Thursday, February 18, 2010

Gay Parenting...Dealing In Honesty

Hello dear readers,

Today is my first day back after giving myself the ginsu treatment with a rusty razor blade. I'm still very much in healing mode and trying to take it light...but ...when you fall off the bike, you have to get right back on, so here I am.

Jen brought this article about two dad to my attention yesterday and it was a fantastic story that echoes our experience as two dads raising kids in an opposite sex world. The article, written by Efrem Seeger and titled "Everyone Has A Mother", tells the account of how the author and his husband answered a frank question from one of his sons playmates about his mother...and more specifically...where is she? Because everyone has a mother right?

For us the question has different dimensions than it did for Mr. Seeger. Having children through adoption sometimes means that your kids have memories of their birth families and that not all of their memories are going to be good ones.

Such is the case with our son Daniel. He remembers his mom and dad and not all of those memories are good ones. He remembers the day his dad was taken away by the police for breaking and entering. Thats one he mentions often to me and I can hear the pain in his voice as he describes it. When I ask him about his mother though, he is less forthcoming. Sometimes he can remember baking cookiees with her and other times he can remember being on the street with her without a place to stay.

Through all that happened to him though. He didn't understand why he was taken away from his mom and dad. When he first came to live with us he had alot of questions about that. Those are hard questions to answer to a five year old. How do you explain that his mother had a drug adiction that was so serious that she couldn't care for herself let her children, of which there were seven. We did our best to be as honest as possible him. We told him that his mother was sick and that she was not able to take care of him or his brothers and sisters. We told him that is what drugs do to you, they make you sick and sometimes it takes a long time to get better. he got older he was able to understand more and we have done our best to fill in the blanks for him as he can grasp it. I know that one day he is going to want to reach out to his biological family, and when he does he is going to have alot of questions for them....and it may hurt.

As for having two dads...he never cared much about that. I think thats mostly because he knew his mother. He knew she was out their somewhere struggling with her problem. So being raised by two men never brought up those kind of "birds and bees" questions. The harder part was communicating to Daniel that even though his biological family had its faults...that they still loved him and that it wasn't his fault what happened.

Selena on the other hand has questions. And so has her classmates, on occasion. To her classmates I often say that "Selena is lucky enough to have TWO daddies" and that seems to solve it. No major crisis there. Kids deal with lifes issues with much more acceptance than we do as adults. I remember, one time while voluteering in Selena's class, we were doing an art project when one of her classmates announced to me "My dads in Jail!".....Hmmm, I thought "how do you come back to that one? Clearly he's not bugged by it so why should I be? My response was," Thats o.k. buddy, It happens to alot of us". It wasn't a perfect answer but it was all I could get think up while trying to manage six preschoolers finger painting. I should have added, "And I'm sure your dad misses you and thinks about you everyday." Kids need to know that just because bad stuff happens to us in life, that its not there fault and it certainly doesn't mean that they aren't loved.

Selena has begun to work mommies into her fantasy play now. For being raised by two men, she seems to have a good handle on what a mommy is and what they do because she not only mothers her stuffed animals but her brother and classmates as well. With her stuffed animals she can be very loving but with her brother she is downright bossy.

Our response to her questions is largely the same as Daniel. We don't deny that she had a mother because one day that will make us look like liars. She needs to understand that she does have a mommy, even if that mommy was not able to care for her. And as she gets older we can give her a little bit more of the story as she can handle it. I know that she is going to have a place inside her with a great big question mark and that one day she is going to want to fill that in by reaching out to her mother and the rest of her family. Thats going to be a tough one on all of us...but its also part of the package of being a parent, even when it hurts.

But what of other parents?....The author quotes:

Since we were a gay couple we braced ourselves for any of the possible challenges that might arise: condescending mothers, homophobic fathers, teachers who would want to parent our children, thinking two men couldn’t possibly do the job themselves.
I have to shamefully admit, that I go into alot of school situations expecting this attitude by default. When I don't sense this attitude from others it puts me off balance a little bit. After all, Jay and I are not the face of parenthood that you see everyday in the classroom. I'm sure the other parents are filled with questions and attitudes that they keep underwraps while I'm around. Mothers talk to each other...they share all kinds of information with each other about great programs for thier kids, their personal lives,...and yes...gossip. I know that we have be discussed...I just don't ever get wind of it. It leaves you wondering where you really stand with people.

However, heres the big "but" that follows that last sentence....I am their for Selena....not myself and my own insecurities. Every parent has treated Selena, Daniel, and myself with kindness and respect...if not openess, and thats all I can ask. Perhaps my fear of rejection by others for being a gay dad is really me rejecting others who have done me no wrong before they can hurt me. After all, this is California, and one of the regions of my state that overwhelmingly voted against Prop 8. Perhaps I am not giving others the benefit of the doubt when I would hope for it for myself. But I can't help feeling like an outsider in a roomfull of mothers. Its like a secret club you can never break into.

