How to Talk To Your Children About Gay Parents

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Imagine you’re at the train station, taking your kids into the city to see the Lion King. A man steps off the 6:16 from Grand Central, and two toddlers run up to him shouting, “Daddy!  Daddy!”  He gives out two hugs and about a thousand kisses and tells them how much he missed them while he was at work. You’ve witnessed scenes like this many times, but as always, your heart melts. Then the dad stands up, walks a little further down the platform and kisses… another man.

Well, that’s different.

“How was your day?” the first guy asks, and the other one starts talking about who got time outs, why the kids have maple syrup in their hair and who flushed what down the toilet right before they left.

OK, back to normal.

You’ve probably done the math by now — Look!  Gay dads! — but there’s a decent chance you’ll feel a tug on your leg, and your kid will look up at you and ask, “Yo, what’s the deal there?”

This is the story of my life. I am a gay dad, and I confuse children.

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I’m sure it happens more than I realize – at the supermarket, at the park, at MyGym.  Just by acting like any other parents, my partner Drew and I are inadvertently sparking countless conversations that start with, “Where’s their Mommy?”

You’re free to handle that question however you want, of course.  But if you don’t know where to begin, allow me to help.

You see, when Drew and I decided to have kids, we knew that the gay dad job description would include explaining our family to the world for the rest of our lives. That’s one of the reasons I started my blog.

It’s also why I am kindly providing you, the sympathetic straight parent, with some guidelines. (Unsympathetic straight parents are free to ignore my suggestions, in which case, I’ll enjoy watching them squirm)  Obviously, what you say will depend on how old your kids are and how much exposure they’ve had to gay people previously, but in a broader sense, these suggestions should apply to anyone.

I’m not a child psychologist, just a gay dad who’s thought a lot about the issue and who has a big stake in it.  After all, I don’t want your kids coming up to my kids one day and telling them they’re weird for not having a mommy.

If you don’t want that either, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Use the word “gay.”

How to Talk To Your Children About Gay Parents

 

Everyone’s concentrating on taking the negative connotation away from the word “gay,” but at the same time, let’s not forget to encourage the positive.  We don’t want “gay” to be a curse, so go ahead and teach it to your kids. That’s how we’ll really take the sting out of the word.

“Oh, Uncle Doug and Uncle Max? They’re gay.”  “Aunt Vera and Aunt Debbie aren’t sisters, honey. They’re lesbians.”  “Well, statistics suggest at least 3 of the Smurfs must be gay.” Don’t make a big deal about it.  Just say it.  If your kids hear some jerk at school sneering, “That’s so gay!”, their response will be, “Yeah? So what? So are Uncle Max and, most likely, Brainy.”

You could also use the word “queer,” I guess, but then your kids and I will just think you’re a pretentious dweeb.

2. You don’t have to pretend half the world is gay. 

How to Talk To Your Children About Gay Parents

 

Don’t play down the fact that your kids may have witnessed something unfamiliar.  “Geez, Madison. They have two daddies, what’s the biggie?” It’s natural for poor little Madison to be confused, so give her a damn break.

Kids are probably going to assume all families have one mommy and one daddy, because that’s all most of them see.  Be honest, and use words like “most” and “some.”  “Most families have a mommy and a daddy… but some have two mommies or two daddies.” As long as you don’t attach a value judgment to that statement, it really is no biggie.

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Some kids might say something like, “That’s weird”, or they’ll think you’re playing a joke on them.  That should just be a reminder of why you’re having this conversation.  Get to your kid before ignorance does.  If you’re honest with them, they’ll get it.  Explain that gay families are less common than the usual mommy/daddy family, but they’re every bit as valid.  “It’s not weird, it’s just different than our family.”

3. Get your mind out of the gutter.

It seems silly that I even have to say this, but when some people think about homosexuality and kids, they imagine that you’re suggesting they graphically describe intercourse to kindergarteners. Um, no. All you should be doing is answering the questions they’re asking, and save the rest for junior high health class. If they wonder why Owen has two daddies, it’s because “His daddies are in love”… or because “Some men love other men.” Hopefully, you’ve taught your kids to understand what love is, so no further explanation should be required.

