I always figured there were certain hateful statements my sons would make, especially ones that say I am inadequate. Such statements would come out in the future during some teen age angst scrapple where I was laying down the law and they were going for my vulnerable jugular. My sister told me once, “If your kids don’t shout out that they hate you at least a few times, then you aren’t doing it right.” Up until now, no such shout out has occurred.
One of the statements I feared was finally delivered, but it did not come as part of a calculated gotcha exchange. It came at the worst possible moment.
It was Thanksgiving evening, and dinner at my sister’s house was almost ready. We were preparing to get to the table when my younger son appeared into the dining room and announced, “Jason just threw up!” I rushed upstairs to find my older 10 year old son crying over a mess that smelled like rancid juice.
I rushed him to the nearby bathroom as the stomach convulsions continued and we experienced what was to be many rounds of this illness episode. It was a horrible event as there was nothing I could do for him but hold him while his body expelled. He cried and gasped and tried to recover. “I am so so sorry” I whispered as his body tensed again. He cried out, “ I want my Mommy” and tears burst out. Say..what?
Several things went through my mind. My son is hypoglycemic and when his blood sugar drops he becomes completely irrational until food is back in his system This effect is exacerbated because he also has hypersensitivity which is a throwback from having been exposed to heroin in the womb. He was already hungry since we were about to have dinner, and now his system was even more depleted. This comment was still concerning however since there was no such person, nor had there ever been, in his life. He has been in my arms since he was 4 days old, weighing 4 lbs. There had been a birth mother but she was not a “Mommy” nor had ever been there for him.
I tried to ignore the comment, and pet him gently. My own assertion had to make an appearance though, and I heard myself muttering… “You have a daddy, and I am here, Boo..” He looked up and cried, “But you aren’t my Mom!”
Now, I was at the emotional edge. It is horrible being in the situation where you want to care for your child, but are completely helpless… and then to be marked inadequate as well was too much. “You have a Dad, Boo, not a Mom. I do all your Mom things for you. A Mom just does what I do, but would be a girl. I AM your Mom. Try to relax, you will feel better in a minute,”
He looked at me again and cried out, “I want PAAAPA!” Papa, is my ex, and was my co-parent for the boys. He self selected himself to be at a distance over the past year. “OH Great,” I thought sarcastically. “THAT is SO much better. Kill me. Just kill me now.”
The fact was that nothing could magically give my son comfort in that moment. I was not going able to make that happen. He knew it, and I knew it, and in his blood sugar irrationality, was lashing out for any fix-it his mind could muster. For him, in a few hours, the discomfort would quiet, his body would get peaceful, he would cuddle into my embraces. He would feel safe, back in control and tired. For me the drama continued as my younger son also got hit, my new partner Jim having one in one bathroom, me in the other. Later, I was up spending a sleepless night with one or both at the toilet bowl, praying for some inspiration on how I could get their misery to end. I knew it just had to run its course.
The entire adventure is now a thing for our family history book under “Thanksgiving Disasters”, but still I had the nagging residual pang over my son’s declaration. I finally talked to him recently and the conversation affirmed that he was not feeling any lack due to only male parents in our family. “Where did that idea come from?” I asked. He then relayed that one of his school friends talks to him “in private” and tries to tell him how he needs his “real” mother, and has tried to get him on sites to “find” her. This same friend is also convinced that my son has Asian heritage and has been urging him to research that. Even if my son were truly interested, it is a useless exercise. He is Mexican, we know where his ancestors come from and have studied them. I have pictures of his birth mother and am in contact with her family. She is not at a computer to be found or communicated with, she is still on the streets, and his birth father is in prison.
Those who oppose gay marriage and gay families decry the education of their children as their chief concern around the issue. In my opinion, too often the pro-gay sides capitulate and assure that no such education is mandated or desired. Meanwhile, those with an anti-gay agenda double down and hit harder with their own propaganda. This inspires children, as this friend of my son, to attempt to undermine the love we have in our family with complete utter disregard to the consequences of his actions. I do not believe children of all ages should be privy to the details of adult relationships and intimacies, but by the same token, they do need enough information to know that many family structures exist, thrive and are equal to their own. Because they have a woman parent that they love does not mean that their friend’s parent who is a man is not equally worthwhile.
As it turns out, both my sons are fully content and grounded not having a female parent in the house. They have their Daddy, and according to them, that is good enough.
