Of course I love my son. However, I find it nearly impossible to like him sometimes. If you’re a parent (and honest), you’ve been through this, too — times when you look at your child and wonder what the hell you’re going to do to survive the next 10-15 years. The next 10-15 minutes.
I was going through one of these unlikable times recently. Then one evening as I tucked my 5-year-old in bed, I thought about how much I treasure this particular part of being a parent — this brief but precious moment of connectedness. It reminded me that in merely surviving between crises, I had neglected to focus on what I enjoy about being a dad…and what I like about my son.
So as an exercise in restoring some sanity and peace to my head and household, I spent some time considering the best parts of being this boy’s dad. And instead of attempting to churn out a long, impressive list, I picked a few to mull, ponder, and let sink in.
Here are five things I like about my kid:
The Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage couldn’t have happened without straight people — and not just the five Supreme Court justices that voted in favor of it…
Dear Straight People,
Thank you. Thank you for cheering right alongside us as we in the LGBT community celebrate a newfound, long-overdue measure of equality. Thank you for the endless sea of rainbow-colored photos. Thank you for voting. Thank you for teaching your children (and sometimes your parents) that not every family is the same, yet deserving of the same respect. Thank you for telling them that whether they grow up to love the opposite gender or their own, you will still love them. Thank you for encouraging them to be whoever they were meant to be. Thank you for trying to understand and to learn. Thank you for asking questions, even if you don’t always have the right words. Thank you for being fair and equal in your schools, your jobs, your churches, and your neighborhoods. Thank you for defending us in a fight, even when we’re not around. Especially when we’re not around.
I’d been battling a summer cold and was giving my achy muscles a rest, when multiple alerts on my phone roused me from grogginess. At long last, the Supreme Court had ruled to uphold the legality of same-sex marriage! Friends and family were texting, emailing and posting in a celebratory barrage of beeps and tweets.
Yet my relief, excitement and pride were shortly muffled by throbbing sinuses, and I resigned myself to sitting this historic event out. I had been there when DOMA and Prop8 were overturned, we’d been legally married last year, my husband was out of town and I was exhausted from my solo-parenting stint — the reasons to stay in bed were all within easy reach. But something (the social media frenzy? live news reports on the TV in the background? guilt?) moved me to maneuver upright and out of bed, where my thoughts became clearer…
This isn’t about you, or about what you have or haven’t experienced. It’s not about living within reach of where it’s all taking place. This is an opportunity to share a moment with your son. A historic moment in the nation’s evolution. A moment relevant to him and his story.
After a shot of Mucinex, I somehow managed to pull it (snacks, water, metro cards, myself) together, picked Jon up from day camp, and we set out on our adventure.
I told my curious and excited 5-year-old we were going on a field trip to the Supreme Court Building. I told him we would get to ride the subway and a taxi, and that the building looked kind of like the Hall of Justice. He was already sold by the how and where, but I needed to explain the why.
Remember when Daddy and Papa got married, and how much fun that was? (Nods) Well, we were able to get married and be a family because it was legal in our state. But there were still a lot of families with two mommies or two daddies in other states that couldn’t get married because they weren’t allowed to. Because it wouldn’t count. (Look of concern) Until today. The Supreme Court is where they decide all the laws in the country, and they said that any two people can get married anywhere and be a family — and they said that was the law just today. So we’re going to celebrate!
So, it’s gonna be… like a little party?
Marriage equality currently sits on the Supreme Court’s docket, awaiting a final ruling. Though not assured, all signs point to same-sex marriage finally being legalized in the entire United States by month’s end.
I’ve put a lot of words on this site about same-sex marriage — about mine and others'; about the depiction, support and condemnation of gay marriage in the media and politics; and about its slow progression to acceptance…one ponderous magnet at a time.
Waiting with hopeful anticipation, I’m (nearly) at a loss for words. But many others are not — men who have shared their stories and their families with me over the last few years. Many who have become friends in this herky-jerky journey of being a gay man and a father. I’ve pulled together a fraction of the tales that have paved the long, bumpy road to equality — and the reasons these dads love (or look forward to) being married.
So as we await SCOTUS’ decision, please join me in wishing these dads and their children a long-overdue, exceptionally, abundantly awesome (and legally married), Happy Fathers’ Day!