And do use the word “love.”  That’s what we’re talking about here.  You don’t need to say “attracted to” or “some boys like boys.”  “Like” is how they feel about each other. A kid might think, “Well, I like boys. I guess I’m gay.”  Compare it to your own relationship (assuming you have a good relationship). “You know the way Mommy and I love each other?  That’s how their daddies (or mommies) feel about each other.”  And if your kid says, “Yuck!” it’s probably because they feel the same way about you and your wife. That’s progress.

4. Don’t make it about your kid — yet.

Understanding gay parents is a big enough topic of discussion, and your kid probably won’t be prompted to wonder about their own sexuality at this point.  You don’t need to say, “You might marry a man someday yourself, Junior!”  While it’s great to plant the seeds of acceptance early, you’ll probably just end up confusing them more.  Your kids have plenty of time to figure their own feelings out, and when the time comes, make sure you let them know that you love them no matter what. But no, they can’t marry Brainy Smurf.

5. If your kid does ask you to speculate, you can tell them they’ll “probably” be straight.

Again, only if your kid expresses some curiosity should you even broach the subject. But if they’re wondering, “Who will I marry someday?”, feel free to tell them, “You’ll probably marry someone of the opposite sex, but I’ll accept you either way.” Of course, if you’re like the mom from the amazing blog Raising My Rainbow, your “probably” might lean the other way. Just take your cues from your kid.

6. Remember the magic phrase, “Everyone ends up with the right parents for them.” 

It’s possible your kids will ask something like, “But doesn’t everyone need a mommy?” Even kids who don’t know exactly where babies come from understand that women are the ones who get pregnant and give birth.  When that’s all you know, then two daddies just don’t add up.

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Again, don’t go into any more detail than you need to.  Remind your kid that while it’s a woman who gives birth to a baby, your Mommy(-ies) and/or Daddy(-ies) are the one(s) who raise you. If two men want to start a family together, then yes, they’ll need help from a woman. But that woman is not the mommy. It’s no different than how you’d explain adoption by a straight couple. “The Strattons flew to Beijing and brought little Daisy home. Now they’re her Mommy and Daddy.” Assure your children that the kids are in good hands, and that everyone ends up with the right parents for them.

7. Most importantly, just talk to your kids.

Your kids are bound to see a gay family sooner or later, even if it’s just Mitchell & Cameron on Modern Family.  So if they come to you with questions, it’s really important that you don’t get weird about it.  Don’t change the subject, don’t tell them they’re too young to understand and definitely don’t lie and say that the mommy is home doing dishes or off fighting in Afghanistan.  Otherwise the message you’re sending is that there’s a reason to be uncomfortable around gay families.  The same goes for all kinds of families, whether they have two moms, two dads, a single mom, a single dad, foster parents or if they’re being raised by wolves – just explain that that’s a different kind of family and gee, isn’t it nice that everyone’s a little different.

… which leads me to a big secret.

You see, there is a gay agenda.  It’s true.

What most people don’t realize is that the gay agenda isn’t “everybody should be gay.” It’s “everybody should be themselves.”

Be a nerd, be a Yanni fan, be a real housewife of your particular geographic region. Whatever. It’s all part of the same cause, and it’s a great message to teach your kids.

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I shouldn’t have to say this in 2012, but for anyone who’s still wondering, NO, I don’t want to make your kids gay.  I just want to live my life with a sense of mutual respect for everyone else on this planet.  If you want the same thing, then let your kids learn by your example.  Show them that nontraditional families are nothing to be afraid of.

Teaching your kids to be accepting of gay people and gay families is a great way to teach them acceptance in a broader sense – and to teach them the ultimate lesson: to be accepting of themselves.

I know some people think differently, but that’s what I call family values.

What to Expect When You’re (Gay and) Expecting

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So you’re going to be a gay parent? Congratulations! No doubt you’ve been through a lot to get to this point, whether you’ve traveled the path of adoption, IVF, artificial insemination, surrogacy, fostering or whatever. Now, you have a lot to do to get ready.

Don’t worry. This isn’t going to be one of those typical posts that tells you to stock up on diapers and learn CPR. Most gay parents are overachievers on that front, I’d guess, since we’ve been planning our families for so long. I know I couldn’t wait to sign up for baby classes.

I wanted to write this post specifically for you, though, the expectant gay parent, because there’s a whole lot of important parenting stuff they’re not going to cover in those baby classes that applies directly to you. There are some special things you’re going to experience because you have a non-traditional family, and I’ve encountered them, so I wanted to give you my tips on how to deal with them.

