Last Thursday, unsuspecting gay dads like me were treated via the Daily Mail to the headline ‘Please don’t pretend two dads is the new normal.’
Just in case you missed it, here it is, in all of its unfortunate glory.
I’m Jamie, one half of Daddy and Dad with my fiancé and partner of sixteen years, Tom. We’re proud dads to Lyall (9) and Richard (8) via adoption. Here’s my happy little family.
The Daily Mail headline caught me by surprise. I was unaware that we were pretending to be normal. Was I pretending to be normal when I dealt with last week’s nose-bleed in the park without a wet-wipe or tissue? (Needless to say, we all ran back to the car, screaming hysterically, my sock pressed against Richard’s face). We definitely feel normal.
I’m sure I don’t need to point out that Richard Littlejohn’s article was littered with out-dated ‘hatey’ (for lack of a better word) observations, dressed up as good old-fashioned common sense. More worryingly though, comments from Daily Mail readers mirrored the attitudes within the article, many supporting the idea that two dads is in some way abnormal or second place to the classic mum and dad setup.
As a blogger with an audience my instinct was to immediately respond with anger in defence of ordinary gay folk like myself. But, like the article’s casualties - Dustin Lance Black and his husband Tom Daley, I proverbially bit my tongue and gathered my thoughts. As DLB suggested in this lovely picture below, what’s the point in responding to hatred with more anger?
Meanwhile, the Daily Mail’s prestigious advertisers acted on our behalf, including Center Parcs who quickly withdrew their association with the newspaper, as you’ll discover in the HuffPost here. Bravo.
This got me thinking. Are Tom and I normal? And if we’re not normal, does it matter? Are our boys somehow missing out on something?
To help you to make up your mind, here I reflect on what I deem to be the important, normal aspects of parenting as a same sex couple.
A Normal Routine
When you become same-sex parents via adoption (or via surrogacy like our transatlantic counterparts Tom and DLB), the arrival of your children is the most tremendous, profound thing that will ever happen to you. Your ‘normal’ life comes very abruptly to an end and suddenly (in our case) you’re faced with school runs, bed times, activities, squabbles and hundreds of new issues that probably never crossed your mind before.
Children who arrive by adoption, fostering or surrogacy thrive within a strict routine. I’m not talking about strict discipline, by the way, what I mean by a routine is a set of frequent predictable, daily family tasks and duties; teeth brushing, meal times, play time, bed time, putting shoes and coats on - you get the idea.
A normal routine helps to settle the kids and provides them with a sense of control and familiarity with their surroundings.
A Normal Social Life
Gay people have a reputation for being frivolous, provocative party animals, right? Wrong! While we do like a birthday party or a trip to the pub as much as the next dad, Tom and I have always been quite private, modest people. In fact, you’ll probably find that the majority of LGBT+ people are also fed up with old-fashioned expectations that people like the Daily Mail seem to promote.
As parents, we try to provide an active, positive social life for our kids, with sporting activities and time spent together as a family at the very centre. On Saturdays our boys go to football training in the rain, whilst Tom and I stand and cheer beneath our umbrella, alongside our other parent friends. Then, we usually take the park-and-ride bus into the city centre and meet up with my sister (the boys’ fabulous Aunty Emily) for shopping and a cake.
On Sundays we might go for a long cycle ride with a pub stop somewhere along the way for chips and a beer.
During the week our social life revolves around school runs and play dates, with the odd birthday party in between.
A Normal Family
As a family unit, Tom and the kids and I negotiate all of the ordinary issues, strops, squabbles and boy-issues as they come along. I don’t think we’re different to any other family in that respect.
We do, of course, have additional adoption related issues that crop up from time-to-time and our routine is probably a little more stringent than other families. There have been occasions where other kids have been allowed more freedom, for instance to roam the village or gobble sweets than ours and that may have caused a couple of minor upsets.
Our boys have attentive, loving grandparents, uncles (including two gorgeous gay uncles who are also dads) and aunties and family friends all around them. In fact, there’s a pretty vibrant mixture of loving people at our fingertips, should we need extra support.
In summary, I guess you could say that yes Tom and I probably are quite normal. Or perhaps not.
‘Normal’ is subjective; what one family considers to be normal might be very different to ours, as highlighted by the unkind words of the Daily Mail and its readers.
Normal or not, the happiness and safety of our children is the most important thing for Tom and I to worry about.
Either way, our boys are loved, safe and thriving with their two dads.
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