I’ve rewritten this first sentence a few times now: I wanted to talk about how busy we’ve been lately, that being parents of school-age kids means that May has a hectic schedule. Then I thought about the age range of our seven kids, 9-20, and realized that no matter what age they are, there is always something to command a parent’s attention regarding kids and school. It starts when you enroll them in preschool and I guess I’ll have to let you know when it ends.
In the past month, we’ve attended band concerts, dressed one up for the prom as well as graduation, picked one up at college and taken her back for a spring course, then loaded the van to bring her home again. We’ve planned a graduation party, arranged for transportation of another kid to school for a sports physical, and attended an awards ceremony for yet another son who did well in art class this past year. There has been a dentist appointment, a job interview, a school picnic, Boy Scouts, a rock concert, and a road trip. That sounds like a lot of fun, but the parents have been left out of the fun stuff, except for delivering the kids to some of those events.
For most parents, I haven’t described anything unfamiliar, some may be wishing that their schedule was so light. The difference is that this is a blended family, the children are sharing their parents and dealing with step-siblings. Again, no big deal, a lot of kids do that, some better than others. No need to write about that: Been There, Done That, Wore Out the T-Shirt. Our kids, though, are the offspring of our straight marriages. I have three children; two boys 19 & 9, and the only girl, 20. My partner has 4 boys; the 18yo who just graduated, a 15yo, and 12yo twins. We all live within 2 miles of each other, and although the mothers have physical custody of the kids, we all share in their care.
Any problems? Of course there are, children who find themselves in a new family dynamic that they didn’t choose will let you know when they aren’t happy. At some point during the past 5 years, each kid has had their moment to let us know how they feel. For us, the gay dads worried about how this will affect the kids, we’ve come to watch for certain indications that things are going well. I like to watch for humor. If the kids can joke about it, take a good-natured ribbing and turn it back on us with a snappy comeback and we all laugh about it, then I know we’re doing well.
There are many voices from the religious right who would say that we’re destroying the American family, that if my partner and I would be allowed to marry, society would collapse, the children would become juvenile delinquents, and hurricanes would visit our great land. They believe that a family is one man, one woman, and whatever children God sees fit to bless them with as a natural result of their physical intimacy. While that may appear to be the paradigm, those who wish to enforce this on everyone by any means possible, including legislation by a civil government (not a theocracy) are ignoring one major issue. There have always been families that do not fit. These families exist now, have been around for a long time, and do not threaten to destroy our society.
There are so many possible combinations that constitute a family: single parents, grandparents raising kids, aunts and uncles taking in their nephews and nieces, extended families in one household, lesbian moms who have adopted, lesbian moms who carry their own babies, gay dads who became parents through a surrogate, gay dads like us who had their own kids through a straight relationship. I know of blended families in which children no longer live with a biological parent because mom or dad have passed on after their divorce and remarriage. They stay with the step-parent and are cared for by a loving new parent. There are foster families and group homes, and probably many other arrangements that my mind can not conceive but those families work, in spite of varying from what some would declare normal.
LGBT families are here, and have been for a long time. If you’ve got a gay or lesbian family member, someone who is bisexual or transgendered in your own family, then you are part of an LGBT family. Those LGBT people are living in their own nuclear families in a myriad of ways, and it is working. It succeeds because of love.
It is time for our country to stop bullying people into living lives that are dishonest. The nuclear family of a man and a woman and a boy and a girl is a great example, but not the only example of what a family can be. It doesn’t reflect the reality of our communities. To write legislation into state constitutions that discriminates against LGBT people, preventing them from accessing marriage and the attending benefits and protections is not only wrong, but ignorant of what already exists and succeeds.
Our family succeeds when I help my step-sons with their homework. It succeeds when my partner helps my daughter move her belongings back home at the end of the college semester. Love shows the way when one of my step-sons calls to say he’s lost and I get on google to find the street names he’s calling out and map him a way back home. Family values guide us to sit down together for a meal and enjoy each other’s company. Teaching those values to the kids cause my partner to involve my youngest son in a home remodelling project. Those precious few “teachable” moments come when the twins need a haircut and money is short, so I get out the clippers and scissors and talk to them while I trim their hair.
We already exist as a family. To continue ignoring us, or to try to legislate us away, will not cause us to disappear. That would only permit a certain group of people to feel good about their bigotry.