Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Trouble With Quibbles or...Why We Put Our Kids On The Net

Welcome back everyone...I know my blogging has been sporadic lately. Daily life seems to be getting in the way putting pen to paper....or at least keystrokes to net. However, that does not mean that our lives have been uneventful. This week we had Halloween, my 39th birthday, and a great right up about "The Right To Love: An American Family" In the Huffington Post. That's all big stuff! Being an amateur blogger I was thrilled to find the movie being covered by such a large and well read publication...and to receive a positive review for the movie was even better. I want to say thank you to Frank Schaeffer, the author of the piece for giving his truthful and candid observations about the movie and also about our family.

I also want to address a "quibble" Mr. Schaeffer had with us as parents exposing our children to protests and the glare of public scrutiny. It's not the first time we have heard that point make and  I feel it is important enough point that it requires a response. Our kids are very important to us and our decision to include them in our YouTube work was not simple. It was however, an organic process and not a preplanned set of events.....but I will explain that further in a sec. Read on after the fold.....

Mr. Schaeffers concern as posted in the Huffpo article:

I do have a quibble with The Right to Love or I should say with some of the choices made by the stars. I'm allergic to using one's children as props as some of the Leffew's YouTube material used in the movie smacks of them doing. I base this view on my childhood experiences of being groomed to take up a cause and "volunteered" into my parent's ministry from toddlerhood on.
But that's a detail. And the stakes are very high, so high we're talking about a YouTube ministry to gay young people to help them survive the hate of the "Christian" community. So I think that the YouTube use of the Leffew's children may be okay up to a point. But it seems to me that a line gets crossed in some of the footage showing the kids being taken to noisy protests and by them being included in just about every single YouTube clip. Take it from me; someday these kids will be writing memoirs of their own...

I hear and understand Mr.  Schaeffers concerns and how they relate to his own experience of being groomed to the ministry. I would like to make a distinction here however....choice. Daniel and Selena are in our videos because those videos  are about our family...all of our family. We do require them to participate in many of them. That is the end of the parental coercion however. Someday may see a day when Jay and I have to step aside from making these videos. We may get tired, DOMA may go down in flames....who knows...but we don't look at what we do as something our kids need to carry on when we can't anymore. Others will have to pick up that slack and that's one of the things we had hoped to inspire with our YouTube work. In no way and at no time are our children required to fight for gay rights when they are old enough to make their own decisions.

Now we hope that from having us as parents Daniel and Selena will have an intimate understanding of what gay people go through. That is a life perspective that I think all children of same-sex parents get as a bonus for having  gay parents. We hope that they will  grow up with an understanding and a soft spot in their hearts for those who society would set aside as "other" and treat with fear. That said, it will be up to Daniel and Selena to decide who they want to be someday...and that includes cho0sing if they want to fight for something and deciding for themselves just what that might be. it is our jobs as their parents to give them the tools to make those kinds of decisions.

Now.....We HAVE taken them with us as we protested Prop 8 on voting day....We DID take Selena to the San Francisco court house that day now dubbed as "The Day of Decision". We did those things not to put our kids in the line of fire or to advance a "political agenda". We did it because the same law that people were voting on...the same law that the court was deciding on that day, effected our family in a real way. It was not a political was something happening to our family that could have divorced us on the spot. It was real, it was practicle, it was in our face, and we needed to deal with it.  Taking our daughter with us that day was deemed low risk by us because of Jay's standing as a law enforcement officer. Gay protests rarely ever get out of hand. But if it had, one flash of a badge and Selena would have been whisked to safety faster than you can imagine. What happened after all those considerations were made was stuff that just happened. Selena was their because we didn't have childcare and we didn't see her as being in any danger. Seeing me upset made her upset and we had to have a talk with her afterword to help her understand what had just happened and that it was ok. We have always tried to be as honest with our kids as possible and we  don't believe we can always shelter them from difficult happened that day. What some may see as my kids being a "prop" was just our life as we lived it....the good and the bad.

An important addition to that is, that the people who were deciding these they voters or judges....needed to see who they were affecting with their actions. That is the entire reason we began YouTube at all. Too often the decisions that affect the lives of gay people are decided upon by men and women for whom the issue is just a it legal or moral. It does not impact their lives in any way beyond the abstract. They can bounce it around in discussion.....kick it back to lower courts...put it off till next year...then go home to their own families to enjoy without thought the basic freedoms they are making us fight for. People NEED to understand that they are not voting on an issue...they are voting on people...they are voting on families...they were voting on our family. They deserve to see the faces of those who's lives they are affecting...that includes our children. If your going to vote to take away the rights of another person, you dam well better  be able to look them in the eyes while you do it.

