By Henry Amador
Working as a Holistic Parenting Coach and especially working with LGBTQ families, I have learned that while many parenting issues are universal and effect all parents, there are indeed issues that arise that are unique to gay parents, and deeper still to gay dads. The following list was compiled from some of that work. It is not meant to be a definitive “how-to” list. There are some lovely treasures here. Take what resonates with your heart and remember to love one another fully, passionately and knowledgeably.
1. Never underestimate your child, or yourself.
It starts from day one, we wonder if they hear us, if they are picking up what we’re putting down, or if they are absorbing anything we are trying to instill. Well, they are my friend. They are taking every little tiny bit in and are saving it all up to throw it out onto the world when you least expect (or desire it). Never think you are failing, never surrender, and do not be intimidated by the negative forces tugging on you. Parent-through it and you will be amazed at the parent you weren’t sure you could be.
2.Never tell them “You’re Okay.”
We feel as though we say it out of love right? We want to minimize our children’s suffering and make their boo boo’s go away, mostly for their sake, but partially for our own. We don’t need another drama queen in the house so when something goes south, a broken toy or a scraped knee, as soon as the tears begin to flow we say, “Shhh you’re okay, you’re okay.” Well guess what? they’re not okay, if they were they would not be crying. Try asking “Are you okay?” And when your child answers, whether with a sobbing yes or no, believe them and move forward from there.
Children are much more connected to their truthful feelings than we adults are, we “think” they “feel.” Love-through it.
3. Never compare your child to others.
I was famous for asking other parents, “How old is your child?” all the while I was watching for cues, vocabulary, motor skills, responses and then comparing their milestones to my child’s based on that age. I figured that one out quite quickly, the ones who were reciting Shakespeare couldn’t hold a fork and the ones tying their own shoes already were still sucking on a pacifier.
The point is that our kids all end up where they are supposed to be when they are supposed be there, and the sooner you surrender to that fact the better off you will all be. It’s that darn FEAR of failing as a parent that causes us to compare our children to other kids. Always remember FEAR is an ego-based lie, False-Evidence-Appearing-Real. Trust-through it.
4. Never be more important than your child.
I know I’ll get some heat for this one but my kid comes first, he’s on the top of the heap and everything and everyone else comes second. Sadly even my husband follows closely behind.
The moment he was born I made a sacred promise that for the next four to five years of his life my entire universe would revolve around his. Studies show that the early years are crucial in building esteem. The first four years of life are a nurturing phase during which time you fortify your child’s self-esteem and self-image by bonding with them so that they will feel safe, sane, and secure in this world. When a child misses out on that parental attention, the crazy crap we adults carry around, the reasons we spend thousand of dollars on therapy visits slides into our “baggage.” Call me a smothering, a helicopter dad or what ever you want, but he and his future family will thank me for it later. Sacrifice-through it.
5. Never forget that life as a parent and life pre-child are two very different animals.
I see this a lot, especially with gay dads, that find themselves parenting rather suddenly. One day your partying in Palm Springs surrounded by a sea of men and the next your potty training this new little human surrounded by, you know, a sea of poop. Many men hang on to those single days and have a tough time growing into and truly embracing Daddyhood.
Expect and accept that your life is different now, that that new little human in your life depends on you to fulfill each and every one of his or her childhood dependency needs. It truly is the toughest, yet most rewarding, role you will ever play. If your reading this and find yourself contemplating becoming a parent please take this one to heart. Meditate/Pray-through it.
6. Never expect to keep all your single friends, or to be understood by them.
Oh, they support you alright, they hold your hands and host your showers but the minute the spit up hits the Prada they’ll run for the hills faster than you can can blink an eye. You have to face the fact that fatherhood is a calling, and not all gay men hear it. Life will change, dinner time gets earlier, Sunday Fun-day will look completely different, and many of your old friends will drift away. This might seem sad now but your kids will introduce you to their friends parents one day and some of them will be really cool. Many gay parents are surprised to find that discrimination comes from our own as well. Not all gay men believe we should be fathers. Some don’t believe we should marry. And many liked it just the way it was, and that my friends is just the way it is. Accept-through it.
7. Never forget that you have as much to learn from your child as you do to teach your child.
“I know” are the two most limiting words in the American language. Toss out those words and see the world through your child’s eyes.
We think we have to know it all for our kids, but truthfully, knowing it all really stinks. Those dirty two words “I Know,” imply your done, that there’s no room for growth, and that you have no more to learn. That is exactly what a parent should never be. Stay green and growing. When my son asks me questions I’ll answer the important ones. More often than not I try to say, “I don’t know, what do you think?” Boy oh boy how much I have learned in his three short years on earth. Children source their spirits(pure, new, unfiltered). We tend to source our egos(old ideas, muddied and useless memories). When I allow myself to re-member (rejoin universal spirit), I am able to meet him where he is and allow my imagination to run free. Humble-through it.
8. Never let your guard down.
No, it’s not your imagination. The world will judge you. You may one day have to move your child to a different school. Gay families often make the decision to move to more “tolerant” communities. The smiles that are presented to us often hide hatred and bigotry. Your own family may not love your child the way you had hoped. These are modern day realities. With marriage equality moving forward, emotions are running extremely high on both sides of that war. There are indeed folks that would do emotional harm, and sadly, physical harm to you and yours. Live openly but aware. Embrace life but stay prepared. Be the kindest and sweetest teddy bear and the most ferocious of daddy bears when necessary. Never let your guard down. Fight-through it.
9. Never compare your parenting style to your friends.
This one is simple. Judge not lest ye be judged. When friends come over and you observe what appears to be a real lapse of parenting judgement, let it go. Open your lips only wide enough for another sip of Merlot. Show your friends how to critique your parenting style by not critiquing theirs. Remember: observe, part lips and Sip-through it.
10. Never, ever grow up.
When your baby was born you got right down on their level, eye to eye and you met all their joy and wonder with an enthusiasm that rivaled theirs. They cooed and we cooed back. They laughed and we laughed bigger. They found things magical and we found more ways to create magic. As they grow up we tend to stop trying to get down to their level, and we start to expect them to reach up to ours. Don’t do it. Never forget to be childlike for your child’s sake. Life will get serious all on it’s own and the world is grown up enough without any help. Laugh-through it.