Founding Fathers: Parenting OUTside the box
Founding Fathers is back once again to give a Richmond dad a place to reflect/opine/wax poetic about a fatherhood-related topic of his choosing. Today’s contributor tells about what it’s like to be a gay man helping to raise his partner’s two young boys.
Sure, the dads occasionally contribute to Raising Richmond, but the conversation there tends to leans more towards the maternal perspective. That’s where “Founding Fathers” comes in. Each month, we’ll be giving a different Richmond dad a place to reflect/opine/wax poetic about a fatherhood-related topic of his choosing. Today’s contributor tells about what it’s like to be a gay man helping to raise his partner’s two young boys.
“He won’t eat the one with pepperoni, and don’t forget his brother will only drink the blue Gatorade, but you can give him the red.”
“Alright,” I respond. “I’ve got it.” The whole time I think to myself, “WOW, this is not how I used to spend my Sunday evenings”.
Now, I’m sure this scenario doesn’t sound that unfamiliar to many parents reading this article. And quite honestly I could have anticipated this part of the deal when I started dating someone who had two children. But for me, this situation is a bit more complex, mostly because when I came out to my family as a gay man I never really imagined having a family of my own — let alone an instant family of four.
So here I am, in a family I never thought I would be in, and happier than I ever thought possible. Because just like for all of you parents reading this article, I don’t believe there is anything more challenging, exciting, and rewarding than helping shape the young hearts and minds of our children and watching them grow into their own person.
While my experience of becoming a parent was virtually instant, the process of parenting is one that every day becomes more interesting. And as a gay parent it is in-fact remarkable. Why? Because every day I am reminded of just how innocent, impressionable and honest children can be. And that gives me such a sense of hope for our future.
Just like you my days are now filled with carpooling, homework, packing lunches, and bedtime stories alongside, of course, laundry, grocery shopping, and picking up behind a couple of very active six- and 10-year old boys. Oh, and did I mention going to work? The only difference is that in our house it is all boys. And it is great.
What makes it great? It is the simple things: a conversation on the way to school about a dream car, the new friend at school or maybe even a little crush. Or it might be a series of questions about why dad was in a grumpy mood this morning, what we are going to do this weekend, or whether or not they can have an extra piece of candy later. But the best part of the whole thing is having the opportunity to be a part of watching these two young boys grow up with hearts and minds that are wide open to the diversity of our world.
My partner and I are often asked, “How are the boys?” or “Are they doing OK with your relationship?” And the reality is that they’re fantastic. They know that they are loved unconditionally and that we will do all we can to support them becoming the greatest people they can be, because just like for the rest of the parents out there, our children are our most important responsibility.
As members of a minority group that is often faced with varying degrees of discrimination, we are well aware of how harsh the world can be. We are likewise aware of the challenges, teasing and bullying, that children often face in their day to day lives. Therefore we make teaching respect and authenticity a significant part of our parenting. However, we are also realistic, which is why I have chosen not to disclose my name or those of our family members.
We are realistic in our understanding that for our young boys, our relationship as gay fathers can and probably will create challenges for them. We are realistic in our understanding that no matter how much we love them, there are people in this world who will try to tell them that our relationship as gay men is sinful or wrong or sick. We are realistic in our understanding that our boys will face their own ridicule, harassment and bullying. Yet we are hopeful because of their innocence, their honesty and their growing respect and genuine compassion towards all people.
The reality is that many of their experiences are not unique to their situation as children with two dads. As parents, we are all often challenged in our responsibility to do our best to raise our children to be healthy, positive, and productive adults. Doing so calls us to put our children’s needs before our own. And that is why I hope that if nothing else, readers of this article will take away the message that in today’s diverse world one of the most important needs our children have is to know the value of kindness, respect and empathy towards all people. Because, to echo the message of Gene Harris in the last installment of Founding Fathers, The view from the rocker, “there are absolutely no guarantees in life, except this: if you don’t try your best in all you do, failure is guaranteed, but if you do all the right things, you have a good chance — maybe even a very good chance — of achieving your goals.”
Take the time to be sure your children know you love them for who they are.
Take the time to teach them to love others for who they are.
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