My six-year-old son’s best friend is an amazing girl called Pascal. They have been solid buddies for almost three years now. They don’t attend the same school, but have regular play dates and sleepovers, where they play outside in the dirt with items pilfered from my kitchen concocting ‘ant stew’ (which doesn’t actually involve any ants), make indoor tents out of sheets strung over dining chairs, and put on puppet shows using old fridge boxes as the stage. They have tennis lessons together on a Friday, joyfully running to meet each other at the courts and racing around in circles like a pair of excited puppies.
Their beautiful, innocent meeting of hearts and minds has given rise to a broader friendship at the family level, which has been cemented through trips to the theatre, lunches and dinners out, birthday parties, and camping trips. The camping trips have been a real revelation, as anyone who’s ever slept on an air mattress for three nights whilst not showering for three days whilst managing diminishing ice in the esky would know – if you can camp happily with another family, you’ll be friends for life.
Pascal is the sort of child that parents dream of their kid becoming friends with. She is whip-smart, loyal, kind, insightful, happy, well-mannered and incredibly aware of the world around her. She is naturally-gifted at sport, and likes art and cooking and flower-arranging. The last time she visited our house, she made a pink collar out of paper for one of our dogs, and told my son that although she no longer sleeps with a stuffed toy, it was ‘pretty cool’ that he still does. She has the most beautiful blonde curls, and a smile that lights up her whole face, and usually the whole room. She may only be seven years old, but the love and care she shows for my son is something truly special, and he feels the same way about her. When they are due to see each other, he will count down the hours, alive with anticipation at the thought of being with someone he adores. Hugh, and Dave and I as his parents, have been blessed by this friendship. We hope that they will be in each other’s lives for a very long time.
It’s largely because of this friendship that I felt absolutely white-hot with rage when I read this article in our local paper. As I read the story of this hateful, small-minded group and what they stand for, my skin started to prickle and I could feel the blood start to pump in my temples. You see the one thing about Pascal that I didn’t feel relevant in my description of her, is that her parents are a same-sex couple. It’s not relevant because it doesn’t change anything about her. It certainly doesn’t make her less smart or less caring or less capable or less blonde. The only thing I think that having same-sex parents does change, is perhaps make her more likely to be the target of bigotry and ignorance from people who claim to be Christians but whose actions are the very antithesis of the central tenets of Christianity. And the thought of that simultaneously makes me furious and breaks my heart.
The slogan of this nasty little group is ‘Think of the child’. Well I am sitting here, thinking of the child. Actually, I’m thinking of several children. I’m thinking of Pascal, and how blessed she is to have two smart, capable, caring and wonderful parents who love her and cherish her, and who are dedicating their lives to raising her (and her gorgeous little brother) to be the absolute best people they can be. I am thinking of Hugh, and how much he loves his friend, how proud he is of her and how much he has benefited from being involved with another family, just like ours, where love and happiness abound.
And most of all, I am thinking about the children of people like David van Gend and the other members of the Australian Marriage Forum, and how they are growing up in the shadow of bigotry, ignorance and fear. I’m wondering who’s thinking about those children, the ones who are clearly the most at risk.