It started out inconspicuously enough.
When I picked the Doodle up from daycare at the end of the day, I was greeted by choruses of “Doodle’s mommy!” “Doodle’s mommy!” Or if we ran into one of her chums in the parking lot on our way in or out of daycare, the other toddler would look at me and shout excitedly, “Doodle’s mommy!!!”
The Doodle is about 3-6 months younger than most of the kids in her class, and didn’t initially say anything at all about her peers’ parents. Cognitively, she just wasn’t there yet.
A few months ago it clicked. Adults became ordered and matched with her friends. This is the ultimate game of concentration. “Fairouz’s daddy!” “Calvin’s mommy!” “Julia’s daddy!!!”
Otto and I have a long history of working with kids from LGBTQ families, and in our experience, it didn’t really seem to matter to kids that had two moms or two dads or some other family combination until the age of 10. Around that age, kids suddenly wanted to be like everyone else and it was key for many of them at that time to have their own network of kids who also had queer parents. They wanted to have friends with families like theirs who got it. They wanted friends who didn’t just have a heterosexual mommy and daddy headed household. Developmentally, that’s totally on par with where one would expect a 10-year-old to be.
Given that this is my first time around on the toddler circus, I never really gave much thought to how a toddler, preschooler or young child would make sense of their world when it came to parents. This was an apparent oversight on my behalf, because this is pretty big in the Doodle’s mind.
At first, she would look at her chums and ask, “Mommy mama?”
Since toddler syntax is limited, you only know it’s a question based upon the upswing at the end of the sentence.
This is when the Doodle became as cognitively developed as her peers and started to want to match adults and siblings to her friends. She quickly caught on whose mommy was whose mommy. And pretty soon daddies were in the equation, too. I was kind of blown away that she seemed to grasp a family unit.
But this new worldliness was somewhat limited. She understood Mommy-Mama, and Mama-Daddy or just one Mommy or just one Daddy, but she didn’t get Daddy-Daddy. She didn’t believe that it was possible to have two men as parents. She actually guffawed in disbelief and said, “No…!!!!” when I told her it was possible.
While our daycare is racially and culturally diverse, it’s pretty heterosexual. We’re the only two mom family in our room, and friends of ours have their daughter down the hall, but we never see them. Most of our two dad friends have older kids, so we don’t really hang out with them, but we hang out with lots of two mom families.
Over a couple of community events I intentionally introduced the Doodle to two dad headed families and she seemed to get it. Yes, it is possible for someone to have a Daddy AND a Papa. Parenting lesson complete.
I thought we mastered all of the very basic family configurations for toddler. I thought we were golden. Only then the Doodle began to ask about a daddy. A daddy! And not just any daddy, where was her daddy? She’d frequently ask “Doodle daddy?” with the now popular upswing inflection and a shoulder shrug.
The best answers for toddlers is usually the simplest answer. Our stock response is that she doesn’t have a daddy, she has a mommy and a mama. Only I really think our toddler is gangbusters smart.
Now she’s asking which one of us is the daddy. It’s phrased like this, “Gus-Mommy-Daddy?” or “Otto-Mama-Daddy?” (Yes, we taught her our first names and sometimes she randomly shouts those out, but usually in a really possessive way as if to affirm that yes indeed that’s my mommy).
Today she’s pretty insistent that she has a Mommy-Daddy, which has somehow become me. And she thinks it’s hilarious. Because now if you ask her if she has a daddy, she no longer shouts, “No!!! Mommy-Mama!” She grins and says, “Gus-Mommy-Daddy,” and then giggles as she seems to innately know it’s a loaded question that’s imbued with some comedy in our household.
Let’s just say I’m not the butchier of her two moms.