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Oh, the heart break of children. They deliver our greatest joys and deepest sorrows! My gay daughter (before she was out to herself – we sorta knew early in her childhood), said that she always secretly hoped she had been adopted because that would make more sense! Looking back on that statement, I realize how different she felt from her parents, but couldn’t put a finger on why, exactly, that was. Bless you as you continue this journey called parenting!
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one of my experiences, as part of a gay men’s parenting advocacy group for 10 years in the 80s (san francisco), was that searching out other LGBT parent(s) and their families and bringing them together in safe spaces for fun (and sometimes for serious discussion, etc.) on a repeated basis over years. this created a forum in which multiple family configurations are around and became very natural for the kids. then, the next good step often was advocating several of these families to get their kids into the same schools, where possible, to help that advocacy take root in the next heavily socializing environment: up to 12-13 years of public schooling.
As an adopted gay man, I found this story especially moving. I would encourage you, however, to be as open as you can with your son about where he came from. Adoptive parents should be honest with their children about their heritage and keep the adoption as open as possible, unless the best interests of the child absolutely dictate otherwise. I guarantee that your son’s nightmares about his birth lineage are likely worse than the truth. Best wishes and good luck.
Thanks chazas! I am very open with my sons with age appropriate information on their birth families and their ancestral heritages. Thanks for the input, I agree!
What came to mind as I was reading this piece, is the people that disagree with same sex couples having children assume that there is a mother out there that is being kept from mothering these children. Our children, (Gay Parented Children) for the most part are children that are unwanted and unloved by there biological family. This child’s mother was a drug addict and his father was in prison. This man is a saint for taking care of these beautiful children, and he deserves all the love and help that our “Village” can provide for him, to raise these kids to successful adulthood. Bravo to you, and your kids. Love is Love! And these children are loved.
As a single parent of two girls, I feel your pain. My eldest hates her Dad with a passion and my youngest wants so badly to see her Dad. I just started a new relationship with another man and my youngest is always saying that he is not her Dad or Step-Dad because we are not married. What she doesn’t understand is that the man I’m with now, a man I love so much, is the only true father she will ever have. My eldest understands that she now has what she always wanted, a Dad. As they grow, I know that we’ll have ups and downs, but the new man in my life will always be there to comfort and love my two girls.
I would caution you against notions that this new man will be the only true father they’ll ever have. I wasn’t in good contact with my Dad as a child and never accepted step parents that way. They can absolutely be a great influence and a great resource, but don’t push the Dad thing. If they don’t want him to be a Dad, they will resent the hell out of you trying to make him one. If they decide to accept him that way, thats fantastic but that may be fluid, different from one day to the next, different when they are mad or in trouble.
Thanks so much for sharing this and for your honesty. As a fellow gay dad, I often wonder how my kids will handle the mommy issue when they’re older. Your story broke my heart and then mended it again. It sounds like you handled your son’s outburst perfectly, and I hope when the time comes, I’ll deal with it as well as you did. That’s what parenting is all about, not gender… but you already knew that.
If you know a one parent family where the one parent is a mum, just point out to your son if there is a next time that …..’s mum is a dad as well as a mum, just as you are a mum as well as a dad.
As someone looking seriously for the first time at same sex parenting, this really hits home. Will my baby feel something is missing because they’ll be raised with two loving mothers instead of a father? Will society make them feel that their family is inadequate? All we can do is raise them in love, try to show them that we’re every bit as much a family as any other and take the rough with the smooth. Good luck to you and your lovely children x
I’m a single mom and was raising my two girls with my Mother. No matter what role each person takes, what’s important is that each of you is there for your children with love and care when they need it. My Mom and I separated, unhappily, to which my girls are both unhappy about as well, but they are healthier in an environment where love abounds rather than hate and anger. Remember to keep love between you and nothing else matters.
I gave birth to my daughter at the age of 24, and raised her as as single parent. Her ‘biological father’ chose to not participate in her life. While there have been challenges, I believe that a stable one parent family is better than an unstable two parent family. The important thing is to raise a child with love. I’ve done this without a partner (I’m 45), and I can say that I have no regrets. When I was a young single mom I would sometimes meet guys who would say that they wanted kids, but preferred to have ‘their own’. Gender and orientation do not make a person into a parent. You have chosen to raise your children with love and commitment and that is what’s important.
