An Interview with Ted Peterson by The Next Family
TNF: How has it been blogging for TNF?
The horror, the horror. Heh heh heh, I’m kidding, of course. It’s been great, but challenging. When I started blogging three years ago, there was a lot of drama going on: becoming a foster parent, getting our first placements, dealing with the new experience of being a parent, and finally adopting our son. Since then, we’ve established our routines and the dramas are thankfully few and far between. That’s good for my life, but not great for finding subjects to write about. I’m getting more comfortable now, telling our stories which are really just everyday stories. One of my friends says -I think kindly- that I’m sounding like Erma Bombeck.
TNF: How is your family like every other family and how is it different?
All the ways we’re different aren’t so unusual one by one, but when you add them up, we are the weird. We’re a same-sex couple who adopted a biracial son, for starters. My partner Ian is British, though he’s recently picked up American citizenship as well. Culturally, he’s a super-Brit, and has taught our boy to love Marmite and bangers. I am a Midwesterner boy with a close, loving family, but when you dig a little deeper, we’re pretty eccentric and quite proudly so.
When we get together with any other family with a three-year-old, we speak the same language. Potty training and preschools, stubbornness and sleep deprivation, toys, books, Disney this, and Disney that.
TNF: Did your family accept you and your lifestyle? If yes, explain and if not explain what you have done to help them to accept your decisions and your lifestyle.
When I came out to my parents, the first thing my mom asked was if I was seeing anyone special. I told her no, and she said that I should try to find someone, because life is so much better with someone to share it with. They would know, my parents are best friends. When I met Ian and brought him home, they treated him as one of us immediately – which on recollection, is pretty strange. In a sense it was a test to see if he could hold his own, and he passed with flying colors, and that was the end of that.
My parents eloped, and even though I think they were puzzled that we felt the need for a big party to celebrate our marriage, of course they came. They weren’t at all puzzled by our decision to adopt, and they cried along with us when we lost our first two placements. Now that we have Mikey, he forever wants to see Grandma and Grandpa, and of course the feeling is mutual. It’s too bad they’re on the east coast and we’re on the west, but we manage to see each other a couple times a year.
TNF: How do you juggle the work at home with your jobs?
I was lucky enough to be able to take off the first four months we had Mikey, which was so important for bonding. When I went back to work, Mikey went to daycare, which he loved, but I predictably was guilt-riddled about. Now, we’re at preschool and we have a routine, which includes two alternating nannies who pick him up from school. It’s tough though, because my industry demands I put in more than 40 hours a week, so I often will just see Mikey first thing in the morning when we bring him to school, and dinner and bedtime.
Juggling work and home is a work in process, but the one thing I’ve figured out is that when I’m home with Mikey, unless I’m in my office, I am 100% there for him. No checking email or texts while we play. I am happy to let the phone go to voicemail.
TNF: What lessons do you feel are the most important to teach children in this day and age? Are there any lessons they, or perhaps we as parents should unlearn?
It’s funny, I never think about lessons. I believe that play and learning are the exact same thing – ideally throughout life and certainly in childhood. Playing with Legos and setting up train tracks, dancing and singing nursery rhymes, trips to the zoo and the beach and the theater, all are all about learning.
I was talking to a friend of mine about whether everyone should challenge authority, or whether childrens and teenagers should learn to do as they’re told. I said I think children and teens should especially challenge authority, and they do whether you want them to or not. The word “challenge” makes it sound like an aggressive, confrontational act, but I take it to mean a variety of actions – question authority, engage with authority, ask “why” of authority, et cetera.
Children and teenagers should grow into independent adults capable of critical thinking, and the only way to that goal is generally polite, thoughtful, practical, but unrelenting challenging of authority. Including us, I might add. Our job is not to avoid conflict but to help our children win arguments with us.
TNF: Any words of wisdom to pass on to our readers?
I think the chief secret of my relationship with my partner and my son is that I find them both incredibly interesting. I want to be with them all the time and ask them what they think, whether I agree with them or not, and I feel them doing the same for me. The result is that even though we’re a family that laughs a lot, we’re also a respectful family in the best sense. I think that’s the most solid foundation you can build for relationships.