Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Can Two Dads Be Enough?

Jay and I have gotten alot of questions about what it means to be a same-sex couple raising kids and we love getting and answering those questions. We welcome any sincere questions that stay within the bounds of appropriatness. One question we get from time to time from those for whom seeing two men raise kids is something of a shock is, "Who's the mom and who's the dad?" On the surface it seems like kind of a silly question because duh..."we're both dads!"...and that's how we answered it. But as simple as the question may be...and the correspondingly short answer...it was not so easy an answer to Jay and myself when we were beginning to think about raising a family. 

It's a question that reveals alot about what we think of the sexes...and most especially how we view ourselves as parents. What are the limits of being a father? Will there be things that we simply will not be able to provide for our kids because we are men? Who disciplines?...who nurtures? How do we divide up the rolls that most people categorize as a moms roll or a dads roll?...or masculine actions and feminine ones? Even though the answers may seem self evident to some but when you really think about adopting you have to tackle them in a more practical and thought out way.

For most same-sex couples, the decision to become a parent is not one made overnight. There is so much to consider....how it will change your life...if you and your partner have the mental and emotional tools to raise children...can you afford to raise a family?....will our parents and family accept our kids?.....will they be teased because of us?....and yes.....how do we deal with the fact that we will be without the influence of the opposite gender?  There are so many questions and we had to work through them all before we even began the equally complicated question of how we go about creating a family.

Traditionally dads are thought of as the authoritarians and emotionally distant...moms are thought to be the ones to nurture and give kids their emotional upbringing....as well as feed, bath, educate, and change poopy diapers. Yes it's a very old idea, very reminiscent of Leave It To Beaver, but we still hold that thought somewhere in the backs of our minds when we think of mom's and dads. We still hold on to that idea even though we know that there are lots of stay-at-home dads and working moms...and many, many single parent families.

For Jay and Myself, answering the question of how do you be both dad and mom at once was a hard one to answer. On the one hand, both of us were children of divorced families. We both knew what it meant to only have one parent in your life at any given time. Also, neither one of our mothers were exactly the "nurturing" types in the way that our cultural fantasy of mom's depicts. I know that my mom had no problem handing out the discipline when it came down to it. She had to....since she had us the majority of the year, she had to fill the roll of mom and dad however she could. Remembering how my brother and I were, I'm suprised she had any sanity left over for nurturing. But getting back on point...

When it came to who would sooth the booboo's and who would sing the baby to sleep, Jay and I both understood that the capacity to be both nurturing and the disciplinarian is not dependant on our gender. We could look into our hearts and see that easily. Being any kind of parent will mean there will be days when you hold them while they cry, days when you are building replica's of Spanish missions out of sugar cubes, Days when you have to endure endless replays of Justin Bieber through gritted teeth, days when you will let your daughter put makeup all over you, and days when you just have to be the boss and let them know it. Those things aren't exclusive to being a dad's job or mom's a mom's job anymore. It's just part and parcel of any parent's job.....so you'd think we were all good right?....wrong.

What about Puberty, menstrual cycles, sex questions, first bra's, learning about how to put makeup on the right way....Will there be times when being a dad...even a super awesome modern dad, will not be enough? To answer that question I will focus on my daughter since we are a two dad family....that is no disrespect to my son who has his own challenges as well, but people always worry that children will miss the input of the opposite sex parent and to be honest we worried a bit about it too.



I remember that from the time when adoption was just a remote possibility, until our first couple of years together  as a family, I would look to those future moments with my daughter and think that there are just some times when Jay and I won't be be able to give Selena those important female rites of passage. After all, I've never shopped for a bra or done makeup on any day outside of Halloween. This means that we had resolved that there were just some moments when we were going to have to rely on the women around us in our lives to help Selena through those steps to womanhood. We made sure that there would be lots of aunts, grandmas, and friends that would be ready to lend a hand when those moments came. But then...

Time has had a funny way of changing problems we thought were insurmountable. Selena has been walking in high heels since she was two. We didn't teach her, she just put them on and took off like she was born in them. She has developed that natural grace that only comes from lots of practice. I'm pretty sure she could walk a tightrope in them if she had to....Check one problem off the list.