1. Your kids will need perspective. No matter where you live, it’s very likely that your kids will grow up feeling at least slightly out of the mainstream. They’ll see that most families have a mom and dad, and that their family is different.

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In my opinion, the best way to handle this is to embrace it. Celebrate who you are from day one. Always talk about what makes your family special, and make sure you do it in positive terms. There are some great kids’ books about LGBT-parented families. (I call the books about gay dads “Papa-ganda”.) We love to read “The Family Book” by Todd Parr, and when we get to the page that says “Some families have two moms or two dads,” I ask the kids. “Who has two dads?”, and they cheer, “Me!!!”

When they meet other kids, they probably feel that their friends are the ones who are missing out on something special by not having a family like ours. Yes, my kids are still young (3 1/2 as of right now), so they haven’t asked a ton of uncomfortable questions, and the Mommy issue hasn’t come up too much. But when that time comes (and I know it will), I’ll be able to talk about our family structure as something wonderful that makes us who we are, because that’s what I’ve been saying all along.

Moms are great, too, but if we had one of those, we wouldn’t have two dads, and we wouldn’t be us.

2. You’ll constantly be outing yourself. Unless you’re always walking around in your rainbow-striped Pride t-shirt (and good for you if you are), you’re probably passing for straight most of the time, whether you mean to or not. As a childless person, this is not a big deal. You’re going to the supermarket to pick up a loaf of bread, not to discuss your private life with strangers, right?

Well, once you have kids, people will be even more likely to assume you’re straight. A baby practically announces to the world, “I had intercourse with someone of the opposite sex!”

I can’t tell you how many times a stranger (usually a woman, presumably a mom herself) has seen me pushing my kids in the double stroller through the aisles of Target or changing a diaper in a family restroom and exclaimed, “Your wife sure is lucky!” (Side note: many straight women apparently have terrible husbands.)

Even when my whole family is out together — me, the kids and my very obviously male partner — people find ways to force us into their preconceived notions of family structure. Then, the typical comment we get is, “I guess it’s Mom’s day off!” The assumption here is that my boyfriend and I are platonic buddies whose wives are off on a spa date or something. Hey, I take the spa dates in my family, thank you very much.

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Your natural inclination in these situations might be to play along, not out of any kind of self-loathing but just for social expediency. From most people, these comments are the equivalent of, “Hey, nice weather we’re having!” All they’re looking for is for me to respond, “Yup!” Or “Hey, it’s only fair. Mom works hard, right?”

But whenever I’m tempted to do that, I’ll remember two very good reasons I can’t… my kids. They love their dads very much, and I’ve been telling them constantly what an amazing and incredibly special family we have. What message would I be sending to them if I suddenly pretended our family was just like everyone else’s? That we need to lie about who we are? That they should lie? That I’m ashamed of being gay? That the opinion of some stranger in a supermarket is more important than the respect of my own children?

So I say it. Regardless of what the situation seems to call for, I out us. “There is no mom. There are two dads in our family.” Or “I don’t have a wife. I have a partner. A man.”

Then I brace myself, because my real fear is that this person will turn out to be a member of the Westboro Baptist Church or the Boy Scouts senior leadership, and they’ll go all psycho fire and brimstone on me in front of the kids. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened yet. Sure, some people are taken aback, because like I said, all they wanted was polite chit-chat and now they feel forced to say… well, something. Usually, what they say is “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have assumed,” because they’re embarrassed. In that case, I just smile, because that person is probably very nice and will never make that mistake again.

Remember, your kids come before strangers. Don’t worry about what some lady at the supermarket thinks. And if you’re in a hurry to get someone to the potty or to pick Other Daddy up at the train station, just correct the lady at the Stop-n-Shop and keep on moving. She’ll figure it out eventually.

3. You will now be an activist for non-traditional families. As a childless LGBT person, it’s entirely possible to live your life in a supportive bubble. Move to San Francisco or LA. Work for GLAAD. Join a gay softball league. Surround yourself with people who know you and accept you. I’d guess many of us spent the years after coming out doing just that. Well, if you’re going to have kids, you’re going to have to venture outside your gay-friendly bubble. Constantly.

