I don’t know how to be a good parent. I don’t know how to make sure my kid grows up being a quick thinker, a helping hand to others, a sincere person and a strong willed man. I think about this every day. I don’t have the answers. When problems come along, I just try and take a deep breath, think about our options and hopefully I say something that can be just a little bit inspiring. Admittedly, there is sometimes a bit of yelling and frustration on my part. But, my son is not afraid of me by any means and he stands up to me even at 6yrs old. I am never really sure what I am doing is correct.
But, one thing is for sure. I absolutely know how not to parent him. I have only to think back to my own child hood to be reminded of how completely unprepared my parents were during my upbringing. There were never any questions by my parents as to did we do our homework. Nobody asked me if I had brushed my teeth, which should have been a concern when I had cavities every year. There was not a book in our household for bedtime stories. If there was any discipline with us, it was always physical.
I am sure that there were positive points of my childhood. I just can’t remember any of them. What I remember is the negative stuff. I remember what my parents didn’t do for me. I remember how young they were and how accidental we all were to them. I remember that we were born with only 9 months notice each and they never really got to live their own lives. I feel sorry for them. They should have had so much more but because they had kids so fast, it didn’t happen.
Now, with my own boy, I know some things not to do. First, I am involved in his schoolwork and classroom like a helicopter parent. I sit with him each afternoon to help him get through his homework. I practice his spelling words all week so he’s ready for his test on Friday. We do the same thing with math. If he doesn’t do well, there is never any negativity, we just go back and try and learn what happened and use it to help him the next time. His entire school knows my name, even teachers in grades he won’t get to for years. It’s because I volunteer to do lunch duty in the cafeteria every week. I get to know who my kid’s friends are and what kind of kids go to his school. The kids in all the grades know me so maybe my boy will have 1 less bully as he gets through the grades. His teacher doesn’t hesitate to ask me if she needs help with something. Lately, I am going in 30 minutes early before I pick up my son just to help the class with watering their garden project, which seems to have died a few weeks before I took over. I love working with the kids on growing stuff like plants. I am also at every PTA meeting.
My son has been on a swim team for the last year and a half. During the summer, this requires a commitment of 4 days a week Monday through Thursday. I have to bring him to this outdoor pool facility and sit in the Arizona sun at 120 degrees while he races back and forth with the other 5-6yr olds on his swim team. Is it miserable? Oh god yes. Do I complain? Absolutely not. I text people or clip coupons or whatever but I would not miss any of the practices or swim meets we go to. Last summer, my boy won a first place ribbon for freestyle in a swim meet. He also got a third place ribbon in a backstroke race, but he was actually the second person to finish. I got it all on video and it’s the big “swim race scandal” we talk about often at the dinner table. He will tell you that Michael Phelps was afraid to go under water before he was 7 years old so he’s a better swimmer than Phelps. I just love this age. On Fridays, my boy goes to an art class after school. He absolutely loves it. I would never let him miss that, its makes him very happy. Also, aside form all the activities, it seems that every weekend it’s someone’s birthday from school or from one of his activities. We will bring him to the birthday party and we always stay for the whole thing. Many parents just drop the kids and go but we take those opportunities to get to know the parents better and so they can get to know us.
So, while I don’t have the answers on how to handle each dad situation. I do know what not to do. When I feel myself get frustrated with my boy and when he is purposely not listening to me, I get angry. And, once I feel myself becoming the person my dad was, I stop immediately and rethink what I’m about to say. I don’t want to be my dad. I don’t want to be that parent. I don’t want my boy to remember only bad things. I want him to remember how I was there by his side every moment of his life. I want him to remember how I gave him some room to be free but that I was on the sidelines if he fell or wanted to come back. I want him to remember that I pushed him on his schoolwork, even when he said he couldn’t do it, because I knew that he could, and that he just needed to know someone believed in him. I not only want to love him, I want him to feel loved. Thanks to my Dad and Mom for showing me how to raise a child. In their own way, their failures at child raising made all of my successes possible and showed me how to be a much better parent. I do know that if I had accidentally had a child at 20 something years old, I could not have afforded to be the parent I am today. I am able to be this involved in my sons life because my partner works hard at his job. We are a team because we have been through life and are both in our 40’s. We know what to expect, and we know that our lives are not about us. We are fine with all that. It has been said many times that Gay parents don’t have accidental children; they have children when they are ready to have them. It is absolutely true. I have to think my parents took their frustrations out on me because their lives were changed for the worse by having kids. My life changed also, but since I was already past the “All about me” part of my life, it changed for the better. I Believe that this fact about gay parenting gives us an edge and in future studies, it will become a deciding factor in placing kids with couples for adoption. Birthmothers will start wanting an older, same sex couple so they can make sure their child has a less stressful upbringing. I see a future where there is a waiting list of kids wanting to be adopted by gay couples, and what a wonderful world that will be.