My family...in the loving way in which they often do...give Selena gifts that are just a few years outside of appropriate age level. For example, the set of permanent markers they kept giving her when she was still unable to grasp that we don't color on walls, furniture, ourselves, or the pets.....(thanks guys*sigh*). Most recently, the offending item has been makeup. Every week Selena is coming home from a visit with Grandma with some Hello Kitty or Hannah Montana makeup thing...Selena is six and she has as much lip gloss as the average teenager. I'm pretty sure that coming to kindergarten covered in sparkles from head to toe with purple lipstick and pink sparkly nail polish is against the rules. I used to confiscate that stuff as soon as it entered the home but lately we have allowed it to be a weekend-only dress up thing. Usually Selena gives herself a "makeover"....sometimes...and I do mean  sometimes, I let her give me one. It's a tough job but somebodies gotta do it and I don't see jay submitting to sparkly nail polish anytime soon. That stuff takes forever to come off.

The thing is...she's starting to get good at it. Just as she's gotten proficient at coloring in the lines and drawing very detailed pictures...so is she starting to get good at keeping the makeup where it goes. Her choice of colors however still leaves much to be desired but I think mayby that will get better with time as well. could this be another problem checked off the "dad's can't do that" list? Only time will tell...

Sex talks at puberty I've learned to handle through having them with our son.....talking about boys?....been doing that for years. Shopping for bra's and teaching her how to use feminine hygiene products I may need to call in the reserves for...but you never know. One day Selena may be dying of shame while I am explaining tampons while using Google and YouTube....don't laugh, it could happen.

Everyday that list of things  I didn't think a dad could do gets a little shorter. Partially because Being a parent means learning to deal with lots of things you may have found embarrassing/disgusting before you had kids. But it also got shorter because everyday day that goes by sees Selena and Daniel develop in more sophisticated ways that give me more confidence in who they will become....now if I could just get my son to check his own homework...

In the end, I know I will not replace her mother. Daniel remembers his mom...and not all those memories are good ones. He NEVER asks questions about his mom. Selena on the other hand, was not old enough to make any memories of her. I know that she will have fantasies about what her mom was like and that has to be o.k. with us dads. One day she will be old enough to understand her mom's history, her drug problems, and why she could not be raised by her mom. I hope that by then she will be a confident young women who will be able to handle getting to know who her mom really is...that won't be easy. But I hope that the confident young woman who can handle that moment will have been born out of countless nights of bedtime stories, dinners around the table, bandaged owies, and years of being a part of a family who loved her and gave her the best of what we had to offer. Then it's up to her.

To be honest...I don't know how to categorize that. Is it being both a mom and a dad in one package?...filling in the gaps of a dads shortcomings?...or just being the best parent I can be? Personally, I choose door number three but I understand that each family will have to make it's own mind about how they answer that question. I don't think about it as often these days as I used to...I just try to keep everybody clean and fed and enjoy my time with them while I have them because it goes so fast.

Until next time dear readers....

16 comments:

  1. No family is everything to everyone all the time. Family is about love, guidance, and growth. You have it right. Just be the best parent you can. :)

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  2. Of course every child will wonder who their biological parents were, but Selena will always know that you two are her fathers. Blood may be thicker than water, but love will last forever.

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  3. Sparkly nail polish is the worst! Gah, I hates it so much. I think a brand would go away faster.

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  4. You ARE a Family :-) And great at it too.
    I think u internalize 2 much societal pressures. Gender roles are like fashion... they change with the times. Hop in the DeLorean and move emotionally to this century (grin; "Birdcage" or "La cage aux folles" always helps :-)
    The GOOD NEWS is U MAKE THE RULES !! And u can switch roles anytime, since u both wear pants in the family; versatility is a great asset (wink, grin)
    Your children absorb everything about u; they will live it up and make u PROUD parents...
    Enjoy the wonderful lives you've created !!
    PLEASE KNOW WE LOOK UP TO YOU :-)
    We heart you :-)

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  5. Hi Bryan

    Bella again lol yes in this day & age that happens in one parent families as well... I had that as a single mum & no father on the scene... I had great godparents for my son that pick up what I lack in... They were & still are fab... my son still calls them Mum & Dad...