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Your kids will be going to school and playing Little League primarily with kids from mom-and-dad-headed families, and you’ll be interacting with people who won’t always be 100% on board with the whole gay thing. Even going to IHOP on Family Night can feel like you’re Making a Statement, because some people will figure out immediately exactly what your family is all about.

Hi, welcome to the cause. What’s that? You’re not a political person? Well, good, because this isn’t about politics. It’s about your family, and being a good parent means doing what’s best for your kids. You want them to grow up in a better world than you did? Great, then get ready to fight for them.

The good news is that most of the time, you can do this by pushing back gently. When I filled out my kids’ preschool applications last year, the forms had spaces for “Mother’s Name” and “Father’s Name”. I could’ve just written our names in those spaces. I guess I also could’ve called up and complained or raised a stink. Instead, I simply crossed out “Mother” and wrote “Father #2″, then submitted the forms as normal. Why assume that the school was homophobic? It was far more likely that they just hadn’t had any gay parents there before (or any who cared about the forms), so the forms had never been an issue.

You know what? When I filled out their applications the next year, the forms had been updated. There were now two lines labeled “Parent Name”. A subtle change other parents are unlikely to notice, but that meant a lot to me. Best of all, I didn’t have to be someone’s pain in the neck to accomplish it.

4. People will generally be very nice to you (at least to your face, and that’s all that matters). Before I had kids, I assumed I’d meet a lot of resistance from the anti-gay crowd as a dad. I worried that preschools might turn us away, that other parents would refuse to set up playdates with my kids, that we’d get sneered at or harangued in public. What can I say? I was stung pretty hard when Prop 8 passed, and I took it very personally. I may even have had a tiny bit of a chip on my shoulder.

But here’s the good news. While I’m sure some of that ugly homophobia is out there, I have yet to face it head-on. I wrote a piece for this blog a while back called “The 5 People You Meet as a Gay Dad”, wherein I discussed the reactions I’ve received from people who’ve met my family. And I admitted at the end that the worst thing I’ve dealt with is polite discomfort. That piece generated a ton of comments, and almost all the other LGBT parents who wrote in had similar experiences. Even those who lived in much more conservative areas had been pleasantly surprised at the support they’d received.

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So you can feel good about your decision to have a family in this world at this time. I’m constantly touched and encouraged by how accepting and friendly most people are towards us. They want to learn our story, or to tell me about other gay parents they know. I constantly hear things like, “My sister and her wife are trying to have a baby. I’m so excited for them!” Sometimes they treat us like celebrities, like the nurse when my son was in the hospital. She told us she’d always wanted to meet gay dads, and she jogged around the kid’s hospital bed to give us hugs.

5. Be yourself and be proud. Assume the best of people, and very often, that’s what you’ll get. Now go read those other parenting books and learn about feeding, diapering, swaddling, bathing and all that. Being a parent, gay or straight, is the most amazing, rewarding and totally freaking difficult thing you’ll ever do.

You’ve got a lot to learn.

The 5 People You Meet as a Gay Dad

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The hardest part about being a gay dad has nothing to do with raising your children.  Sure, at two years old, my twins are already curious as to what a Mommy is and why we don’t have one.  But explaining it to them is easy.  My kids are smart, open-minded and I’m reasonably sure they’re not homophobic.  It’s explaining my family to other people that gets tricky.

There are a lot of questions that can lead there.  “Where’s your wife?”  “Where’s their mommy?”  “I wish my husband would take the kids to the park sometimes.”  Or, when I’m out with my partner, the one we get is, “Which one of you is the dad?”

We could lie, but what kind of message would that send to our kids?  That there’s something wrong with our family and we have to keep it secret?  A much better message for them to get is that strangers can be clueless sometimes, and that it’s our job to educate them.

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“We’re both the dad,” we say.  And then… we wait.  The next move is theirs.

Before I became a gay dad, I worried a lot about where such a simple statement might lead.  But now that I’ve been at it for two years, I realize people are fairly predictable.  In all that time, I’ve only gotten a few different responses when I’ve outed our family.  Everyone we’ve met, without exception, has fallen into one of five categories.

These are the 5 people you meet as a gay dad…

1. Your New BFF. Reaction: Unbridled enthusiasm

Within five seconds of knowing me and my partner, Drew, these people want to hug us, add us on Facebook, tweet @ us, invite us over for Thanksgiving dinner and beat the crap out of any homophobes who get in our way.  They think it’s SOOOOO cool and our kids are SOOOO lucky, and they want to point us out to their own children.  “Look, Caden!  This is their dad, and this is their other dad!  Isn’t that great?”