Although i am not gay, I am a foster parent so, yeah I get it. 🙂
I want to tell you that I was born in a ‘traditional’ family, but at age 6 my parents finally split and I was then raised by my father. My mother loved me very much, but was mentally unable to be there for me. Her love became more and more of a burden as I grew older and she grew sicker. My father was my caretaker and the person l loved and trusted, but it was clear he could not protect me from my mother. What I find interesting as an adult is that I often “want my mother”. No such person exists; and yet, in extreme distress, I find that is what I want. The idea of a mother, the ideal of someone who can make it all better. I have no memory of ever having that in real life, still, wouldn’t it be nice?
As someone who would like to support your family in any way I can, I thought this might be helpful. Maybe it’s not – but having had the bizarre experience of feeling the need for a mother, despite having one and knowing it was a less than productive part of my growing-up, I find exploring this helpful. I know how much our kids can hurt us with our own inadequacies, but I feel – from the point of view of a child raised by a dad – that this is not something you should ever allow in. I’m sure you do a good job of ‘mothering’, but even if you don’t, it’s ok. Be the best parent you can be – that is all any of us can do.
Imagine my trepidation at my own role of ‘mother’ when mine was so awful. When I am at my worst all I can think is “at least I’m doing better than she did”. So far, so good. YOU are doing SO much better than anyone else at raising your kids. They are so lucky to have you. What a brave and wonderful soul you are to make them your family. They are allowed to wish for that perfect mother figure without any reflection on you. Honest.
Much love & good wishes – Caroline
As always, your articles are rich and thought-provoking, Rob. I do, however, have a different take on how I prefer to respond when my child wants her birthmother or a father, or when she wants her whole family (my wife and I and our extended families) to be the same race as her. Usually, her statements are said in anger (perhaps to provoke), but not always. I think it’s important to acknowledge with her the loss of her birthfamily and of not having a father living with her and of being brought up by parents of a different race. It’s okay for her to grieve; it’s not about me. Many of us manage complex—and often polar opposite—emotions simultaneously. I believe she can feel grief about the losses and at the same time be utterly devoted to and attached to the family she has now, which she is.
Rob, this was painful to read. I’m so sorry you had to go through this. Childhood stomach ailments can be trying enough even without challenges to your parental legitimacy, and the other issues your experience raises about “gay parenting.” I can only imagine how your son must be feeling as a result of this friend who is trying to convince him to find his “mom.” Even so, those of us from so-called “normal” families sometimes need to bond with a person who becomes a “spiritual” mother or father. As they grow, I’m sure your sons will encounter women who will inspire them, and who they may feel a connection with
Very moving. Nothing should mar such and honest and moving testimony –
there appears to be a typo near the end (This inspires children, as this friend of my son, to attempt to undermine the love we have in our family with complete utter regard to the consequences of his actions.)
Shouldn’t there be some term of a negation “with complete utter disregard” or “utterly no regard”? To indicate that your son’s friend did not care about the harm his/her advice might unleash? I pretty sure that is what you meant, and it really is such a crucial point – those who revile GLBTQ people simply do not even think about the harm they are doing in the process.
I can only imagine the anguish at finding out your son’s friend felt that it was a good thing to try to get your son to focus on finding his birth mother. We are always on guard against adults who try to interfere with our parenting, but to find a child’s friend involved in subterfuge is just awful. I assume that you made certain that your son knew he could come to you whenever one of his friends tried to manipulate him behind your back like that. I am a straight woman, happily married to my wonderful husband for over 30 years. Over the years my opposition to outside meddling with child rearing has grown. Unless a child is being abused in some way, other people need to butt out of how any parent chooses to raise his child. I’m glad that you have a good relationship with your sons, and that the lines of communication remain open.
Exactly, Sheila, communication is so important… and yes, we continue to talk about things that are said by their friends, particularly the one described. Thanks all for your comments!
I’m a Gay father of two fantastic sons. We have been, and are close even though my sons are now in their 40’s and no longer need Daddy. Being Gay or Straight does not define a parent. My sons are both very broad minded, successful, and … well, as happy as any of us, I suppose.
Wow what a story, thank Dawkins that he has you in his life !
Another great post! But … Phew! I’d be petrified of eating at my Aunt’s house for the rest of my life!
You are an amazing man, your boys are truly blessed.
I love how you write though it frequently chokes me up.