Opening scene: A pre-school classroom. A new four-year-old is joining the group and sits at the table surrounded by his peers who decide to go around the room and tell the new kid about their families.
When it gets to O, he excitedly hollers out his roster: “Me, Mommy, Baba (that’s me), S (his little sister), Fuzz the Rainbow Fish…”
O beams happily, proud to add his family to the list. At that point, one of his friends leans over to New Kid and says with a knowing look that lets him in on the backstory “O has two moms you know”.
At home, O talks a lot about family and recently announced his goal when he grows up is to become a Dad (a welcomed departure from his original plan to become a giraffe).
At this stage in the game, we don’t delve too much into our family’s origin story and how it all came about. O knows he has two moms. He knows he calls one of his moms by another name. He knows he does not have a dad. He understands his family is different from those in his class but (thankfully) does not feel any negative way about that. He also knows that in most ways, we are very much the same.
When O told us he wants to grow up and be a parent, just like us, it might have been the greatest compliment I’ve ever received. Of all the jobs imaginable, from firefighter to super-hero, he believes the most important and most worthy of his effort is to be a good parent to kids of his own.
While he enjoys his real-life role of big brother, to his brood of stuffed animals he is an attentive and loving “Dad”. It’s a title he takes seriously and every night he points out which of the stuffies are the “babies” (like his sister) and which are the “big brothers” and of course, as Dad in charge, he protects them all. He tucks his animal friends in tight, hugs them when they are scared and sometimes can be heard singing them a song after we say goodnight. As a “good Dad”, he can be stern when needed, reprimanding his babies to “turn it around or they won’t be able to watch their show”. O firmly believes it is his job to care for theses baby dolls and bobble-headed blankets, to play with them and keep them safe so they can grow big and be happy.
Sometimes I worry that my kids don’t have enough interaction with male role models. Other times I wonder if that really matters. They have uncles and grandpas and pappys who adore them, even if the kids don’t get to see them that often. Though there is nothing these guys do with the kids that G and I don’t already do, including playing every sport imaginable, constructing complex Lego creations and breaking out the power tools, there is just a biological dynamic that these men provide. I can’t replace it or deny it, but that said, the lack of it in our daily lives doesn’t seem to be an inhibitor of any kind.
Truthfully, I never feel that O and S will be deficient from their lack of a “Dad”. I think G and I have a natural balance in our personalities and parenting styles and in many ways, cover what is traditionally defined as the mother and father roles. I don’t consider myself a “Mom” – if anything, I would call myself a parent. My own energy, style and approach land me somewhere between the Mom and Dad ends of the spectrum. It’s not a strategic effort to play the father role – it’s simply where I feel I best relate and am most comfortable.
In O’s mind, he is a boy and when boys get older and have kids, they are called Dads. It’s just one kind of parent and in his world, parents are parents and he would like to be the best one that he can be.
At this age, he hasn’t really thought about WHY he has two Moms and in the absence of knowing (or asking) where babies come from – has yet to question where the mandatory dude in this equation went.
His family is what it is and it’s his. O’s friends don’t blink an eye when we chat with them over their class breakfast or check out their grass-and-stick creations on the playground at pick up. Sometimes they call me Baba, as if I am this universally accessible, one-named character. Sometimes they refer to me as “O’s Mom”. I may have even been asked “are you O’s Dad?” once (or twice).
Whatever I am called, these kids understand that O has two of the same, even if they don’t really understand why. They probably don’t care. They know both his parents love him and that he loves them back. Most importantly to me, these kids accept us, accept him and to my knowledge have never given him grief for having parents who are “different”.
All that, I know, could change. But for every day that a family is just a family and that parents are parents no matter their make-up, I am grateful. Whether they know us as two Moms or as Mommy and Baba, I am confident that my kids will grow up knowing a love universally understood, one that needs no translation.
B – this is such a touching and great post. Thanks for sharing!