    I didn't know how to teach him to shave so was getting all geared up to do so then realized I didn't need to he already knew...lol

    And the SEX talk was fun I actually had so much fun doing that my son on the other hand didnt...lol

    So as to the 'Tradition Roles' of a 'Mum & Dad' I think its more about love & doing the best one can regardless... Like said in an earlier post to you I was in self doubt for a long time..

    But from what I see though Youtube you & Jay are doing just great the same as most other parents no matter what there family make up is....

    Stay strong
    Bella

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  6. Hi Bryan

    My parents divorced when i was 6 and i was given to my mother. I remember i was dying of shame when my mother talked with me about things that my father should have talked. My mom has to be both nurturing and authoritarian at the same time. Those times were really hard for me but when i started to grow up i began to understand the reasons behind this. Your kids will understand the same way. All you have to do is to show them how much you love them and this is the only think matters. All other problems are getting solved in time and leaving you memories to smile when you remember :)

    <3
    Talat

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  7. I think you guys make wonderful, loving parents. You'll handle all the situations along the way just as well, if not better than traditional parents. In fact, all the kids I've ever seen that were raised by same sex couples, turned out great! Your family is a real inspiration. :)

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  8. Honestly, I think you guys are much better than a lot of opposite sex parents, precisely because you're aware of the issues and know you're gonna have to put yourselves way outside your comfort zone to do the best for your kids. Too often straight couples will leave stuff up to the other parent because it's 'a male thing' or 'a female thing', which is all very well until dad is the only parent there and his daughter starts her period etc etc.

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  9. Artjommm from YouTubeApril 2, 2011 at 3:19 AM

    Bryan, I really admire your and Jay's openness. You both should give classes on parenting. I mean it. :)) I'd gladly enroll.

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  10. Ok, you had me until I saw the Bieber thing played over and over.

    That is why headphones and earphones would be encouraged in this home.

    Thank you for stating what the psych community has known for some time. The sex of the parents doesn't matter, the consistency and love matter most.

    It puts lie to the bigots assertion that a child NEEDS a mother and father. Nope, all the research done thus far states otherwise.

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  11. Interesting and funny reading...don´t worry so much. I think you are a great family. I grew up with a mum and dad...and I don´t remember my mother teaching me anything about makeup and tampons and other female stuff. (i´m female) So don´t worry I think you are more prepared then many straight parents, cause you have thought this through a lot. I think it´s more so when you adopt a child.
    Enjoy your beautiful family...

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  12. I think you two are some the greatest parents in the world!!! and i bet your kids would say the same thing!!!! your family is showing the world that there is nothing wrong with two dads or two moms!!! I am a Hairstylist in Oklahoma and i have gotten a few of my clients watching you now!!! not surprising they talk about your family ever time they come in... your family truly is and Inspiration to all LGBTQ in the world!!! We love watching you and reading the blogs!!!

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  13. Hey, two dads are better than none. And since we, gay men, embrace both our masculine and feminine sides, a gay couple's child will end up having 2 moms and 2 dads. That, in other words, is the village a child needs to be raised. :) Bravo!

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  14. Hey, it is a funny post. I was raised in a traditional family: mum + dad, a girl and a boy and a dog, LOL. However my mum had never used make up and couldn't teach me how to use it, I received my first Hello Kitty make up set from my dad. My mum didn't know how to comb my hair, so she cut it very short until I was old enough to realize how ugly I looked. Oh, and when I got my period, my mum just asked me if I know everything already...I didn't but I decided to consult my friends rather than my mum... I turned out to use make-up, have long hair, etc. I was raised in a loving family and that's all that matters.
    and a tip for the nail polish: ask her to use a base (non-colored) and than its much easier to clean it...
    Judit

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  15. Bryan, I have done a lot of reading about lesbian parents and in one of the studies I looked at the mom's were asked if it was important to them to include male role models in their children's lives.
    I'm just wondering if you and Jay as gay men feel it is important to include female role models in your children's lives? And if so, who fills that role?

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  16. My cousin got her first period while she was living with her dad, they spent 2 hours at the store looking at tampons and pads while he tried to figure what what they were and why she would need so many. A lot of women tried to give him advice but he was determined to figure it out on his own.

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