Henry Mills has two mothers.
In a way, you could say he’s a lucky child. Despite Regina’s darkness, despite Emma’s initial reluctance, right now Henry has two mothers who love him more than anything in the world and who would sacrifice everything for him. And yet, that’s not all Henry has.
No, Henry also has grandparents, in Snow and Charming, who want to be involved in his life. He also has Rumple and Belle, Zelena and baby Robyn, and an extended family of people who love him even if they’re not related by blood. If anything, Henry has more family that he knows what to do with.
And, he has, or at least, he might have Hook – depending on where we see Emma’s relationship going. (But hey, it’s true love. The rest should be easy, right?)
Right now, Hook and Henry are no more than friends – as much as a grown man can be friends with a child. And trust me, it can happen. Sure, Hook has asked Henry for advice, and Henry might think the pirate thing is cool, but Henry doesn’t consider him a father figure.
And here’s the rub of the issue – for Emma and Hook’s relationship to really continue to develop, for them to take the step from two people who love each other to family, they need to include Henry in the dynamic.
Why? Because Emma is Henry’s mother. She’s not his only mother, no, but she is an integral part of his life, and any relationship that she enters into is, necessarily, one Henry enters into by default. That’s just the way it goes.
The issue is somewhat complicated by the fact that this relationship that Emma has chosen to enter into necessarily means Regina also has to develop a relationship with Hook, for if he’s stepping into a more important role in Henry’s life, it’s only fair that Regina gets a say in it.
Not a say in the relationship, no. Not a say in whether he interacts with Henry or not, no.
A say in how the burden of responsibility shifts when it’s three people instead of two. A say in how they ease Henry into a different dynamic. That’s all.
It’s the same say that Emma would have gotten had Robin survived long enough to be involved in Henry’s life.
But Robin is gone, so the main family issue Once Upon A Time has to deal with in season six is how to take Killian Jones from “mom’s boyfriend” to family. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be “father” – Henry already has a father, and no one is trying to replace him. But that doesn’t mean there’s a limit on the amount of people that can love Henry or the amount of people that can care for him.
That doesn’t mean that caring for a woman enough to want to be involved in such an important aspect of her life is wrong. And if Henry wants to get closer to Hook, that doesn’t mean his two mothers aren’t enough, and that doesn’t necessarily send a message that unconventional families are lacking something.
It just means that, when it comes to people who love you, more is better. It always is.
As I write this, I’m reminded of the book Heather has Two Mommies. It’s a book for kids, and one that I read for the first time many, many years ago. And yet the message the book sends is as important now as it was in 1989, when it was first published. It’s just not the message you would expect.
It’s a message of inclusion, yes. But it’s a somehow bigger and more important than I could have realized all those years ago. Because the message it sends is this: the most important thing about a family is that all the people in it love one another.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Henry Mills has two mothers. And that’s okay. That’s good. That’s enough. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing for him to have a father figure, or a male friend, or another member of the family who just happens to be male. It doesn’t underscore the message that families come in all shapes and sizes. Henry has two mothers, yes, and he’s not the only one. Plenty of kids these days have two mothers or two fathers.
The world is not the same it was fifty years ago. It’s not even the same it was ten years ago. And yes, TV should be doing more to present all types of families as normal. We see ourselves in TV, after all. We ache to see ourselves represented. And though many people look at TV and feel like they are, just as many, myself included, still need more from our favorite shows.
It’s getting better –yes. But we’re not there yet. We might not get there in our lifetime. But we have to keep striving to tell more inclusive stories. To reflect all aspects of reality and not just those that make us feel comfortable.
And yet, in this particular case, the story hasn’t changed. Henry Mills has two mothers. Whether he gets a father or not, that won’t ever change the basic truth that, couple or not, both Emma and Regina will always be there for him.
Henry Mills has two mothers. And they don’t need to be together, they don’t need to shun all other relationships, they don’t need to be everything for Henry, all the time. They just need to be there. They just need to love him.
That’s what makes a family, after all.
Once Upon A Time returns Sunday, September 25th at 8/7c on ABC.