For those of you who may have missed it, The Oprah Winfrey Network recently aired it's new reality series 10 Kids 2 Dads. The show chronicles the lives of Clint and Bryan as they raise their 10 adopted children. As of now the show is being billed as a "special" with hopes that enough interest will lead OWN to make it into a regular series. That's an option I sincerely hope they pick up because I enjoyed watching it a lot...and the list of T.V. shows I consider "must watch" is extremely short....as in countable on one hand short. It was actually my husband Jay is who brought the show to my attention. He is a total reality show junky and so when a show about two dads with adopted kids came up on his radar, we both got pretty excited. And so we settled down to snuggled up for a TV night to watch another set of dad's deal with the stresses of family life both in the everyday way and in the challenges that come with parenting adopted children. This also counted as a "date night" for us...if that tells you anything.
Now...some of my readers know that we have already given some of our opinion about this show on Youtube. However, this is my chance to give my own unvarnished view in a way that our family videos doesn't always allow. In addition, I would like this to be an open conversation as I will likely ramble over a variety of topics relating to the show....please feel free to chime in and let me know what you think. So without further ado...
The Modern Family:
The first thing I need to say is that there are some things I just have to get off my back about the way the show is being marketed. It seems as if absolutely every family headed by a same-sex couple is being called a "modern family". It's really starting to get on my nerves as I feel it sets us apart as being different. I understand that they idea of a "modern family" comes from the ABC series of the same name and it's attempt to create a family/comedy story based of the notion that the classical idea of a family has changed to include a much broader picture. Yet, even though the show has other types of family make-ups, it seems like it's only Cam and Mitchel that get thought of when the term "Modern Family" gets used. So now same=sex couples with kids are being sold this way in television shows and media...as evidenced in the way that OWN describes the show on their website and in the preview. But my opinion is...what the hell is so dam modern about it? Gay people have been raising kids for a long time, why now is this considered so modern?
To me is points out their difference more than their sameness...or the largeness of their hearts for not being able to say no when another child in need is brought their way. And yes...I understand that one of the selling points of the show is because they are two men raising kids...I get that. For a lot of OWN's viewers, two men raising a family is outside of their experience enough by itself that, that alone will be a draw. That's a good thing, don't get me wrong...as long as OWN doesn't edit the show in such a way as to tell it's own preconcieved story, then someone might well learn a very valuable thing about same-sex families...and that's how much the similarities of same-sex families outweigh any differences(by a large margin). Use of the term "modern family" may be a handy marketing phrase to attract a wider audience...but that term is starting to sit bad with me because I feel like it points us out as different.
The Family Friend:
Through out the two episodes that aired there was a character that wound her way through the show that gave me a lot of mixed feelings for the way she was portrayed....the family friend Michelle. I find myself really struggling in how to give my opinions about this because I don't want to be rude or mean to her. She is obviously close to the guys and the kids and it's not my place to judge that. In fact, I was a little jealous that I don't have a Michelle in my life that I can call at a moments notice when I need a little help managing. but therein is my issue. When ever their was a problem, the guys could just scream out "Michelle!" and out she came. She made lemonade with the younger kids with the older boys where painting the house and helped council the dads on how to handle the fact that one of their sons was being teased at school.
This last on got to me a bit. Really?...One dads talks about such a major event with a family friend instead of together with his husband, as a couple?...something began to get fishy here. Given that a large majority of OWN's demographic are straight women, I started to ask myself if Michelle wasn't being cast as the surrogate mommy figure. That possibility bothered me quite a bit. I reasoned that had the tables been turned and the parents been two women, that OWN would not have included an ever present male friend who swooped in with advice when ever things got complicated. And when kids get bullied, sometimes you do want to talk about it with someone, because as a gay parent your always going to have a shadow of doubt in the back of your head. But...OWN did not show Clint and Bryan talking together about how best to handle it...nor did they show either of them talking to the school. Instead, they talked about it with Michelle as if she somehow had power to make parenting decisions. To me, that says that OWN is concerned that a mother figure must be present or they are not a real family and that is just not right. Michelle may be exactly who they portray her to be on the surface...a family friend that is very close to the whole family. Close enough to be one of the family really and that is a wonderful thing for any family to have. She was awesome and kind, just like the boys said on the show. the part that bothers me is that they are putting her in the place of mommy and that does a disservice, both to the dads and to the viewers of the show who do not get the benefit of seeing how they would have handled things on their own.
