So, yesterday was day four of the R Family Vacations cruise, and it's been huge fun, unlike any other vacation I've ever taken. Monday, we did Disney World. Yesterday we were in Key West, where we visited the Butterfly preserve and the aquarium before hightailing it back to the air-conditioned refuge of the ship. Today we're on a private island in the Bahamas for two days before we head back to NYC and then it's back to metro-DC for our family.
One thing that's been truly amazing is seeing the variety of families. Of course, there are people here with infants and small children (probably taking their first real vacation since becoming parents. There are people here with older, teenage children. And people are incredibly friendly. I can't count the number of people who've just walked up to us and started talking with us and commiserating about parenting, and how many of them we discovered are in our area. We've even met families with opposite sex parents, gay men and lesbians who are co-parenting.
It's hard not to breath a sigh of relief upon seeing so many families like ours and seeing the variety of ways they deal with the same things we do. (I can't count how many times I've said to myself, "Wow, so my kid isn't the only one who does that," or "That's exactly what we do." It's a relief to see other LGBT families being real families instead of trying to appear to be the "perfect gay family"; whether it's kids melting down or spouses exchanging tense words during the meltdown, only to see the same family laughing and playing together, or the grandparents who've been married for 48 years, who still get irritated with each other but are still very much in love. (Campy as that old song by Charlene maybe, it gets a couple of things right about love.)
It's been a relief to see many families like ours; to know that we're not "doing it" alone. But after talking to other guests, I think I'm not the only one breathing a sigh of relief, but for different reasons.
What's particularly moving is how many people I've run into here who are vacation with their children, their children's partners, and their grandchildren; like the couple we sat next to on the way to Disney World yesterday, or the grandmother who chatted with us at breakfast this morning, and pointed our her husband, and her son's family over at their table.
And then there are the people who don't have children, and don't plant to have any. (Among the numerous social events on the cruise, some are specifically dedicated to singles, both with and without children.) One such passenger came and sat at our table, after we'd been chatting with him cross tables fora while. He was from New York, didn't have children, and says he doesn't plan on having any. I didn't get around to asking him why he'd chosen this particular cruise to go on, since there are cruises specifically for single gay men. But during the course of our conversation, he said that one of the things that he liked about being on the cruise was seeing all these children in families where they were absolutely wanted.
He's right. Not a single gay family on this cruise happened by accident, but rather as a result of great deal of thought and effort on the part of the parents. Later on, though, as I thought more about his comments, it occurred to me that perhaps there was something else. Not only are our children introduced into families where they are wanted but they're also welcome. Most of the LGBT parents I know are very accepting of who they're children are. That doesn't mean letting them do whatever they want, and not correcting their behavior, etc. But understanding that who they are is who they're supposed to be.
It's not just gay parents either. That same acceptance is seen in the extended families — the grandparents who are here with their kids, their kid's partner, and their grandchildren. And it's particularly meaningful because you know that in some cases that acceptance was hard won. It's not hard, then, to understand why even an LGBT person who doesn't have kids and doesn't want any might want to be in that kind of an atmosphere of acceptance — even if it sometimes echoes with crying babies, screaming toddlers, and rowdy teenaegers — especially if that kind of acceptance was lacking in their own lives; kind of like the feeling I get when I see the PFLAG contingent marching in a Pride parade. It does the heart good.
Tonight, there was a family event in one of the ships lounges; a pajama party for the kids on the ship, just before bedtime. We put Parker in his pajamas and went, half expecting a kind of do-it-yourself situation, where we'd have to entertain our kids. Instead, there was a great kids band playing and the kids were encouraged to dance. In fact, the whole set was "audience participation" oriented. Like most of the kids his age, when the music started, Parker took off to join in the dancing.
I can't describe it very well, but there was a moment when I looked around the room and I saw kids reveling in being kids, and parents reveling in their kids being kids. Watching Parker "cut loose" and enjoy himself, moving in whatever way the music moved him, laughing and finally joining in what was basically a conga line of kids at the end, I couldn't help smiling. and thinking "That's my kid!" It helped that every time he finished dancing to a number, he'd run over to the hubby and I. Every so often, during the song, he'd look up and see me and the hubby smiling at him, and applauding sometimes, smile back at us, and keep dancing.
I looked around the room and saw parents and grandparents having that same kind of moment, and from one I can tell, I think it did everyone's heart some good. It would probably do anyone's heart some good. How could it not? Provided, of course, that you have one.