Yesterday was a historic day as the Supreme Court of the United States declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and ruled to allow same-sex couples to resume marrying in the State of California. I was sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee when the news came out and I cried - tears of joy and relief - and then I told my kids and explained the decisions to the best of my ability.
We spent the day at the pool. The kids did flips off the diving board and rode the tube slides and I listened to a book while staring at the sky and watching as the clouds rearranged themselves in a kaleidoscope around the sun.
Later that evening, as I sat on the sidelines of Miguel's soccer game, several parents came up to me and said some version of, "How 'bout that Supreme Court today?" and I could not hide my smile, not just because of what the rulings mean for our family but because I felt seen and validated in a way that is all too rare. This was important and these parents with whom we spend so much time knew that even though we have never once talked about our family or marriage or anything political at all.
Had Luisa been with us rather than in South Africa for work, the day would have been perfect. As it was - it was damn close.
Or so I thought.
This morning, as I had my coffee, I perused Miguel's Instagram account as I do every day (sometimes multiple times per day) and saw that he'd posted a screencap of a comment on a photo that said, "You'll probably grow up to be a fag because you don't have a real family and are being raised by gays playing house and pretending they have a real relationship."
I am so fierce in my belief that people are good that such hateful statements always catch me by surprise. They shouldn't yet they do every single time.
When Miguel woke up, I asked him to sit with me on the couch and I said, "Tell me about the screencap you posted on Instagram."
It started with the picture accompanying this post. He "liked" it and then looked at the comments below it and the first one he saw used the word "fags" repeatedly. Many more hateful comments followed and my tender-hearted son with his strong sense of justice felt that he needed to respond and he left a comment saying, "I have two moms and I'm proud of my family." People responded to him and said hateful things about his family and he responded in kind, calling them, among other things, "little brained bullies". Then, one of the commenters made the comment about him and his family that he had captured and posted.
I was devastated.
I was sad that a beautiful day and picture had been tainted by hate, that my son had seen it and responded disrespectfully.
I reminded him of previous discussions we've had about engaging with hateful people and he said he knew he shouldn't do it but couldn't "stand by and do nothing". I explained once again that you can't argue with people filled with that kind of hate, that you will never change their minds.
And then came the hardest part - I told him I was disappointed in him for posting comments that were disrespectful and then doled out consequences for his behavior.
It broke me because his heart was in the right place and those commenters were "little brained bullies" and he is just a kid.
But, I want more for him.
I want him to be able to stand up for his beliefs without insulting others, to know when to walk away from a fight, to treat people the way we should all be treated - with respect.
He put his arms around me and said, "I really love you, mom" and I asked him one last question, "Do you think you are better than them?" He quirked an eyebrow and I could tell he was wondering if this was a trick question. He hesitated and said, "Yes." I said, "I do too. You are smart and open-minded and kind and compassionate. You are better...and you have to act like it." I told him that I understand how hard it is and that I love him and then we just sat together without the need for any more words.
I know this is a lesson we'll have to revisit and I'll preach respect again and again because I also know that he'll get it and, when he does, he'll be unstoppable.
*Posted with permission from Miguel