Conversations With My Son: When Will I Get New Parents?
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?”
I wasn’t quite sure what I’d heard, so I asked him to repeat himself. “When am I get my new parents?”
This was our first calm dinner in well over a week — the effects of being off-schedule and away from home finally beginning to fade. So I’m cautious to show alarm on my face and disturb the relative peace, but I dig a little deeper.
“What do you mean?”
“When can I get a mommy?” Gulp.
“Why do you want a mommy?”
“Because you and Papa are not nice sometimes.”
“Well, you’re not nice sometimes, too. We’re all not nice sometimes.”
“Yeah, like when you say bad words…”
“…like when you said ‘shut up.’”
Okay, GOT IT. “That’s right. But even though we’re all naughty sometimes, we all love each other very much.”
Blank stare. Chews mac and cheese.
I’m not sure he’s giving me the real answer. I head back in to take another pass. “Do you want a mommy because all the other kids in your class have a mommy?”
I almost ask if that makes him feel left out, but I don’t want to put words in his mouth. I could tell he was a little hesitant to bring this up, perhaps fearing it will make me sad or that it’s wrong for him to think it. “How does that make you feel?” I ask instead.
“Bad,” he says softly, but matter-of-factly.
“I’m so sorry, buddy. You know Daddy and Papa love you very much, right?”
He nods again.
“And you remember that you have other friends with two daddies, right?”
He looks thoughtful for a moment. “Yeah! Anthony’s sister is at my school!”
I inform him she just started kindergarten at a different school. He hangs his head and lets out a frustrated “Awww…”
“But do you remember on Sunday when you played with all the kids at the big house with the swimming pool and the goats and chickens?” His eyes light up with the memory of the dozen or so kids at the cookout we attended. “EVERY SINGLE ONE of those kids has two dads.”
“Oh yeah!” He smiles, and I continue.
“That’s why we like to spend time with them — so you can have friends that also have two dads. But you also have a lot of great friends at school. And even though they have different parents than you, you can still be their friend and have fun together.”
Blank stare. Fiddles with fork. I tousle his hair.
“Are you okay? Do you understand?”
“Can I play with your iPad now?”
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
And like that he’d moved on.
But I knew we weren’t finished with this conversation. With each passing year, with each trip across the country, each new class, new friend with a mom and a dad, this conversation would continue. If not always between me and my son, then certainly in his head.
As two gay men adopting a child — as different parents raising a different family — this was, in fact, what we’d signed up for. Yet no amount of preparation or groundwork or open-mindedness kept me from being surprised by these not-really-out-of-the-blue questions.
But surprise isn’t bad. Surprise keeps me on my toes and keeps me listening and watching. Surprise shows me my son is thinking and feeling; becoming a thoughtful, feeling little boy. Big boy. Young man.
No questions, no dialogue, no obstacles — those are bad. That’s when isolation, speculation and resentment fill the void created by a lack of sometimes difficult, sometimes painful conversations.
So I will keep on looking into my son’s bright, blue eyes (even when they stare blankly at me), searching for and drawing out the questions that invariably lead to still more questions. And I pray he never grows tired of hearing me answer, “Daddy and Papa love you very much.”
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I’d love to continue the conversation with you! Visit & like Designer Daddy on Facebook.
I imagine some of your conversations are going to be different than the ones that I have had with my children but I thought I’d mention that both my kids have asked when they should expect to get a new mom and dad.
Some of that was because they have know a bunch of kids whose parents are divorced. But they have also told us that we are mean, that they want a different mom/dad who is nicer etc.
Not saying that my situation is identical to yours but FWIW thought I’d mention some comments might just be in the kids being kids kind of line.
