Lights up on a 5-year-old boy in the backseat. His mother is driving. They are stopped at an intersection in their small town. 10:25am
“Why are all those people standing there with signs, saying things?”
His questions, though many and often complex, don’t usually render me speechless. But, sitting there at the red light with the window down, hearing the murmur of a repeated Hail Mary and seeing the one stoic-looking woman on the fray, holding her “I Support Planned Parenthood” sign, asking my own complex questions, I had no answer for him.
“I’ll tell you in a minute,” I said, buying a few minutes. This is a five-year-old who knows that a baby grows in a uterus and that Hitler killed a whole bunch of Jews. For better or worse, I don’t tend to mince words when he asks me questions. I give him bits at a time – only as much as he asks – but I don’t put him off and I don’t use euphemisms or half-truths.
“So, why did they hold those signs there?” he asked as we round the corner toward the next stoplight.
“Well, that’s a place where they provide medical care to women and some people don’t think that they should provide the kind of care they are providing.” I knew this wouldn’t sate him for long.
“I don’t know what you mean, Mama.”
“Well, that is a place that gives medical care — ”
“What is medical care?”
Maybe he just needed vocabulary clarification. Maybe he wasn’t going to actually make me explain abortion.
“It’s like a doctor’s office.”
“What kind of doctor’s office? Why would someone not want a woman to go to the doctor’s office?”
Ah, no such luck.
“Well, this is a place that helps women make choices about their bodies. They help them figure out how to get pregnant if they want to and how to not get pregnant if they don’t want to. And they help women not be pregnant anymore if they are pregnant and don’t want to be.”
“Why would someone not want to be pregnant?”
“Well, sometimes people make a mistake or they don’t think it’s the right time to have a baby. And this place helps them not be pregnant anymore. When I was pregnant with you, I wanted to be pregnant. It was not a mistake and Mommy and I felt like we were ready to raise a baby. But sometimes women get pregnant and they don’t want to be. And they don’t feel ready. So, they go to a place like this.”
“So, why don’t those people want you to go there?”
“Well, they think that women should not have the right to choose what they do with their bodies if they are pregnant. They are mad at the doctors who help these women make the choices. The sign the man was holding said, ‘Pro-Life’, which is what people call themselves when they think women should not get to make that choice. The opposite is ‘Pro-choice’ when you think women should be able to choose.”
“Oh,” he said. “I’m pro-choice.”
“Me too,” I said.
“It’s a good thing I am a boy, though, and I don’t need to worry about making a choice. Because boys don’t get pregnant.”
(In re-telling this story last night, a friend reminded me that this might be a good time to remind him that he does need to worry about getting someone else pregnant, but the conversation took a different turn.)
“Well, right. Most boys don’t get pregnant.”
“What do you mean?”
And thus a conversation ensued about transgendered people. And how some people’s body parts don’t match what they feel like and so even though a person might have a penis, she might feel like a girl. And even though a person might have a uterus, he might feel like a boy. And that boy might, when he is a man, decide to be pregnant or even get pregnant by mistake. And so, in that case, there could be a man who is pregnant. I told him then that he will come across people who tell him men can’t be pregnant.
“And you can tell them,” I offered, “that they can be. You can tell them what you know or believe.”
“Or,” he countered, “I can just let it be.”
“Right,” I said. “Or you can just let it be.”
“Hey! I know a song ‘Let it Be’! When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be!”
“Yep. That’s a Beatles song. You have that song on your bedtime mix. Do you know what it means? He is saying when you’re worried, God comes and talks to him and speaks words of wisdom and says, ‘Hey dude. Just chill. The answer will come.”
“Words of wisdom means words that are smart.”
“Do I know any other Beatles songs?”
“You do. You know ‘Octopus’ Garden’, ‘Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da’, ‘Hey Jude’, ‘Yellow Submarine’, ‘Beautiful Boy’, and probably a few others. The Beatles are a really great and well-known band. Most people know the Beatles and lots of people love them.”
“Do they still play on the radio?”
“Their music does, but the band isn’t together anymore. Most of them are dead now, actually. But their music is timeless. That means that people have loved it for a long time and people will continue to love it for a long time.”
“I think all music is timeless. That’s what music is. It’s timeless. We will always love it.”
Aaaaaaand scene. 10:35am.