You can see their minds working.  “Oh my God, I saw that report on World News Tonight, but I didn’t think we’d ever meet one of these families ourselves.  We better hang on to these guys.  Who knows when the next ones will come along.”

Or more likely, they’re just assuming that we get discriminated against or judged constantly because of who we are, so they want to make up for it by being as over-the-top pleasant as possible.

I’ll take all the New BFFs I can get.  In most cases, we’re just as enthusiastic back to them.  We tell them our whole story.  We had a surrogate.  She’s like an aunt now.  Our egg donor is also an aunt, but then again, she would’ve been anyway because she’s Drew’s sister, Susie.  (And if they need it spelled out, yes, I donated the sperm.)

New BFFs are by far the most common people we meet, which is one of the reasons I’m glad I live in Los Angeles.

2. Jaded Allies. Reaction: Feigned indifference.

These people are cool with us, too — just maybe a little too cool.  They’re very quick to let us know that they’re familiar with other gay dads – tons of them.  They’ll say something like, “Oh, right.  There’s this couple at our kids’ school with two dads.  Matthew and Alan.”  Or “Yeah, my daughter’s best friend has two moms.  They came to our house last month.”

Jaded Allies are less worried about making us feel comfortable with them and more concerned with how they come across to us.  They don’t want to be seen as square or even the tiniest bit surprised, so they treat us like we’re no big deal.

They’re thinking, “Yeah, I saw that report on World News Tonight.  These won’t be the last gay parents I meet.  Better play it cool.”

Maybe they really do know a thousand other gay dads, or maybe they just want us to think they do. Sometimes we talk to these people longer and they show a genuine curiosity and kindness toward us.  Other times, we just move on.

Jaded Allies are allies, and that’s good enough for us.

3. Closet Homophobes. Reaction: Cordial avoidance.

These people are not OK with us, but at least they’re polite.  They’ll say something like, “Oh, how nice.  Well, I need to go over here now.”  Then they’ll quietly slip away to pray or throw up or something.

They, too, might want us to think they’re cool with who we are.  But in their case, we’re not buying it.  You can see the exasperated looks on their faces, the ones that say, “This is what I get for asking questions” or “Freakin’ Los Angeles!  I should’ve known!”

These are the people who fell for the argument that Prop 8 would require elementary schools to swap out math and social studies for courses on the logistics of sodomy.  “What they do in their bedroom is their business,” they’re thinking.  “But they better not start doing it in front of my kids here at Rite-Aid!”

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The worst thing that can happen to a Closet Homophobe is for their kids to start asking questions.  “But where’s their Mommy, Mommy?”  They’ll stammer or ignore the kid, maybe outright lie.  “She’s not here right now.”  Anything to keep their kids from being exposed to the gays too young.  They may even plead with their eyes, begging us to play along, for the sake of the children.

But their kids aren’t stupid, and neither are mine.  So whenever the issue comes up, I’m very clear that there is no Mommy in our family, never has been and never will be.  I know that’s likely to stir up some more questions in your kids’ impressionable little minds, and frankly I don’t care how you choose to answer them once you’re out of our earshot.  But while you’re talking to me, you’re going to hear the pride I take in my family, and my kids are going to know that I’ve got their back.

4. The Head Scratchers. Reaction: Utter confusion

This is the most entertaining reaction, and probably the second most common one we get.  No matter how much we explain ourselves, some people are completely baffled by our family, like the Honda salesman we visited when we were shopping for a minivan.

“We’re having twins,” we explained.

“Well, your wife is going to love the Odyssey.”

“No, they’re his twins and my twins.”

“That’s great!  So who’s the minivan for?”

“Both of us.”

“Well, it’s the perfect car for you and your brother.  There’s plenty of room for you, your kids and your wives.”

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I have no idea whether this guy was homophobic, or what he could possibly have been imagining went on in my house, but I know he desperately wanted to make that sale.

Then there was the guy at the Thai restaurant, who saw me and Drew each schlepping a newborn in a car seat to our table, while Drew’s sister strolled casually behind us.

“Are you the mom?” he asked her.

“No, they have two dads,” she answered.

“No two dads!” he insisted.