1. Your Love Knows No Bounds…or Boundaries
Brian & Ferd, married 6/10/13, Toronto; moving back to New York City in July. [Photo courtesy of Brian Rosenberg]
Brian and Ferd were married on their 20th anniversary as a couple. Several years earlier they had moved to Toronto from New York, as Ferd was coming on the end of his legal status in the US (he’s Dutch). Six days after their wedding in Canada, SCOTUS ruled that they could now get married in the US and both be eligible for federal benefits of marriage. Brian can now sponsor his husband for permanent residency, and the couple is moving back to New York next month. Welcome back, guys!
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Though I don’t dump much of it here, a lot of what I feel and think about my parenting lately tends to be whiny, worrisome and negative. In an effort to counteract that — both in myself and in my attitudes toward my son — I’m making a concerted effort to focus on the positive, particularly what makes me proud.
My inaugural Dad Brag is about Jon’s adventures in Taekwondo. About a year ago we attended a classmate’s birthday party at a local martial arts studio, and it should have come as no surprise that our energetic then 4-year-old took to it like a duck to Kung Fu.
We enrolled him in the Tiny Tigers class a few months later, and have since watched him flourish under the unimaginably patient tutelage of the instructors. You can feel the energy pouring off of him as he runs laps at the start of class, a telltale sparkle in his eye. And nothing warms my heart more than him completing a task successfully, turning back towards me and giving me a thumbs up, awaiting my reciprocation.
I take him on Thursday nights, Papa takes him on Saturday mornings, and at the end of January he graduated to Little Dragons — now sporting a cool cammo-patterned white belt as he learns alongside a group mostly older than him. And yet he already longs to advance further, admiring the older kids’ skills as he waits for his class to begin.
One Saturday morning, the mom of the other “John” in the class asked Papa if our Jon had older brothers. Answering no, Papa asked why. She replied that he looks like he’s having so much fun all the time — that surely he must have a houseful of older brothers where there is never a dull moment. Papa told her that what he did have was two fathers, to which she smiled and responded, “Well that must be why!”
I don’t know that Jon’s oftentimes tired, old dads can take much credit for his boundless enthusiasm, but in the right setting and mixed with some focus and padded floors, it’s a sight to behold.
Feel free to brag about your own kids (or yourself) in the comments!
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There were several distinct differences between my first Dad 2.0 Summit and my second. I was a newbie before, now an old hand. After the previous conference, I left with heart and mind bursting at the seams with ideas and plans and inspiration; this year I was determined to come away with a more efficient focus on ways to be a better writer, a better father, a better man.
Yet the theme common to both — and to the times between and since — is community. Here are some highlights from this too-brief time communing in San Francisco with my Dad 2.0 family.
Michael Kimmel, the opening keynote, spoke at length about what makes a good man and a good father. As a professor of sociology and gender studies, and the author of over 20 books, this was right in his wheelhouse. He talked about privilege, referencing one of his own quotes: “Privilege is invisible to those who have it.” Kimmel was referring to men (particularly white men) and their inability to see their own advantage, when compared to women. In fact, the entirety of his talk revolved around men vs. women, and how the differences and comparisons determine how men are viewed (and view themselves) as fathers. Ironically, halfway through the keynote, I started to feel rather invisible. Not once did Kimmel mention gay men or gay dads. For me, being a dad has nothing to do with how I relate to women, but how I relate to my child. Afterwards I thought I might have been being overly-sensitive, yet over the course of that first day, half a dozen guys (one gay, the others straight) mentioned this same omission, wondering if I had noticed and how it had affected me. Admittedly, it threw me a bit. I was well aware the vast majority of the men at this conference were heterosexual; yet I didn’t expect to be reminded of that so prominently and so early in the conference.
The second keynote of the weekend was my favorite by far, as it featured a panel of Silicon Valley executives, talking about their respective company’s benefits, and the ways they support parents of any gender and families of any makeup. Particularly encouraging was the presence of Kevin McSpadden, the Director of Marketing at Facebook, and a fellow gay dad. Not only are these companies innovative in their technology, but in their appreciation of the balance between work and family life, regardless of what that family looks like.
