Corin, my 12 year old son, often hovers over my shoulder while I’m writing or scrolling through my news feed. He’s pretty familiar with the whole marriage equality debate, could explain what transgender means and knows how to start a political party. He also loves Minecraft and Percy Jackson and electronic gizmos that you control remotely with an iPad.
Recently, he appeared in my office while I was working on a document about teasing and bullying and same-sex families. I’ve spoken to lots of people about this subject – all parents, of course – and it suddenly dawned on me that Corin would likely have his own unique perspective. After we’d chatted for a while, I asked if I could interview him for my blog. Ah! I’ll be famous, he said, with great excitement.
Well, maybe a very tiny bit, I said.
This is the conversation that followed.
Can you describe your family for me?
I have two sisters, both younger, and two mums, Jacqui and Sarah. My parents are very kind and I think this blog is a great opportunity to stand up for what’s right.
And your school?
My school is very multicultural; we have lots of people from all over the world. There are very nice teachers; they are kind and if you need help you can ask. If you are hurt they have an excellent sick bay. If you have any medical issues you can tell the office and they can make special arrangements.
Have you ever been teased at school?
Yes. In Grade 4 I had really long hair and people said I looked like a girl. Lots of people called me Rapunzel and I just said: Look at the people who go surfing! and that shut them up.
What about other kids, do they get teased?
People do get teased at school. I mean, we don’t have a lot of racism which is good or sexism. It’s mainly about…well, we have lots of footy fans and people say: Oh my God, you’re so dumb because you barrack for Collingwood.
But what about having two mums?
One person tried to tease me. I just looked at them straight in the eyes without smiling and said: If you have nothing better to do than tease me about having two mums, that is just sad, that is really sad, and they just walked off. I made them see sense because, honestly, kids won’t really get teased about having two mums – it’s about football, soccer, competitive stuff.
What do other kids think?
Well my friends think it’s great because they like my mums. All my friends think you are both helpful, really kind and they’re fine with it. People in my class, when they found out, nobody went: That’s weird. They all said: Oh, hmm, good. Nobody has teased me. Some of them didn’t even care and I’d rather that. Like, I was happy that some people actually thought it was pretty cool, but I don’t really care.
What advice would you give to other kids?
I would suggest to other kids not to tease anybody because they will tease you back. Tell this to your kids, trust me, it will help them. If it turns out that these kids tease people when you’re not there, don’t become friends with them.
I would try to make good friends. Don’t become friends with someone just because you like the same footy team as them, become friends because you actually really like them.
You don’t have to share the same interests. Like Jack – he is my best friend – he loves baseball, but I don’t. But I’ve been to watch his team and I’m really supportive of him. I think you should do what you love. So I’m friends with him because even though we don’t share the same interests, we acknowledge that and we learn about each other’s interests.
If you are being teased at school always tell your parents. This is how I dealt with it: if it goes on for a day, tell your parents, but tell them not to tell the teacher. If it goes on for a week, tell your parents to tell the teacher. If it goes on longer than that, keep telling your teacher every time it happens. If it still goes on then it can become bullying and that will get the Principal involved so hopefully you can stop it before then.
I’ve had opportunities like that, because someone got teased so much it eventually went to the principal. It wasn’t because of gay mums and dads, it was something else, but I’m not going to say. I swore not to tell because it makes the person feel really uncomfortable and they probably don’t want it to be public.
And what advice would you have for parents?
Don’t get too involved with the child. I know some kids – and I’m not mentioning any names here – their parents have too much to do with their kid’s life and it’s just really not good because they are too protective. I honestly think that’s a really bad thing because if the parents are too protective, the child gets no opportunity to explore. If they get no opportunity to explore, their lives are not going to be amazing like other kids who do get to explore. And kids need that little freedom; it’s really handy for them and it will help them develop social skills.
I would also say to the parents: Try to talk to the teacher. That always helps. My parents did that just to make sure there was no teasing going on. If your child comes home looking really sad or looking like something has happened, ask them what’s wrong. It can really help. My parents ask me if I come home looking sad and I tell them if something bad has happened.
Does it come up in any other context at school, the having two mums thing?
I’m going to explain about That’s so gay. This is very handy for parents. At school kids probably will experience a lot of this. They say: Oh my God, that’s so gay! and most times people don’t know what it means. In Prep it never happened, but in Grade 3 I heard it and it’s just stupid. They use it to mean bad and that can really hurt someone’s feelings.
It’s hard. There were kids saying it at school so I challenged them and said: Do you even know what it means? And they said: Of course we do, we’re not idiots. It’s two people who love each other of the same sex. And I’m like: Yes, so why are you using it in that context? You say ‘That’s so gay’, but not in the right context and that’s pretty offensive. Actually, no, that is really offensive. It is offensive to every gay mum and dad out there. Saying ‘That’s so gay’, is like teasing all gay people. It’s super offensive.
How did that play out?
I ran off and I told my teacher, Jacki; she’s a really nice person – she helps me whenever I’m stuck. She dealt with them and said thank you for telling her and that I did the right thing standing up for my parents.
And last year I had a severe case of That’s so gay. I took a week of it and then told my teacher, Clare, because it was really hurting my feelings and I spent a whole lunch time crying. It can make people…you can really hurt someone’s feelings. I honestly think everyone should respect everyone else’s family.
What did Clare do?
She spoke to the kids at circle time and she said it was like saying: Oh my God, that’s so Greek and I thought that was a great example.
Anything else you would like to add?
Yes, this is for the kids. If someone asks you about how you were born – if you don’t have a dad – just say: I’m not telling you. That’s private. If they ask for the details, say: I’m not revealing the details. Your parents will tell you when you are old enough to understand. I only tell my closest friends and I trust them because I know they will not go around saying: Oh my God, blah blah blah. I tell them how I was born, but I don’t really want to reveal that because it’s private; it’s my secret.
I just want to tell kids about one thing – parents and kids actually. My mums have some friends and they have the same donor as us, so I have a half-sister and half-brother, and we are half siblings and we’re fine with that. We get along really well. It’s cool. So kids, if you meet someone and they have the same donor, it’s okay.
Thanks for sharing all that, Sweetheart. I think it will be very helpful for other kids and their mums and dads, and teachers too. And Happy Birthday! Glad that little gizmo works so well! xx
Jacqui Tomlins and Corin Nichols Tomlins
Great blog. I will pass this on to my 12 year old.
Kate W says
Very sensible ‘phasing up’ of intervention Corin (the bit about when to tell parents, when to tell teachers etc).
What a lovely clear-thinking and articulate young man you have brought up. Great blog!
Great stuff Corin. I will be showing this blog to my kids and some of their friends. Very wise words and advice for us all. Thanks you for being so generous in sharing your story.
Eva Nichols says
Corin, we are proud of you. We always knew that you were a thoughtful person, but this interview is truly impressive. We hope that other children, whether they have two mums, two dads or any other combination of parents will take to heart your comments and advice. and by the way, happy birthday! With love from your grandparents in Canada.
What a wonderful interview with your smart young man. I think kids can often be more open to diversity than adults. I especially appreciate Corin’s view on the use ‘that’s so gay’.