Back-to-school time can be chaotic and stressful; and families with same-sex parents have even more issues to anticipate. Kids with two moms or dads may face situations with potential to both alienate or confuse them, whether it’s a child’s first time attending school or just the next grade up,
To supplement my own (limited) wisdom and experience, I enlisted the help of 10 teachers. While not all have taught kids of same-sex parents, they were all generous and thoughtful in their responses. Here are 5 of the issues same-sex parented families often encounter, along with input from my awesome panel of educators.
1. FAMILY MATTERS: Talking About Parents in Class
In many schools, the younger grades have discussions and activities related to family. Students are often asked to create a family tree or a collage showing the members of their family. For many kids of same-sex parents, this is when their family’s differences become most apparent. If not handled sensitively, it can amplify feelings of “otherness” and isolation, potentially affecting a child’s social development and ability to learn.
Early in the year, inform the teacher of any family details that fall outside the mother-father-bio child “norm.” In addition to having two moms or two dads, this could include adoption and birth parents, foster experiences, surrogates, siblings, multiracial/multiethnic families, etc. Particularly if it’s something you’ve already discussed with your child. If your kid knows about it, it’s likely to come up.
It all began the Monday before Mother’s Day.
My son’s kindergarten teacher sent me an email to inform me that over the last few days, Jon’s behavior had been “like spring fever on steroids.” How clever.
While that subject could fill more than a few paragraphs, this is about the seemingly secondary purpose of the note. It continued,
“We will be doing some Mother’s Day activities this week. Jon asked if he could do them for his Grandma – of course!! Just wanted to check with you on this.”
I replied to both topics; for this one: “Yes, he’s done things for his Grandma (or Nonna, Nick’s mom) in the past, so that’s totally fine.”
And this was true. Both at preschool and in Sunday school at my parents’ church, my son was encouraged to make something for his Grandma or Nonna on Mother’s Day — which he always did, without issue.
The holiday came and went. We called Nonna in Italy and Grandma in Virginia. We also spent a good deal of time consoling/entertaining our pouty 6-year-old who was frustrated none of his friends could come over to play. They of course all had plans with their mothers.
Come Monday morning, once husband and son were packed up and off to work and school, I finally got around to weeding through the stack of activity sheets, flyers, and crafts that get brought home from school each week.
Amongst the pile, I found a homework assignment, an activity sheet, a craft, and a card — all about or directed toward “Mom.”
I was initially surprised, then confused; this soon morphed into concern and irritation.
As a family with two dads, Mother’s Day can be challenging. It brings up questions from our son and can at times make him — and us — feel like an outsider. Yet even though he doesn’t have a mom, our son has inherited so much compassion, wisdom, and love from generations of great women.
One of these women was my maternal grandmother, Louise McCullough.
The photo above is of my grandmother, my mom, me and Jon from November 2010. Grandma Louise (or, more informally, Grandma Mac) had been in poor health, having undergone multiple stomach surgeries. She was in her mid 80’s and increasingly feeble, but continued to remain the strong, caring, opinionated matriarch she’d always been.
2015 was quite a year for me, for my family, and for several communities to which I belong. A flurry of sticky-note success; a milestone in equality; venturing into kindergarten; the return to a galaxy far, far away; the tragic loss of a friend — all of these contributed to one of the most eventful 12 months in my recent history. And it’s been exciting, fun, cathartic, intimidating, and inspiring for me to chronicle it all here (and a couple of other places) in word and doodle.
So if you’re a new reader curious to know what this site is all about, or a familiar friend sharing some moments of reflection, welcome. These are my 15 favorite blog posts of 2015.
I had the honor of participating in Listen To Your Mother – a curated show of readings about moms and motherhood. I was the only male in our cast, and I shared a bit of my journey regarding Jon’s birthmother.
I’ve not written much about this topic, for the sake of my son’s privacy as well as that of his birthmom. However, the events encapsulated in my 6-minute reading took several years in real time, and included a slew of emotions ranging from fear and resentment, to disappointment and anger.
Many adoptive parents struggle silently with guilt and confusion over how they think they should feel about their child’s biological parents, versus how they actually feel. I’m sharing this for those parents — so they won’t feel alone like I did so much of the time. So they’ll know there are no right or wrong ways to think and feel about these complicated relationships.
