Prepare for the question: “Poppa, what’s a sissy?”

This is not what I envisioned.

I was sure that one day, years from now, when my two daughters were
teenagers, they would face some sort of harassment in school
because they have gay dads. In my daydream, they would stand up on
the cafeteria tables and belt out some incredible song about
diversity, inclusiveness and love. The entire school would join in
at the chorus. After the closing line, the bullies would come up
and give my daughters a hug. Ok, so maybe that was just an episode
of GLEE- but a dad can dream, right?

Instead of what I envisioned, my now 7-year-old daughter came home
this week- the second week of school- and asked me, “Poppy,
what’s a sissy?”

For a second I choked. “Well, honey in what context did you hear
that word?”  Blank stare.

As it turns out, she heard the word in a story that fortunately did
have a happy ending with the bullies calling the book’s character
“super” instead of “sissy” by the end of the story.

But it did open up the dreaded conversation about bullying a lot
earlier than I had hoped. So we talked about words that hurt people
because of the color of their skin, who they pray to, and yes who
their parents or friends are.

I thought my kids were ready for school. They were armed with ready
answers about why they had two dads, what adoption means and why
families come in all sorts of colors.

But I was wrong. They were not ready. Perhaps more accurately, I
was not ready. I should have been.

This month, I helped prepare our Family Equality Council materials
on creating safe schools for all kids. Of course parents should
talk to their kids and to teachers and to administrators and other
parents about bullying and harassment, I thought to myself.
Obviously, parents should do their homework and make sure the
school and district have broad protections against bullying. But I
had done none of these things nor had I followed any of the other 8
great tips for sending kids back to safe schools.

Now, I’m encouraging all of you to do what I encourage my kids to
do. Read, Write and Research.

Read our
Back to School Tool Kit
and use the tips to help make your kids
feel safe and protected in schools.

Write your Senator or Congressman
and encourage them to support
two key pieces of legislation that would ensure that schools across
the nation explicitly protect kids from bullying, harassment and

Finally, research the policies in your own schools and school
districts. If you think your own great school and great teachers
have the power the protect your kids, take a moment and read this
New York Times article
that details the battle being waged by
our own families in Minnesota. Their stories will certainly ensure
you don’t lapse into the dream world that I did and that you’re
more prepared than I was.