For sure — any kind of “difference” is going to bring up questions for kids, whether the difference is in themselves or their family make-up. Both of his responses were valid — the “not nice” comment was in response to something specific that had recently happened, but I know he was also feeling the difference at school. And yes, all part of kids being kids. And families being families. 😉
This is funny to me because after JJs birthday party Stone asked me why he couldn’t have two dads because dads are nicer than moms and he was very concerned that JJs life was in some way better than his because of it. I also explained that some kids have two mommys and he said wow I feel sorry for them! Can you tell I’m the rule maker in this house?!? I have also had the conversation after we explained to him that Kayla was his sister but she had a different mommy and now Phil is her other daddy and I’m her other mommy. And he asked when he was going to have 2 of each too! Family dynamics are so different now that these amazingly and sometimes brutally honest toddlers can throw a question out there that you aren’t ready for, sure how to answer and that can hurt your feelings a little even. Know your aren’t alone!
You brought tears to my eyes Brent. He will never ever get tired of hearing how loved he is by you and his Papa, even if he pretends to. Seventeen years after losing my dad, one of the things I treasure is knowing through and through that he loved me so deeply, because he let me know it so many times in so many ways.
Your handling of this conversation shows your love in words and actions. Thanks for writing.
Excellent, Brent Almond. As one of your hetero readers, of which I assume you have many, this post in particular starts to touch on a lot of my personal “outside looking in” questions. I’m as liberal, as tolerant (I don’t love that word- what’s to tolerate?) as they come, but I still have the inevitable questions about how this whole same sex parent thing is going to play out in the long game. Not concerns, mind you, just intrigue. This particular post reads like a personal invite to stay tuned. To be a fly on the wall in the rooms you choose to leave doors open to. Basically, seems like a neat new subplot for your blog. The kid’s take. That’s a rich piece of Internet property you’ve got going on over there. Just wanted to share my thoughts.
I think the same way we straight people have to deal with single mothers, mothers having kids when they are too old, parents working full time, parents who get divorced etc etc
We’ve made such a mess of things that like you, I am very interested to see how it is to be brought up in a gender-less family structure. Also, a structure when you know your parents fought tooth and nail to have you.
Mine was your typical straight BS. Mum has kids for the sake of it, just cause she can. To keep my Dad. Both are absent and make us feel like we owe THEM. Both fit into gender roles…poorly.
We end up dealing with years of issues from our parents.
Brent, Jon is (thankfully) growing up during a time when all manner of people can form to constitute a family. And I am thankful that Jon has the beautiful openness to recognize the differences AND the emotional bravery to ask the questions.
As a grandparent who functions in the role of “mother” for my son in our family — we always enjoyed the books by Todd Parr when he was little.
He’s 10 1/2 now, and there may be better describing books out there — but these always meant a lot to us and helped to explain us as a different kind of family. http://www.amazon.com/dp/0316070408/ref=rdr_ext_tmb
Oh yeah, been there and when you figure out one question the little guys come up with even more questions to throw you off course. Another tough one “Why didn’t my Mom want me?” You’ll also get fun questions from other kids like “Why doesn’t he have a Mom?” said in the middle of a crowded classroom.
Brent, this is so beautiful. It’s amazing what kids see and intuit and then openly share with us, not having yet learned that uncertainty is something that should be hidden. (Oh boy, I hope my son never learns that, but I know he will, from his classmates.) I love these heart-stopping questions that our kids ask us, even though they stop our hearts. How we make and build our identities and our sense of being loved and carried in this world is just amazing, amazing stuff. Thank you for writing this.
[…] before, too. HowtobeaDad has an awesome dedicated to great stuff their kids say. And Brent over at DesignerDaddy wrote about a recent convo with his son. And of course, who can talk about convos with their small […]
I love the article you wrote, Brent…I could literally hear this exchange going on in my head as I was reading…and I love the commentary from other readers! 🙂
I think you handled it well, and your attitude is good. Questions can be hard, but questions and honest answers are part of working through and processing the world.
I want my son and daughter to understand that families are not defined by members but by love and care.
And kids will always remind you of the time you said “Shut up”. That’s their job….