In all things human, education

Or, education happens in the darnedest places.

A seven year old sidles up next to me on the N train to Astoria. I’ve got my laptop flipped open, working on an article for EME 6414, my Web 2.0 course. He sits quietly for awhile and watches.

“You type fast,” he observes.

I look over at him. He’s got freckles everywhere, and big, earnest blue eyes.

“I took a course,” I say. “I learned how to do it.” That’s me, always one to beat the drum of education into young minds.

“Oh,” he says. “So.” He looks at my article again. “You disagree with your dad?”

He’s been reading over my shoulder.

I pause. I wonder briefly if his guardian is going to mind this conversation. “Yes.”

He considers this. “You fight with your dad?”

I think for a moment. “Well, my dad and I think different things politically,” I say slowly. “It’s not really fighting, we just have different opinions.”

“Your Dad doesn’t like gay marriage?”

“No.” I smile, “He doesn’t.”

“But you do?”

“Yes. I do.”

He sighs and tilts his head. “…Do you think it’s okay to be gay?”

I glance over towards his guardian, who turns out to be a matronly looking woman sitting three seats down from me. She is listening to us, but doesn’t seem to mind where the conversation is going.

“Yes,” I say, “I think it’s okay to be gay.”

“Even girl and girl?” He sounds pensive.


“I hear that there’s girl and girl, but I’ve only seen boy and boy stuff.”

“Yes, there’s girl and girl, too. There’s a whole world out there.”

“But you think it’s okay.”

“Yes, I do.” I feel I should explain a bit more, “I have lots of friends who are gay.”

He frowns. He needs specifics, “Girl and girl, or boy and boy.”

“Both,” I say.

He looks impressed by this. “But your Dad doesn’t like gay people?”

“Well,” I consider this, “my dad doesn’t believe in gay marriage. But he likes gay people. We even have gay family members. But he doesn’t think that gay marriage should be legal.”

“It’s not legal?”

“Being gay is legal,” I clarify, “but until recently, being married wasn’t. Until recently, gay people could only get married some states, but not in others. But now the supreme court decided it was okay for everyone to get married, in all states. Which gives gay people legal rights that they didn’t have before.”

“Like what?”

“Like taking care of someone in the hospital, or taking care of their kids.”

“Oh, right!” He says. “Kids. So,” his nose wrinkles in consternation, “Can you have two dads?”

“Yep. Two dads.”

He looks out into the train car. “I’d like to have two moms,” he says decisively.  “But, wait!” he suddenly looks puzzled again, “How can two boys have a kid?”

I wonder again about that guardian. “Wellllll,” I say, “then you might need to get some help.”

“Oh,” he brightens, “like adopting.”

“Yes,” I say with a tinge of relief, “like adopting.” I didn’t want to get into a conversation about surrogacy and sperm donation. I glance up at his guardian. She has a small smile and shakes her head slightly as if to say, ‘Kids? what can you do.’

I decide that I love this seven year old.

“So,” I say to him, “What do you think?”

He looks up at me and considers. “I think it’s okay,” he says finally. And nods definitively.

And then I have to get off the train. It’s my stop.


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Showing 3 comments
  • Michelle

    He was awesome. And you were awesome.

  • Lee-ann

    I love this! How beautiful to be able to see through the eyes of a seven year old just by considering our words for that seven year old. Bravo and what a lucky boy to have been sat next to somebody as kind and patient as you. Too often, the questions of children are avoided because the grown-ups can’t decide how best to explain. Simplicity wins, eh?

  • Rachel

    Right? Yes, he was so inspiring! And bravo to his guardian for letting him ask away and have the conversation.

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