Day 116 of parenthood, 9 days shy of our twins’ 4 month birth anniversary and just 5 days before we celebrate our first father’s day. Exciting, right? It is more than exciting – it’s freaking amazing! But, I want to recall what it means to be a father in our times. I want to share what I’ve experienced in the journey that lead up to us being the parents that we are right now and continue to mold ourselves to be.
It was about 10 months before our embryo transfer I said to Brian, “I want to go to the book store.” He said, “for what?” I said, “to pick up books on being a gay father, or parenthood in general.” He grinned, likely knowing what my experience was about to be, but I went to the store. Naïve. Excited. Hopeful.
It was dismal. It was disheartening. It was shocking. What did I learn? That nearly all parenting books are:
1) geared towards being a mother (which I accepted/expected)
2) nearly all books for fathers are “picture books” as though a dad is primitive and dumb
3) all books geared towards dad show dad as a helping set of hands, or a babysitter to relieve mom from parenting tasks
4) there are next to zero books about the experience of gay fathers (which I get, we’re still a fledgling community coming out, yet again)
5) whenever dad did a good deed in one of these books he was treated, yet again, like he was a “big boy” and was a “good helper.” Oh, and not all things baby as it relates to fathers has to be a sports or grilling reference.
Literally, what I learned is that dads are helping hands, dumb and can’t take care of babies by themselves without a supervisor.
Fast forward just shy of our fourth month as parents with over 1400 diapers changed, over 1400 bottles prepared, washed (mostly by hand) and fed, hundreds of laundry loads washed and folded, tons of tears cried by our twins that we lovingly settled, diaper rashes we’ve helped care for and heal, baths to keep them clean and fresh, games to play, tummy time, getting rid of painful gas, stroller walks, socialization to keep them engaged, songs we’ve sung and the thousands of smiles we’ve shared.
But wait, we’re fathers – with no mother in our household, and holy shit, our kids are strong, growing and thriving! I mean, it’s as if we’re “doing a good job.” And we are. As parents. And a damn good one if you ask me. As for what I actually learned in the books I skimmed: ______________________?
…oh, that’s right. Nothing. I am not a helper or a babysitter. I am not just someone to “watch the kids.” I am their father. My husband is their father. Together we are their parents and it’s our job to care for them in every single way. Our children have amazing women in their lives as role models, but perhaps what I have truly learned is that it takes patience, love, kindness and more patience to be a parent, and one’s gender hasn’t a single thing to do with one’s success.
As a society we don’t value parenting as teamwork. We say we do. But we don’t. And as fathers, as men, we don’t place value on our roles as parents, instead, pawn it off to women around us or expect them to do everything only to reap the rewards. No thanks. That’s not how our family works and frankly no family should. Parenting is parenting. As fathers we’re just as equipped to handling the throws of nurturing and child rearing. And it’s in this thought that I say to myself, my husband and to all the amazing male fathers (single, straight, whatever): Happy Father’s Day. To those males that are fathers and don’t actively participate I say this – you’re sorely missing out on what is probably the most amazing experience ever. Step up to the plate, gentlemen, (#sportsreference) and become active. Your kids need you more than you know and you played more than an active role in bringing them here in however your families came to be.