Race and Money:
Of everything that's been said about these two dads, this one galls me the worst. In our review of the first two episodes a commentor questioned why all the children were Black and then went further to question why they had 10 kids and going further to accuse them of being in it for the monthly allowance the state gives you for raising fostering or adopting kids. This made Jay and myself pretty upset when we read it. So much so that we felt compelled to answer it ourselves:
Putting it in a nutshell...I don't think the public at large has a realistic view of just how many kids are out there waiting to be cared for in relation to how few homes there are to offer that care. In Clint's own words they entered adoption without the intent of having such a large family. but they admit that when faced with another child that needed a home and the difference being for that child.....a family with them...or no family and living in a group home....they couldn't say no. And any social worker who see's a happy home with room for more WILL bring by more children to fill it, I know that from my own experience fostering. Tons of kids are sitting in our own county run group home that the county would prefer to see in a safe home, and going to a school, making friends, and living as normal a life as is possible when you have been removed from your parents. So here are Clint and Bryan who understand what the stakes are for these kids...I don't blame them one bit for stretching their hearts and their idea of their family a bit larger to make room....that's what real family does.
I find it ironic in this day and age that there exists a bias against large families. I know that when I had my two kids and our three foster kids, if we took them out to eat we would sometimes get looks we never got when it is just my husband and our two kids alone. when it's the four of us, we get smiles...when it was seven of us, people would look at us out of the side of their eyes in concern....while actually knowing nothing of the facts of our situation. It's sad. And I do realize that the news like to sensationalize large families negatively (Octomom or Duggars anyone?). But you can not look at a family from the outside and think that you understand whats going on....you don't. And all those who are judging Clint and Bryan really need to meet these kids(who seem awesome...everyone of them) and walk a mile in these dad's shoes. As a parent who felt stressed with five kids...my hat is off to these two big time.
And as for the race issue....I can't even believe someone would make an issue of it. The cold facts are that the kids least taken for adoption are older kids, kids with special needs, and minorities. There is just no easy way to say it but it's a fact. When my son and daughter were still in foster care, the family they were placed with wanted to adopt Selena because she was a healthy baby...and poor Daniel who had already had one younger brother adopted away from him was about to lose his little sister too. If it wasn't for Daniel and Selena's social worker reaching out to us....they might not be together today to pick on each other and fight over everything. No one wants to talk about this fact but it's absolutely true that kids of all races are living in the foster system until they age out of it, never knowing a home and parents of their own. The social system JUMPS at a chance to find these kids homes. What does that say about us as a country that we allow this to continue and yet still look at gay couples as inferior and/or potentially dangerous? It's not right.
And furthermore(rant continued)...when I see those boys I see all the marks of happiness. they are almost always smiling and in the case of the little ones, are always jumping around, cracking jokes, laughing and dancing. Neglected and unhappy kids don't do that. All it takes...even in one hour of footage is to see the way the kids act when they are being totally natural and unself conscious. It's in those moments when the older boys are talking about how their dad burned the birthday cake and their eyes dart toward each other without turning their heads that you know they understand each other without having to say anymore....or when Liam is standing on his chair and dancing in circles with a HUGE grin on his face, just cute as hell....or when Caleb made me cry when he talked about how his dads had his back. That is were the truth is in the health and happiness of this family....not in the external judgments of others who only see race or money.
