“The most important thing about a family is that all the people in it love each other.” – Heather Has Two Mommies, by Lesléa Newman
“Why is this controversial?” – Nathan, after reading Heather Has Two Mommies
Heather Has Two Mommies was first published in 1989, after a lesbian couple who had just adopted a daughter lamented to its author Lesléa Newman that there was no children’s book to help explain their family to her. It was recently republished in a new edition, with full color artwork and a few streamlining tweaks.
When it was new, Heather Has Two Mommies became one of the most frequently challenged books in the United States. It’s getting some attention now, though it doesn’t seem it’s being so widely condemned this time.
I took a look.
The conversation-starter is a common sort of children’s book. It’s a catalyst for talking about a topic that is complex and/or potentially awkward with a young person. I remember my mother reading one with us that warned against going with strangers. It was complete with a drawing depicting the bad guy with a child tied up while he spanked another one.
Heather Has Two Mommies isn’t about anything nearly so grave, of course. However, its topic is something that might confuse a young one, particularly if his/her parents are the only same-sex couple s/he knows. The book includes an introduction to Heather’s mommies, as well as a look at the kinds of things they all like to do together. It concludes with Heather’s first day of school, at which all of the children draw their families.
The narrative is well-paced and as expected for a book intended for a kindergartener or first-grader to read with his/her parents. The new artwork is pleasant, a few clicks north of rudimentary and quite colorful.
I’m pleased to see a much more muted negative response to this book more than 25 years later, while remaining a bit disappointed at what still exists. To my readers who remain opposed, to some degree, to the idea of same-sex parents, I offer two practical questions of child welfare:
- Don’t you prefer the odds of a child who is wanted and loved by a gay couple to one who is, say, kicking around the foster care system? Or maybe even one with a struggling single parent, depending on circumstances?
- Gay couple parenthood is a thing, whether you think it should be a thing or not. It’s happening. That being the case, don’t you prefer the odds of a child whose parents are not continually deflecting hostility on some level or another?
As with gay marriage, we have with gay couple parenthood a situation in which the principals are agitating to commit. That’s good news, not bad news.
Heather Has Two Mommies seems an effective introduction for families who’d like help starting the conversation.