But these are the admissions of two gay dads doing their best to be the best....even on those days when you really don't feel like "doing your best". We know that we can never be all that a mommy is, we just try to be the bast dads that we can be...and the best parents. That includes making mistakes. What it doesn't include is dishonesty. Those chickens always come home to roost. We know that closets can kill and that honesty really is the best policy...even if not for ourselves, but to help our children grow into the kind of adults that we know they can be.



  1. I cannot express in words how happy I was to see this post when I logged on here.

    This was a really insightful post. I really liked it. It is the kind of thing I scour the internet to find.

  2. I wasn't going to say this. Because I don't like talking about mine and Jake's adoption plans in public. But...

    I worry about having a child that has been really mistreated by their birth parents, that doesn't remember. Having to tell your child about that is pretty hard I think.

    We have a friend called Phil who just adopted. His son is now 3. He was seriously sexually abused by his mother up and Phil doesn't really have any idea when to tell him. He was so small when it happened that he doesn't remember and is too little to realise he is adopted yet I think.

  3. your friend Phil's case perhaps honesty needs to be tempered with sensitivity. Kids can't handle that kind of information for a long time. There maybe nothing Phil can tell his son until he is much older.

    In addition...we don't know what Phils son actually remembers and at this point it may be more than we would guess. Kids remember alot more than we give them credit for. Phil should be open to those queestions when they come because they might. Phils son may even act out because of what he just deal with it as it comes with as much love as possible.

    I know that sexual abuse was one thing that Jay and I said that we didn't want to take on as parents. Mostly because if there were any acting out or repeating of what was done to them, then people would point at us and say it was our fault because we are gay.

  4. Hye brian.
    I don´t know much about the mother´s gossip, but I can tell you this.
    One thing I´m happy my parents did was being honest with me, there was never a subject that was tabu, or a no-no.
    I learned about woman/men relationships, about sex, when i was 10/11, watching a VHS video about puberty that my mother used to make her students watch at age 13/14. Now the first time I didn´t understand nothign so i got a lot of questions, and to those, my mother put the video again and explain what she could guide me trough it.
    I´m glad you are honest to your kids, that is what makes a great parent bryan, because it shows you are not ashamed of nothing, and you are strong enough to deal with it.

  5. @gobling

    The first sentence of your second post made me happy btw.

  6. BRYAN!!! So glad you are back-hope your are feeling better. Dave and I are on vacation. We came down to the Caribbean..we had to get away from the snow!!
    So..even though i am on a very SLOW internet connection I had to throw in my 2 cents.

    Even though we don't see your kids 24/7 we see them quite often. They seem intelligent..funny..POLITE. So, whatever you are doing is working. My hat is off to both you and Jay. You are fertilizing the souls of some beautiful human beings. And THANKS!! from all of us citizens on the planet Earth!! :) The "darkside" would not be amuzed!!!

  7. Phil's son was abused when he was just a month or so old, I know he was taken away from his mother when he was less than a year.

    I don't think he plans on saying anything about this to him until much much later.

    I know what you mean about the sexual abuse angle. Phil and his wife are straight so I suppose they don't have to worry about that.

    I think all the time about what I think I could take on. I am pretty broad. I worry about age more than anything else.

    The clique is that everyone wants a baby but I do think that certain behaviours like attachment disorder can become rooted by 6 or 7. I would be really worried to take a child older than that.

    Part of that is selfish I suppose, although I do want to help a child in need I also want a family for myself.

    The fact is that Jake and I are likely to be given a white male baby because of our age and backgrounds. The British authorities basically give anyone younger than 35 a baby and mostly seem to give gay men boys.

    But then I worry I will feel guilt for not taking a child in more need.

    Anyway more though needed.

    What a muddle.

  8. If I can say somehting Craig.
    I think in the end, you and jake are great persons, No kid raised by you two can go wrong.
    And the guilt is understandable, but in the end you will make that child happy, and that is the most important thing craig.

  9. Yes Swampy, at this risk of blowing my own trumpet, I think we will make good parents as well. I also think that children raised by us will turn out well.

    My big fear with the age thing is that the child has been raised for 6, 7, 8, 9 years by someone else. And not just anyone else, someone who abused or neglected them. And not just any years, some of the most important years in their development.

    But then do I think that these children should be written off? Of course not. They deserve the best chance they can get.

    It really is a selfish fear, one based of my own welfare and not one of the child.