And believe me...as someone who gets those monthly checks for fostering and adopting...every little bit helps when it comes time to put food on the table, buy school clothes, pay for extracurricular sports or classes, support school events, take the kids to do fun things...you name it, that check is only a drop in the bucket to what any family truly needs to live on. Which is why my husband works as much as he does and thinks that we don't recognize or appreciates what he does....we do, everyday we do. But what family doesn't have a similar story to tell?
Haters Gonna Hate:
And in closing I would like to address a question that Clint and Bryan actually asked to Jay over the phone(They are awesome by the way...in case you were wondering.) and that's..."how do you deal with the haters?" Well guys...that's a easier question to ask than to answer. Putting your family out there for the world to see also opens the door to people who feel they have license to say whatever insane thing that pops into their heads. And the anonymity of the internet makes them feel safe to air it without consequence. Which means you will see things directed at you and your children that will sometimes make your blood boil and your stomach turn...like the time a YouTube stalker referred to my daughter as a "bought and paid for child bride." There was never a time when I wished more that I could pull his slimy butt through the computer screen and headbutt him...though it would probably require me getting a battery of penicillin shots afterword. You can say what you like about Jay and I...or gay people in general, but you don't mess with the kids. Those are the types of comments that we usually act on.
When someone goes crazy on gay people or Jay and myself in particular, we tend to leave those kinds of comments in place for others to see. The reason we do this is because it helps for people who are never exposed to real, naked, hatred and homophobia to see it and understand the reality of it. They need to know that this is what we live with as a part of the reality of our lives as gay people. We feel that maybe they will see it and some part of their hearts will be moved...or they will learn a little about what it means to walk a mile in an LGBT persons shoes.
But when they attack the kids they open themselves up to A.) a poppa bear mauling B.) a post mauling Ban from the channel. If someone calls our kids names or goes on the attack to another commenter in ways we feel are inappropriate we remove them promptly. We never....ever...let our kids be exposed to any of this. If you would protect your kids from a crazy drunk person staggering down the street spouting obscenities....then you likewise shield your kids from internet crazies who spout their garbage from a clear head.
you are never going to make everyone happy. Some people are going to latch on to the smallest detail and take you to the carpet for it(like when my daughter held our family dog in a way that a viewer felt was inappropriate)....others will watch the first thirty seconds of your show and think they know all they need to know about you. Some people are genuinely good people with some very bad ideas about gay people. In all cases, as long as the dialogue is civil(if sometimes heated) then there is always something valuable to be gained from the exchange...even when you sometimes want to shake your head and why people cant seem to see the basic humanity in our lives. Little by little it does change. And when you look back after a while, all the hate you had to suck up from world will seem like it's totally worth it when you see that positives that sharing your family may gain you. Perhaps you will be lucky enough to make friends in parts of the world you never hoped to reach. Perhaps you will be able to give your boys amazing experiences that you otherwise would not have had...or perhaps you will have someone reach out to you and tell you how much your family has changed them...perhaps even saved their life. In the face of that, all the haters will mean nothing.
Finally, I would just like to say that through all my b*tching and griping, I loved the show. I really hope that OWN takes this on as a regular series. I want to know more about each boy and where they came from...what their histories are...and how they each feel about their family. I look forward to seeing one of the dads "go poppa bear" if the kids get bullied again. I look forward to understanding who Michelle is more. In short....I want more and I hope OWN intends to bring it.
It is so great to me to see a same-sex family on television...and even more so for having built their family through adoption. There is just so much that they can talk about and so much that Oprah's viewers can learn from seeing a real gay family in action. I hope that everyone who reads this will take a second to check the show out. Go to the OWN site, leave them your comments, and show them your support. In this way, maybe we can convince OWN to make this a regular series...answer all our burning questions...and give Clint, Bryan, and the boys a chance to rock the world.
Now it's your turn....Let me know what you think...
Until next time dear readers....
For those who may have missed out first review: