I have a ten-year-old daughter who has a hard time answering her friends when they ask the question, “Do your moms sleep in the same bed?”
She is choosing to fib and say that one of us sleeps on the couch. Most of the parents of our daughter’s friends know about our two-mom house, however many of those parents have not talked to their own children about it. What’s the best approach?
Find out from your daughter why she feels she cannot be open with her friends. Have you told her explicitly that it is alright for her to tell them? If you have not told her that directly, she might think her fib is helping to protect her family.
Try role-playing with your daughter, with her pretending to be the inquisitive friend or friends’ parents. This will give you insight into the your daughter’s perception of the risks involved. It will also give you (role-playing as your daughter) the opportunity to suggest responses for her. She might not really know what words are okay to use in reference to her parents, or she might worry that saying yes to the same-bed question is disclosing sexual behavior. Point out to her that her friends with a mom and dad don’t have to hide that their parents sleep in the same bed.
Parents of her friends would also benefit from some guidance about what to say and how to say it. Tell them that they would be helping (rather than meddling) if they spoke with their children about your family. Remind them that conversations about same-sex parents do not require in depth explanations about sexual behavior. Give them an example of the exact words they could use to start the conversation, like “You noticed when you were over at Ella’s house that she has two mothers…”
You say that “most” of the parents of your daughter’s friends know. Do you expect your ten-year-old to keep track of which parents do know, and which don’t? Probably not, but she might think she is supposed to. Relieve her of that responsibility by telling all of the parents of her friends she plays with outside of school hours. If a child is close enough to your daughter to be at your home, presumably you have spoken with the parents. Tell the parents that your daughter is from a two-mom house and that they shouldn’t be taken off guard if their children ask questions. Also tell the parents that you do not expect your daughter to cover up her family, and if questions arise when her friends are over, you and your partner will answer them in age-appropriate ways.
Each time you have this conversation with another parent you are risking a prickly response and possibly rejection. But if these are the parents of children playing with your daughter, wouldn’t you rather know where they stand from the very beginning?