I may write about this more in time — particularly as it relates to being a gay dad. But for now, thank you for watching (or reading). And if you have one to share, I’d love to listen to your story, too.
A new video from Similac does a near-flawless job of illustrating — and then defusing — the so-called “Mommy Wars.” Yet by excluding half of all parents from the name of their campaign, they undo much of the goodwill built up during the ad.
Take a look, and be sure and watch all the way to the end.
Founded in human nature and fueled by the Internet, the Mommy Wars have been raging in full force for quite a few years. Mothers, physicians, psychologists, educators and all manner of experts and amateurs weigh in on all manner of parenting-related topics: circumcision, vaccinations, diet, working or homemaking, spanking or time-outs, “cry it out” or co-sleeping, attachment parenting, Tiger Moms, helicopter parents, etc., ad nauseam, ad infinitum. Often perched atop the list: breastfeeding vs. formula.
Similac, a primary purveyor of formula, tackles this titular issue (and several others from the list above) in their new spot, set within an initially humorous gang war between multiple parent posses. In addition to the bottle- vs. breast-feeders, you see baby carriers & stroller-pushers, stay-at-home-moms & corporate office moms, disposable & cloth diaperers – all posturing on the playground. A bunch of dads can even be found rocking baby carriers and (natch) manning the grill.
The Parents Project is an online resource for parents of LGBTQ kids. It’s loaded with videos, advice and other bits of helpful stuff, like info on what did or didn’t turn your child gay, things not to say to your kid when they come out to you, and bunches of other stuff related to self-esteem, gender roles, sexuality, etc. The site was started by Dannielle Owens-Reid and Kristin Russo, who also co-founded the award winning youth organization Everyone Is Gay. These ladies are all the awesome. The Parents Project recently reached out to me to be a contributor to their site, and you can betcha I said yes.
My first assignment was to answer this question sent in by a grandmother-to-be, concerned about the potential lack of female presence in her gay son’s life.
“My son and his husband have been married for just over a year. They’ve recently brought up the idea of adopting a child. I’ve been supportive of my son and his partner, but as a mother I can’t help but wonder how the lack of a mother figure in the household could negatively affect the child’s upbringing. Any advice?”
Read my response and learn more about The Parents Project by clicking the bright orange link.
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CONVERSATION COLOR CODE:
Daddy • Jon • Daddy’s Internal Narration
“Hey buddy, come show me your button guy you made at school.”
Jon runs into the kitchen and squats down beside Button “Guy,” who is magnet-ed to the fridge. He starts pointing to buttons, starting with two (a dark red and a blue) clumped in the middle…
It had been just under a week since we returned from a cross-country trip to visit our son’s birth parents. It had been just two days since our four-and-a-half year old started in his new preschool class. Papa was out of town, so Jon and I were chatting over dinner about this-and-that: who he knew in his class, how awesome his new cubby was, how he’s decided — after a two year break — to take up napping again, because apparently that’s what one does in Room 3.
I was also thinking ahead to the logistics of letting him have some iPad time, a bath and a story all before bed, while still leaving me a pocket of waking minutes to write.
Seemingly out-of-the-blue, my son asks, “When I gonna get new parents?”
So here I was, my not-small frame perched on the teeniest of tiny wooden chairs, clad in a retina-searing-orange t-shirt emblazoned with my son’s preschool logo, waiting for the class to be corralled before we headed to the petting zoo for a field trip. All of these kids knew me as “Jon’s Daddy,” the one who picks up — as opposed to “Jon’s Papa,” the one who drops off. There are other quite noticeable differences, but I can imagine that from a 4-year old’s perspective, we’re both just gigantic, bespectacled, goateed man-parents.
Yet it still came as bit of a surprise when I overheard my son’s classmate say, “Jon, your Papa’s here!” As expected, my son quickly corrected his chum, and things seem to be right with the world.
There was a lot going on, kids hopping up and down, excited about the field trip, distracted by the several parents scattered and squatting around the room. But amidst the melee, I hear mention of “mommy” something. I turned back toward my son and his posse, and the same friend exclaimed to all who would listen, “Jon doesn’t have a mommy… because she’s dead.”