Putting the few protests we have attended aside for a moment...Our everyday videos are meant to be a snapshot of our family. Our kids SHOULD be in those and neccesarily, they are going to be in a lot of them. That may be what comes across in the movie(I wouldn't know as I haven't been allowed to see it yet). Whether we are celebrating Easter or making dinner, those are our family moments and we just give you a window into that.  "Ask A Gay Family" are a little different. Those are viewer questions that all of us may have different opinions on....and sometimes, if the questions asked are not appropriate for the kids  to hear, they are not included. Sometimes Jay and I just rant at a camera and the kids are never a part of that stuff. And sometimes, they don't want to do a video at all and they will sit there and silently pout at being made to turn off the t.V. for ten minutes and sit in front of a camera. That's just being a kid....ask any parent who asks their kids to sit still for a family photo. Kids are not going to like everything we ask them to do or else the world would be full of clean rooms and finished homework.

Also....We are not perfect parents. If Daniel and Selena want to write about us be it.  We are doing the best we can to be the best dads we can be. We want YouTube and this movie project to impact them the least that it possibly can in a negative sense. But even trying to be the best parents we can be still means that mistakes will be made. No family escapes that. When Ronnie Reagan wrote a book about his father, my own mother used to joke that my brother and I would someday write a book about her. It was just a joke then...but here I am today spilling my guts on the internet in blog and video form for all the world to see. Daniels and Selena's memories are their own...I can't take that away from them. I can only hope that they will remember YouTube and/or this movie project as some grand adventure that happened to them when they were kids. I know it has introduced them to friends they would otherwise not have had and taken them to places we may not have gone to. I hope it makes them richer human beings for having those experience......but if not...that is for them to decide. We continue to do the best we can day by day with a life that is not black and white.

This response is not directed at Mr. Schaeffer and I hope he does not take it that way. We get the comment that our kids are "props" from time to time....and even insinuations that they are not even really our kids and sometimes that we are all actors. After a while certain topics can push a button in me and talking about the kids is a big shiny red one. Mr. Schaeffer's experience with his family is understandably different from what Daniel and Selena may be experiencing and I understand that his concern comes from his experience. As the years go by, I hope that Daniel and Selena will feel open enough to talk about what all this has meant to them. Every year our YouTube audience is seeing them grow up(They get bigger by the minute) and it wont be long before they are able to express themselves in ways that will be wholly their own.  Then they will have their own stories to tell and it will be our turn to listen. Won't that be an amazing video to watch?...

Until next time dear readers......


  1. OMG!!!!! I just realized something. You guys have addressed this before either in video or when I was visiting. I remember how you were saying that if the children no longer wish to be in the videos then you guys were okay with it. Anyway, just a guys are great parents


    Kenny In San Antonio Texas

  2. Well if this blog post doesn't set the record straight I don't know what will! Very well put and explained (not that you should have to explain it, but it's always good to clear up misunderstanding)

  3. Are there any other reviews of the movie that you guys know about?
    I can't wait to see it for myself!

  4. Very well explained, and you guys are such good parents. I think I would be afraid of a truly perfect parent because there is no such thing, after all my mom will tell you she was not "perfect" but in the end my brother and I turned out to be good, grounded, well adjusted people.

    I think you are right that you can't "protect" your children from every event and any possible hurt or disappointment in life, it is those sorts of things that help kids grow up to be grounded and well adjusted. Any way your kids are so much better behaved then even many College kids I interact with on a daily basses. So you guys are obviously doing something right.

    I think the extreme excessive push by many parents to shelter their kids from life has created a generation that dose not actually know how to deal with real life. I can see it in the college age customers at work and even coworkers, they don't know how to deal with anything negative, and have an attitude that the world is owed to them and that they are not responsible for anything even their own actions, and that it is someone else's job to fix all their problems. (I can't tell you how many times I get people very upset with me when I, well the store, don't have something they need and I can't tell them exactly where they can find it but can only give them a few suggestions of other stores that might carry it. I mean literally get pissed at me because I can't tell them that X business that I don't work at carries Y product for sure)

  5. To me it has always been clear why you include Daniel & Selena in your videos 'cause I've been watching your videos for 2 years now. I think your blog above explains the reason well (and honestly too) to those who might not have been watching your videos.

    Hope to get to see The Right To Love someday :)

  6. As I watched the new trailer, I had a moment when I wondered what people would think of Selena being in the protest. I had to stop and wonder what *I* thought of Selena and Daniel being there--the event could be considered scary enough on its own, but few things are more unsettling to a child than when a parent is overwhelmed with emotion. In the end I decided something similar to what you wrote. It's not a bad thing for people to face the fact that their decisions affect real families. I also don't think the exposure is bad for the kids--any scary feelings Selena might have had would be offset by the steady support and safety you guys provide day in and day out.

  7. Dave and I still are talking about how well behaved your children are. After we left you on vacation we went to yet another ex-Clevelander's house in Oakland. He and his wife ALSO adopted a little boy and he was completely "out of control!"
    Whatever you are is working. I know in my heart that with your guidance Daniel and Selena will go far in life and in this society. My only wish is that there were more Leffew families out there. If there were, the world would be a much better place...

  8. Thanks to everyone who commented. I know that not everyone would agree on this issue...and that I chalk up to different parenting styles...but thank you for all the support. :D