I know some kids who know some things. I know kids who have not forgotten their in-born innocence, boys who play with dolls and girls who rule their own lives. I know a 9-year-old who played while her dad was at work. When dad came home, he high-fived her and said, “You were awesome today.”

Susan Lebel Young, MSEd, MSC, lives and works in Southern Maine. Reach her at [email protected] or susanlebelyoung.com.

I asked, “How’d he know you were awesome? He hasn’t seen you.”

She said, “I told him.”

I love how kids make up their own minds about themselves before the fear and anger in grown-ups teach them to tighten their worldviews.

I know an 11-year-old who told me about a soccer teammate getting kicked out of a game for mouthing off to a ref. This 11-year-old said, “I don’t understand playing dirty, being mean.”

I know kids who don’t want to hurt or cause anyone pain. When I told a 7-year-old that “lots of people say I’m doing OK ‘for a woman my age,’” she shook her head and replied, “That’s like saying I’m OK for a 7-year-old. Rude!”


I love how kids know that at age 73 or 7, people are people.

I know kids who see the world from the openness of wonder. One 12-year-old white boy has a best friend with dark skin who comes from India. They kick a ball around the yard together, put their arms around each other’s sweaty bodies when they’re done and eat ice cream together.

I love the goodness of youth, their non-judging presence, their knowing the truth of what is.

During Pride Month, I’ve talked to some of these heartful kids. One 13-year-old Maine girl has two dads. She told me that some newscaster announced, “It’s not right for men to be with men and women to be with women.”

I asked, “What do you think? What do you say to that?”

She waved her hand, saying, “Pffft, that was the olden days. Sometimes both dads come to my softball games. So, what if I lived in Florida, the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ state? I couldn’t talk about my two dads? I don’t get that.”


I love how some kids have not yet been taught to hate, to separate you from me or to adopt “us and them.”

After a 10-year-old New Hampshire boy’s swim meet, his favorite aunt, always single, took her swim-loving nephew to dinner. She announced, “I’m dating.”

The 10-year-old asked, “Are you dating a boy or a girl?”

I love the simplicity in us before we learn to label and react to our labels. Before this is good or this is bad.

I wish adults could remember their early years, knowing that love is love.

My husband and I raised a now-39-year-old gay son. Many of his gay friends tell stories of being expelled from their homes, locked out on the doorstep with a laundry bag of clothes, cut off from family or thrown to the streets for their differences.


One young man told us that when his Texas family visits him in New York City, he hides his jewelry and lowers his voice to avoid his father’s ridicule.

But the kids! A fifth-grade Massachusetts girl picked LGBTQ+ issues for a school project because “we are all human beings with feelings, hopes and dreams, more alike than different.”

And the Cumberland Greely Middle School Chorus devoted this year to engaging the school, empowering all voices and inspiring the community by contacting legislators, making posters, creating educational materials, writing a teacher-training curriculum and performing an end-of-the-year, LGBTQ+, rainbow-informed concert.

May the kids teach us!

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