Ah, kids. They say the funniest things.
The other day, we got a small group of them (ages 1-7) together for a reading of ‘Mummy and Mumma Get Married’. After the reading, I sat down to try and ‘talk’ to the kids about the issues the book raises.
I set out to guide the conversation expertly around the topic of ‘You-Know-Who’, the shadowy figure of disapproval in the book.
“Who is You-Know-Who, do you think?”, I ask. “Don’t know”, shrugs one little girl. “But you can’t have any of the ice-cream cake, because there is only enough for my tummy”, she warns me in the next breath.
I change tack, asking them to tell me about the other characters in the book who are getting married. One girl reads out a few of them: “Pam and Colin from up the road, Miss Singh now Mrs Johnson, Adam and Steve from Ireland”. WAIT, what “Two Daddies Can’t Have a Baby!”, exclaims another little girl, immediately dismissing the topic of marriage and moving right along to the biological imperatives.
“Yes, they can”, I reassure the group, “Just like me and Mumma had our baby”. “Yes, but you are ladies.” “That’s true, that’s true”, I mutter, buying time. “But they can do it with help,” I declare, “and it’s good to help other people”, I finish off with a flourish, pleased with myself for seamlessly inserting a positive moral message.
But the group has lost interest, until “How does an elephant do a poo in the back garden?”, shrieks one of the little girls on viewing the page where the elephant is attending the wedding in the garden. “Um, I don’t know. It’s a bit small for an elephant’s poo” I concede, not really wanting to get into the logistics of elephants and poo.
We are on the final page of the book when one little girl pipes up “Why do all the characters on the page each have a bit of rainbow on them?” she asks. I’m dumbfounded. How do I explain sexual politics, identity politics and queer politics to a five year old?”
This is what I came up with: “Well, you see, when two mummies or two daddies get together they want other people who have two daddies or two mummies to recognise them so that they can all understand each other and be friends”. I look up desperately to the other parents for assistance, but they just smile down at me with pity in their eyes. And I feel like such a failure.