GAY PARENTING :: Being a gay dad is not as extraordinary as people may think. I have three children and having them is the extraordinary thing. They are intrinsically linked to my heart on every level imaginable and that is the “fabulous” part.
For anyone who has raised a small contingency like mine, the details of the day added up to a calendar of activity. Time was needed and, in true irony, there was never enough time available for their many wants and needs. I spent many waking hours in a daze, sleepwalking through a routine that pulled me slightly left of center. When I got it right, I shone in their eyes. When I messed it up, they saw the world was not fair, or always a fun place to be.
But beneath the mix of applause and disappointment, love always ruled and still does today.
How did three kids become a part of my life under the rainbow? My children were part of a ten-year marriage that came about after a turbulent time as a teen and young man. My youthful exploration of gay encounters led to too much to handle. I thought gay was a dead-end, and accepted counselling and advice from Christian folks that I knew. That led to a marriage that did not resolve any of my unresolved issues, so it lasted a decade. A divorce ended that relationship, with kids intact. They witnessed a dramatic shift in the home dynamic and I can honestly say, may be still working out the fallout from the big event.
I sometimes travel the timeline of their development, and make pit-stops to reflect on some humorous and happy situations. Every birthday, I made a cake and decorated it from scratch; Barbies in candy dresses, Superman in his flowing cape, or fantasy landscapes inspired by My Little Pony. Birthday celebrations were marked by these colorful masterpieces. I remember on one occasion, putting together a birthday theme party: a fashion shoot, where the guests mixed and matched wardrobe items – their glam poses photographed and printed to take home in their goody bags.
Then, there was the girls’ first concert to see their music idol Hilary Duff. My partner and I prepared them for the spectacle, working on their big hairdos.
My son, when starting his fascination with computers, typed in ‘dick’ and was abruptly stopped and directed to a better word search. (His favourite comic hero was Dick Tracy so why wouldn’t you Google him?)
There were also the repeat excursions that brought us all closer together. We made many trips to coffee shops, where board games were played and eyes danced behind large cups of hot chocolate. Other coffee shop patrons would enjoy the family dynamic and would often come over to our table to comment on my lovely children.
All of these memories, if you think about them with me, could add up to a gay parenting formula. You know the drill: mark celebrations with a creative cake, when you go out look fabulous, get the perfect photo, and be mindful of what you type into a search engine. A pretty standard skill set for any gay man.
Having come out for a second time after the divorce, my parenting modelled differently. I was partnered for seven years to a great guy. My youngest tells me now that she never even questioned the relationship and wondered what was gay about it. He was just there, and was part of her life. Her observation was a testament to how we just lived how we lived, and were who we were. It never came off “abnormal” in her eyes.
Flash forward to a few months after my partner and I broke up. I became HIV positive and my kids witnessed the sudden change in my health. My partner returned home to help me during that difficult downfall, and the kids wanted to do anything to make me feel better. After he explained the importance of keeping surfaces clean, they went out and got the cleaners and gloves. I was immobilized in bed with exhaustion, nausea and severe coughing spells, and I turned to see them coming up the stairs, wiping down the banister and the bathroom at the end of the loft. It was a rallied effort and one of the most stand-out moments etched in my rolodex of family memories. They were looking out for their dad and I knew we were all going to be okay.
My advice to any parent, gay or otherwise, is simple. Roll with the punches, be honest with your kids, answer their questions openly and don’t judge them when they make the same mistakes you did as a kid. Make room for celebration and come together when crisis hits. Love them and express it in fabulous ways. That’s happy parenting!
Image: David Stokes