“Yes,” Drew said.  “I’m one dad, and he’s the other dad.”

“No two dads!”

“Yes, two dads.  We’re both listed on their birth certificates.”

“No two dads!  No two dads!  NO TWO DADS!”

I don’t know where that man is right now, but I’m pretty sure he’s still shaking his head adamantly and shouting, “No two dads!” at whoever will listen.

5. The Moral Crusaders. Reaction: Salvation mode

These are the people we dread.  They’re not happy just to stay quiet.  They want you, their kids and anyone within shouting radius to know that Satan is in their midst.  They’re all too happy to point their fingers and condemn you as the reason for the breakdown of the American family, if not of society as a whole.

There’s no need to guess what’s going on in their heads, because they lay it all out.  They’ll spew those “men laying with men” Bible verses, they’ll tell you you shouldn’t be in the military, they’ll want to see whatever legal documents you can produce to prove your guardianship or threaten to call Child Protective Services and report you.

They’re every gay dad’s worst nightmare.  But here’s the good thing about the Moral Crusaders… they don’t exist.

At least, I haven’t run into any.  Not yet.

Maybe they’re out there somewhere.  Maybe gay dads in less progressive parts of America have to deal with them all the time.  But to me, they’re boogeymen, who might very well just be figments of my imagination.

Before my kids were born, I was convinced I would face them all the time.  But rather than let that scare me off from parenthood altogether, I did the alternative.  I prepared for the worst.

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I’ve been working on some great little speeches to defend my family against the kooks out there.  Whenever I meet someone new, before I find out which of these 5 categories they’re going to fall into, I’ve always got my comebacks ready to go, just in case I’m about to be faced with my first Moral Crusader.  Who knows what they look like?  They can take many forms.

I don’t want to speak for all gay families, but if you see my partner and me out with our twins, by all means, come say hello.  We really do like meeting people and sharing our story, and it makes our kids think we’re celebrities.

As for which of the five categories you fall into, it really doesn’t matter to me.  Whatever your reaction is, I’ll be ready.

The Selfish Side of Gay Rights

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I tend to be very outspoken when it comes to gay rights.  When I voice these opinions to other people, the inevitable questions roll in. “Why do you care so much?  You’re a married heterosexual woman.  What do gay rights have to do with you?”  There is a stock answer, of course.  I can say that I want my gay and lesbian friends to have the same rights that I do. I can say that’s it simply the right thing to do. Both of those statements would be truthful. But if I really delve into my true feelings, the answer is a bit more selfish.

Because my daughters could be gay.

Avery sure does love those dinosaurs!  And how about Zoe and her fascination with all things cars?  Baby dolls and Barbies are neglected in this house in favor of trains and building blocks.  Sure, I’m grasping at stereotypes here, but the truth of the matter is–I don’t know who they’ll love when they’re capable of falling in love.  Regardless of what some folks would say, this is one part of their development I have absolutely no control over.  I’m okay with that.

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What I’m not okay with is knowing that some day my daughters may not have the same rights as others based simply on whom they love.  This is not okay.  This is not right.  And this is why I care so deeply about gay rights.

If my daughters want to fight and possibly die for their country, they should be allowed to.  As a mother, I would never want them in harm’s way.  But when your child comes to you and tells you that THIS is what they want to do and they’re very passionate about it, how can one look them in the eye and say, “Sorry, sweetie, but if you want to do that you will have to deny everything that makes you you.  Are you willing to do that and risk your life at the same time?”  I am constantly telling my girls that they are perfect as they are, quirks and all.  That is not something I want to backpedal on later in life.

If one of my daughters wants to marry a woman, by golly I want to plan the biggest, fattest, gayest wedding ever. And I want it to be legal in all fifty states.  If I’m going to go to that much trouble with caterers and dance halls and big poofy dresses (Or fasionable women’s tuxes, as the case may be) then I want some validation for that.  I want my daughter to be able to shout it from the rooftops that THIS is her wife!  And they’re going to live happily ever after!  And it’s legal!  Because that’s what all married couples should be able to do.

If that daughter then decided that she and her lovely wife want to adopt a baby, then Lord help the person that stands in the way of me and my potential grandchild.  It will never make sense to me how adoptions can be denied in this country because the adopting family is non-traditional.  What’s traditional anyway?  Can you describe a traditional marriage right now?  Every family is different, heterosexual or otherwise.  It should only be the capacity to love that determines a family’s worth as an adoptive family.  Period.  I have (potential) grandchildren to spoil and I will not be denied.

