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.
During the adoption process, Papa and I went back-and-forth on what gender we wanted our child to be, eventually allowing fate to decide. But I don’t believe I ever wished (subconsciously or otherwise) that our child’s orientation would be one way or the other. As my son’s just this side of 5-years-old, he may yet be gay. But all indicators point to a boisterous, strong-willed, action-packed, “typical” boy. Again, he could still be gay. Yet his personality is so different than mine was at his age, that he’d be a completely different kind of gay man. Confident from a young age. Sure in who he was and who he was attracted to. An assertive leader (with a penchant for hugging), that I’m sure any young man would be smitten with.
Late in the fall we had a play date with a half dozen of Jon’s school friends and their parents. Our brisk morning walk through the park evolved into an impromptu pizza party at our house. Before too long, all but two of the kids (all boys) were outside, swarming the swing set, engaging in epic battles, racing circles around the trees. The remaining two were inside, playing quietly and creatively with
my my son’s massive superhero collection. The mom of the younger boy was explaining how different this child (playing inside) was from her older son (getting his ninja on outside). As I watched her boy and the other flex their imaginations in near silence, I realized I was watching myself at that age. I mentioned this to the mom, and she countered she was always the one outside, knocking heads till the sun went down. I started to make excuses for myself or feel less-than, but instead I sat with it quietly — comforted in knowing who I was, and who I’d become.
So with that sense of strength in who I am, why can’t my kid be the one that’s shy and indoorsy, fawning over My Little Pony instead of Power Rangers, eschewing aggressive behavior and requiring more than the occasional push forward into the fray of life.
I know by heart the script to dismantle gender stereotypes. My arsenal has long been loaded to fend off narrow-minded relatives or strangers who say my son shouldn’t want to dress up like Elsa or know all the words to “Shake It Off.” If my son was queer or effeminate? Nerdy, reclusive or just plain shy? Piece of cake.
Instead I find myself having to manage my son’s non-stop, well… everything. Pulling him down off tables. Chasing or yelling after him down the hall as he bolts towards his next adventure. Looking up wrestling moves on the Internet (I shit you not) so that I can learn better how to rough-house in a way that A) doesn’t end with either of us hurt, and B) helps burn off his unceasing supply of energy.
And then there’s the anger. His, but more so mine. Never in my life have I gotten so angry at another human being. I’ve been angry at people plenty of times, I’ve just never had to spend every day of my life with someone who’s pissed me off so frequently. Repression and avoidance were always my M.O. But with my son, it’s an ongoing battle NOT to do battle. To learn how to be firm and stern when I need to be, apologetic when I get it wrong, and always coming back to love, forgiveness and teachable moments — for the both of us.
So maybe I’ve my solved my own dilemma as to why I didn’t end up with a gay son — or at least one that was more like me. Maybe being a parent isn’t about creating a miniature version of yourself, but about a lifetime of learning. Learning about who I thought I was, and who I have the potential to become — all with the goal of helping my child do the same. A lifetime of getting pushed and dragged and toppled over out of my comfort zone — and what to do once I’m there. Which these days amounts to a lot of showing how to rebound from making mistakes, how to hold back from losing control, and how to be there even when you don’t know what the hell you’re doing.
Sometimes I still hope my son might turn out gay. Not because I’d want him to be anyone other than who he is or who he’s meant to be. I love my boy form the depths of my being — every rambunctious, adventurous, affectionate bit of him. But he’ll hit puberty before too long, and I’m not sure how much further out of my comfort zone I can go. Stay tuned…
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
If you enjoy this stuff I write, won’t you consider signing up to receive my posts via email? See up there on the right where it says “SUBSCRIBE?” Enter your email address, choose how often you want to hear from me, then click the little yellow SUBSCRIBE button. Easy-peasy, mac-n-cheesy!