    But it is a worry I have, and guilt for having the worry :(

  10. Ok, but C´mon.
    I have though of me under those circunmstances ( wtf on the spelling XD)
    And I always confort my self by thinking this.
    At some point in our lives, we have all been outcast, bad adujested to the society etc etc.
    We all been there, Black, gay straight person. we all been there. And with that, we can help others to adjust, or to no adjust and be amazingly special.
    Obviously some cases are bigger than others, but no case is impossible, SPECIALY, with loving and amazing persons as parents, people that I know won´t give up on anything

  11. Bryan:
    So happy to see you blogging again, you have been missed! Please don't overdue it with your fingers still mending.

    As always, a thoughtful, honest post and watching your videos and reading your blog, you and Jay have so much to be proud of - Daniel and Selena are wonderful children, loved, protected, bright, funny and a joy to everyone who knows them.

    Did you see the Towleroad piece on Dr. Raynard Kington? If not, please take a look, congratulations to him and his life partner and their children. But, before them, there was a "private family living in Northern California", please take a well deserved bow, Jay ,Bryan, Daniel and Selena! One day at a time, it's coming, keep the faith, keep the videos and your blog coming and know you touch so many people.

    Love and Peace from a straight friend.

  12. @orangegoblin82

    there was an adage that was bandied about much when we were going through the process of adoption and thats that the right kids end up with the families they are supposed to be with.

    The thought process you are going through is natural and right at a time when you are trying to decide what kind of issues your family can cope with. But while the worry is natural...its not neccesarily productive...Don't eat yourselves up with it. in the end it all falls down to divine intervention, however you understand it.

    I say this because thats how I was then. I even questioned Daniel and Selena before I met them. Then I met them for real and there was no doubt in my mind. I only hated that I had to drive away from that first meeting and couldn't take them both right then and there.

  13. @ocalaswan

    I didn't see that towleroad you have the url by chance?

  14. Bryan:
    Sorry, just saw your note. I am on the East Coast, so, three hours ahead of you and am not all that literate with trying to point out articles I have found on line.

    But, if you go to Towleroad's home page, scroll to the bottom, you will see the story on "Page 3" - Openly Gay Black Man with Kids Named Grinnell College President. Sorry, this is the best I can do for you, hope it helps. Please watch the video, it says it all.

  15. I don't understand why it's such a big deal for a kid to have two dads or two moms. Two loving parents are a lot better than one or even none. My dad was fairly distant from me when I was growing up, and my mom had to work all the time to support my brother and me. Luckily, we were a few years older than your kids are now when they divorced so it wasn't as hard, but even so, I would have loved to have a parent that would come to my school activities or be there for me to talk to when I had a problem. You guys are doing amazing. I think most straight couples could learn from you, two.

  16. Being a child of a broken home, it is so amazing for me to see a family that has so much love in it.
    It is so clear from your blogs and videos that you all really care for each other. Jay and Brian, you two should be very proud of the beautiful family that you have!!

  17. I am looking for one a gay to be my lover. do you want????

  18. I am looking for a gay to be my lover. Do you want????

  19. First of all, welcome back Bryan and with such a well written piece. You and Jay make amazing parents. The evidence is clearly in your two wonderful, happy and healthy children!


    I completely agree with you. I also don't understand why people get so hung up on a child having two moms or two dads. We rarely hear complaints today about children raised by a single parent. I believe that we have forgotten that old adage, that it takes a village to raise a child. It is not just our parents who have an influence on our life. I'm sure that we can all recall a teacher, neighbour, aunt, uncle, a step-parent, etc. who had a positive effect on us as we grew up.

    And sadly, just because a straight couple can have children, does not necessarily make them good parents. How many people have known this all too well?


  20. @orangegoblin82 Craig-you and Jake would be awesome are the type of people that should adopt.
    I often think of how our lives would have been different if we had. They (children) would be in late HS or college now. But, things were so different in '91 when we met. I don't think I could deal with it now...but there is a part of me that feels unfulfilled. Next life!! Hell ya!!

  21. Bryan! What an exciting sight to have you back and posting again. I hope you're not extending the abilities of your hand more than you should though - healing is not something that should be taken lightly.

    I really appreciated this post - as a young man with the intention of adopting children (though I have had a friend offer to be a surrogate mother) when I have a few more years of experience and somebody to raise them with, I really enjoyed it. (A long these lines, I'm glad to see orangegoblin looking into it!)

    But my favourite line was this:

    "Perhaps my fear of rejection by others for being a gay dad is really me rejecting others who have done me no wrong before they can hurt me."

    I'm not a gay dad, but I do understand what you're saying here. The experience of being in the closet and forever being in the closet until you come out to everybody trains a lot of us to suspect those around us of viewing us with hatred... and this is a perception that I want so desperately to erase. It really affects the depth of relationship that can develop when meeting new people, or when spending time with old friends... and I find this truly unfortunate. Thank you for vocalizing it.