Jerry Mahoney suggests we look at all of the forces involved in parenting before judging whether single sex parents are “good” or “bad”.
I almost wrote this post a few months ago when Bristol Palin said something annoying about gay parents. Now, it’s Rupert Everett who said something annoying about gay parents. Forgive me, but I’m having a harder time lately getting annoyed.
It’s the same argument every time: hey, moms are great. Kids should have one. (Ditto for dads, but I’m covered there — my kids have two! Whew!)
OK, you win. Moms are great. I agree. I have a mom. My mom has a mom. Abraham Lincoln had a mom. (Turns out she died when he was 9. Think how much more awesome he would’ve been if she’d lived a little longer.)
So sure, if you have a mom or two, count yourself lucky. But don’t look down on my family just because we’re different. You think my kids are better off with some smack-talking piece of trash like Bristol Palin than with me and my partner? Or do you want to take her kid away, too, because she’s a single mom and a worthless idiot? Either way, you’re wrong. (See that, Bristol? I’ve got your back.)
It’s almost too easy to make the counter-arguments to the people who insist that all kids should have exactly one mom and one dad. Yes, there are those studies that say that kids raised with gay parents aren’t any more likely to knock over a liquor store someday than any other kids. But all that science overlooks an even bigger argument — namely, what if your mom’s an asshole?
Come to think of it, I should take it easier on Bristol. Her mom kind of sucks, too.
Lots of mothers are just plain horrible, and if you’re stuck with one of those train wrecks, you have my sympathies — and an open invitation to come hang out at our place sometime. You’ll love it. We don’t have any female role models, but we do have all three major video game consoles and a trampoline. Sweet, huh?
Again, I’m not trying to badmouth moms, most of whom are loving, nurturing, patient, incredibly generous people. I just think the anti-gay parents brigade are missing the point. Since when do we expect every single family to fit some ideal of How Children Must Be Raised, and why is that ideal so often limited to gender roles?
Couldn’t you say kids are better off in smaller families, where they can get more attention from their one mom and one dad? That they’re better off in affluence than in poverty? With access to health care than without? With a good education than in an underfunded public school? With jetpacks and laser guns and a computer chip implanted in their head that helps them do long division?
You can’t just hold up some hypothetical ideal and tell everyone who can’t provide it that they shouldn’t be having kids at all. Who would be left? And what if someone in one of those ideal families dies or gets laid off or moves to Cancun with their secretary? Families face all kinds of circumstances, positive and negative, and they persevere because they don’t have a choice. That’s why we need families in the first place — to get through all the garbage life flings at us.
Besides, just having one mom and one dad is no guarantee that all the gender-related territory is covered. Even with straight couples, some dads are girly and some moms are manly. Just because a kid has a mom and a dad, it doesn’t mean he’s baking cookies with her and driving monster trucks with him. It could be the reverse, or neither. Tell me, Prince Charming from Shrek, how much micromanaging of familial gender roles is necessary to protect children?
Deep down, those of us in the trenches know the truth: families aren’t made by a mold. They’re made by people who love each other, and they come in all different forms, some of which seem weird to outsiders. Ours has no mom. Maybe yours lives in a Winnebago or has a reality show on E! Nobody’s perfect. But even though we can’t all give our kids everything we’d like them to have, we do our best.
Before we had kids, my partner and I thought a lot about what they would be missing out on with no mommy. I was satisfied we could still provide them a good home, but I realized I could never satisfy the people who don’t think two dads should be raising a family. You think my kids deserve a mom? Fine, maybe you’re right, but they’re not getting one. I’m just not capable of loving a woman the way I love my partner, so if we’re going to do this, it’s him and me.
And like it or not, we’re doing it. We have twin 3-year-olds who rely on their two dads to feed them, tickle them, wipe their butts and protect them from monsters — plus a few million other things we do because we love them to an unfathomable, sometimes ridiculous degree.
I know a hypothetical mom might add certain wonderful things to their lives. I think about that constantly, because like all good parents, I want my kids to have it all. I worry what’s going to happen when my daughter hits puberty and my partner and I have to Google menstruation to talk her though it. It breaks my heart when I pick them up from school and overhear the teacher telling the class, “OK, let’s see if your mommies are here to get you!” At three years old, they already know our family is different. Someday, they’re bound to hear the hurtful things that Bristol Palin and Rupert Everett and so many other people say about us, and that bums me out big time.
But that’s the world my partner and I chose to bring kids into, and ours is the family we knew they would have. And you know what? I still think we made the right choice. Our family may be a bit different than most, but our kids know that they’re loved and that their two daddies will always be there for them, possibly with a female friend along if we’re buying a training bra or something.
The good news is that, other than the rantings of a few homophobic celebrities (including at least one self-loathing gay man), gay families are getting some pretty good PR these days. We have sitcoms like The New Normal and Modern Family that make us look (mostly) good, celebrity ambassadors like Ricky Martin, Elton John and Neil Patrick Harris, even the support of the President. It’s not always going to be such smooth sailing, though.
Someday, maybe even soon, there’ll be a major news story about some horrible gay parents who kept their kids locked in a subterranean torture prison or made them work at an iPad factory or something horrific like that. You know it’ll happen, because every sexual orientation, not to mention every gender, race, religion, ethnicity, disability status, blood type, Edward-or-Jacob affiliation and grouping of any kind has its share of douchebags. And when the media circus springs up around Doug and Bob and the half dozen foster kids they used as drug mules, the Bristol Palins and Rupert Everetts will point at them and say, “See? See???” Kind of like what global warming deniers might say on a cool day in August.
You know what? Doug and Bob are jerks. But if you think that says anything about me and my partner, then so are you.
So I don’t have time to be outraged every time someone in the public eye says something negative about gay families. It’s going to happen again…and again, and again. Ultimately, though, it’s not what a few people say but what the rest of us do just by living our lives that speaks the loudest.