young nanny–who is incredulous, and aghast, at this treatment–gets stopped and pumped for information, behind the moms’ backs.
“Where’d they get the sperm?”
“Who’s the real mom?”
“Have you met the real father?”
“Is there a real father?”
In the interest of saving everyone a little time–and because I’m not around to roar off these prying busybodies–let me answer these questions. My friends are too flabbergasted to think straight.
None of your business.
Mind your boundaries, please.
The babies have two real moms. People who will raise them, adore them, love them, nurture them, teach them, and cherish them. People who would lay down their lives for them. People who will do whatever it takes to keep them safe and sound.
In my book, that goes way beyond genetics. Prying questions about other people’s children and where they come from–or, for the hetero couples in your life–what time they made love and conceived, whether their child looks like the husband or the lover–are way out of bounds.
A story in today’s New York Times explored strangers’ questions about children of interracial couples. “People confront you, and it’s not once in a while, it’s all the time,” one New Jersey mom, Heather Greenwood, said. “Each time is like a little paper cut, and you might think, ‘Well, that’s not a big deal.’ But imagine a lifetime of that. It hurts.”
Let’s all show a little respect for people’s privacy, please. Keep the gawking private, if gawk you must. And bear in mind that what might be idle chatter for you and your friends can be wounding, confusing, upsetting, and violating for others, who are heading out on a journey in which they feel….different. And as Freckleface learns about her best friend with two moms, “it didn’t matter how different they were because they were a LOT alike too!”
Photo credit used by permission: Dominique Browning