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Selfish?  Yes.  My passion for gay rights has everything to do with insuring my daughters’ happiness later in life. Of course, they will probably grow up and marry men just to spite their mama, but honestly, you  just never know. What if they grow up to marry men, make beautiful grandchildren, and one of those grandchildren is gay?  Do you see where I’m going with this?

Gay rights affect us all.  Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but somewhere along the line, it will become a Very Big Deal for you and your family, if it isn’t already.

I’m a heterosexual woman who cares deeply about gay rights.  Because you just never know.

(And honestly, it is the right thing to do.  No matter what your reasons may be, selfish or not.)

Who is the Real Mom?

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two-chick-onsie Image via Etsy/BiasedBaby

“Who is her real mom?”

“They both are.”

“But who is her REAL mom who grew her in her tummy?”

Kids ask questions. A little girl knowing that she and her sister grew in their mommy’s tummy wants to know whose tummy my kid came from. As a kid, real is not the opposite of fake. To grown-ups, it is. And though I understand a child’s curiosity, I’m stung with the fear of needing to defend our little family.

I never expected to not be a mom. I treasured my dolls as a kid. I was their mom. I homeschooled them in the basement. I was their doctor. Annie had a red dress. I got her from the Home Shopping Network for my birthday. I waited every day for her to arrive by UPS. By the time she arrived, my whole neighborhood was waiting with me. Before the days of Amazon Prime, UPS trucks were a rare occurrence in our suburban cul-de-sac. She was wrapped carefully in plastic, surrounded by multicolored packing peanuts. Her cloth body was stamped in blue ink “HAND MADE IN GERMANY.” Her eyes closed when I put her to bed. Her hair was blonde. Long. With great patience, Annie and I learned how to French braid.

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It was early in the morning. I was convinced I wasn’t pregnant. Again. But tested anyway. It was twelve days past the insemination. Our tenth try. My body was failing us. We didn’t know why. We were running out of money to find out.

The test was positive.

My eyes bleary with sleep squinted to see better. I ran to our bedroom to get my wife, Michelle, who was awake, but still in bed that late July morning. I didn’t tell her I was testing again. I didn’t want to let her down. Again.

She squealed with delight. I asked her to look carefully. Surely I was wrong. It couldn’t possibly be true, this dream we so longed for. She looked again. The test was positive. It was happening. It was finally happening. We were going to be parents. Moms.

Before she met me, she hadn’t considered being a parent. She thought motherhood was one of the things the gays give up when we come out. Along with the hope for being married. And federal benefits. And the freedom to travel wherever we want. The freedom to be out at work. The freedom to be who we are. The freedom to love who we want. On top of all of that, we couldn’t be parents.

Thankfully, this time, she was wrong. We got married in 2004. Just a few months after Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same sex marriage. Just over a year after we met. When you know, you know. Gay or straight. Five years later, we spent our anniversary on the beach in Cape Cod, holding our daughter and carefully shielding her from the hot July sun.

Who is the real mom?

In the early days, I breastfed. Michelle changed the cloth diapers. I washed them. She rocked her to sleep. We split our time working from home and working at the office to put off daycare as long as we could.

As she grew, she spoke her first word, “book,” then “Mama,” her word for Michelle. Her mama.

Six months later, she decided to call me Mommy.

Mommy, Mama, and Riley. Our little family of three.

“Riley, who is your real mom?”

“Both of you,” she says and rolls her eyes hard. She’s five now. She has already mastered the eye roll. She won’t let me give her baths. She says Mama does it better. Apparently I get water in her eyes. She would rather ride in my car, as I have better snacks and always carry a notebook that I share with her. The preferences go both ways.

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Gone are the days of ultrasounds and breastfeeding and so much that specifically linked me to her as the gestational parent. Now, it’s much more about kindergarten drop off, brushing her hair, and making dinner. Wiping tears, telling stories, and tucking in.

She knows about her donor. She knows about growing in my belly. She knows how desperately we wanted her. She knows how much her Mommy and Mama adore her.

Who is the real mom? Both of us. Every day. Every night. More and more all the time.

Related post: How to Talk To Your Children About Gay Parents