Even before I became a father, I would read stories about little boys who didn’t like sports, or preferred Barbie over Boba Fett, or wanted to dress like Daphne for Halloween, or enjoyed having their toenails painted pink. Invariably there was an antagonistic relative, neighbor or onlooker going head-to-head with a proud, resolute parent who was coming to the aid of their atypical son. I’m sure these moms and dads went through a period of adjustment to reach their own place of acceptance, but in these stories they’re already proud Papa and Mama bears, stopping at nothing to defend their cub’s right to live outside society’s rules. One dad even wrote a letter to his hypothetically gay son, which melted my heart, as well as that of the bazillion other people who read it. These stories are beyond inspiring and give me hope for humanity.
So yeah, sometimes I wish my son was gay.
Well, it looks like same-sex marriage is about to be legal in the entire U.S. And although it seems like it’s taken an eternity for all 50 states to come around, it’s pretty amazing when I stop and think about it. But you probably have no idea what I’m even talking about, do you? That’s why I’m writing you — to let you know how things will be when you’re an adult, so you can be encouraged and have hope and just hang in there. I’m also writing to remind myself how lucky I am and how far I’ve come.
Remember when you were about seven years old, and you started having thoughts that made you think you were different, not quite right, broken? And how you inherently knew you were doing something wrong, even though you weren’t doing anything but being yourself? And then you started looking in the index of every Bible you ever came across for mention of the word “homosexual” — hoping above all hope for an answer to what was going on inside your head and heart. I’m sorry you had to go through all that.
Over the last couple of days I’ve stopped and started writing several times about Ferguson and Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and toy guns, race and violence. But I had to stop because my mind was a snarl of thoughts and feelings, tangled even more by the words and pictures from external sources. I just don’t know what to say. Or what to feel or to think. I just don’t know.
Late last night I was doing Jon’s lunch note, and I was at a loss as well. I couldn’t bring myself to do a superhero or a Power Ranger or Transformer or anything else that even hinted at violence. Even if the fight was for good, I just needed a break.
Jon doesn’t know what’s going on in the world, and for me right now, that’s okay. I’ve read about other parents talking to their children of similar age about race and children being killed for their skin color by police of a different skin color, and that’s all well and good for them. But not for me and mine — not just yet. My boy likes to play guns (even though he doesn’t own one) and likes to “shoot the bad guys in the face” (even though he has no idea what that really means). He also doesn’t describe people based on skin color. The closest he’s come is to say Cyborg (a Black superhero) looks like his friend Charlie from school.
So instead of writing about things I don’t know or words I don’t know how to say or am not ready to say, I will write what I do know.
I know that I’m thankful. I’m thankful for my life and my family, imperfect as it is. I’m thankful that my son has two fathers who love him with all their heart. And even though we’re getting older and grayer and slower as he’s getting faster and stronger, we’re here for him. We’re his and he’s ours.
I know I’m thankful that my son doesn’t have to grow up fearing for his life or where his next meal will come from or where he will sleep each night. But I’m thankful that his Papa and I are able to teach him that there are kids and families that do — and that hopefully it will help shape him into a loving, compassionate, generous man. And that by helping to raise a loving, compassionate, generous man, there will be fewer dead children or abused women or bullied queer kids.
Lastly, I know I’m thankful my 5-year-old is still young enough to crawl into my lap or be kissed goodnight or hugged for a good long hug. And when we do talk about how some people are treated differently because of their skin color, their gender, who they love or how they became a family, he’ll have stored up enough hugs and kisses and love so those things sink in and have an impact, but don’t crush his spirit.
Wishing everyone a happy, safe, hug-filled Thanksgiving.
Are you having trouble keeping score? Yeah, me too. But this is a good trouble to have. So that’s 27 states and the District of Columbia — 55.3% of the US population — lives where same-sex marriage is now legal.
Here’s the play-by-play from another watershed week in marriage equality… On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to re-visit decisions from lower courts, thus granting marriage equality in Indiana, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Utah and Virginia. Colorado lifted its ban on same-sex marriage on Tuesday. Similar actions followed on Wednesday in Nevada and West Virginia.
It looked like Idaho was in the green (see map below) for a while, but on Wednesday Justice Kennedy implemented a temporary stay. I feel bad for the couples in Idaho wanting to get married, but maybe this will give me time to find someone that has an Idaho fridge magnet. Even a magnet of a potato would be fine!
Nevada and West Virginia: same-sex marriage legal, effective October 9, 2014.
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