“So where’s your dad, anyway?” The question was asked by a young child who was playing with my son on the trampoline. I was sitting about 10 feet away to keep an eye on things. The other boy was a couple of years older, and my personal childhood experience taught me that older boys were not always hesitant to exercise power by virtue of age and strength. I may not be able to always protect him from this, but I’m sure as hell not letting anything happen on my watch.
My son pointed to me and told the other boy, “right over there!” The little thug was unable to make the connection between the homely woman sitting on the deck and my son’s dad and soon the matter was dropped. Yes, I do realize this was probably a teachable moment, but I was caught off guard and found that words had left me. If the situation persisted, I would have outed myself, but it died within moments and I had the opportunity to ponder this sufficiently to create a new blog post.
As many of you may know, transitioning genders and being a parent to a young child at the same time can be just a little bit challenging. The hardest part is attempting to create an environment of stability and safety for the little ones to give them the best chance to learn, grow and reach their real potential. This can be difficult considering the crushing need for social conformity in child, tween, and teen culture. “But everyone has the new iPod Dingleberry, so I HAVE to have one! They are only $999.95!” The problem is that you can’t just go and get a new dad by maxing out your credit card.
The fortunate side of this is that old ‘Mama, Papa, and Baby’ expected dynamic has been significantly altered over the past few years. Thank goodness for that anyway. Even mainstream TV is now reflecting “The New Normal” (why, just why could that show not have been better?), and there is no longer an assumption that someone has differently gendered parents. Ten years ago, those little family stickers people now put on their cars to let strangers know how many people they can expect to take out at one time with a good ‘Dukes of Hazard’ maneuver, would have been preset parents with optional kids and pets. Now you can get them individually and mix and match males and females to create the set you want. The best version I saw depicted a child without a head. “What a peaceful household that must be.” I thought.
At the same time, “The New Normal” in no way means even slightly common. While gay couple families often know many others of their kind, to their straight friends, they are labeled distinctively. “Knuckles and Barney will be there, you know, our gay friends, so I’m sure they will bring a fabulous appetizer.” When you go across the tracks to Trans Town, chances are you are the only one straight and cis people know, including friends of friends, and one or two degrees of separation beyond that. As of right now, and arguably into the foreseeable future, our status as “normal” is really more like “acknowledged outlier” that is sporadically considered acceptable. The vast majority of American families can still buy the old timey rear window stickers with thoughtless abandon, head or no head.
To bring this around full circle, in the near future I’m faced with attending a ‘Donuts for Dads’ thingie at my son’s school next month. At ‘Muffins for Moms’, it was explained (I think with the idea that the information would be trickled back to me) that in spite of the very clear naming convention, these events were for any beloved caregiver of the child. Even so, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be the only one there in a skirt. This doesn’t bother me because experience tells me that the dads are more afraid of me than I am of them. Really, it’s about my son and his comfort.
Sufficed to say, we are working this because the issue isn’t going to go away on its own. Believe me, if I thought this was possible, I would employ my usual tactic of doing nothing and hoping the universe manages to tidy up the mess once it is realized that I’m not getting off my fat ass anytime soon. At present, my son’s feeling is that he is excited to have me come, but is nervous that the other kids are going to think he has two moms, which I’m fairly certain is already the case. Is it too much to ask that some lesbian couples move into the school district? This isn’t Mississippi you know.
We will navigate our way though this and the next 150 instances. At the end of the day though, I’m sure he wants to be like the rest of the kids around him. In this, he simply won’t be, but then again, no one else fits the norm in every category either. The best I can do is to help him find comfort in his existence by demonstrating pride and resilience in the truth of our existence, no matter how off center from the never trodden path of absolute normalcy. As we sit there with all the kids and their dads, at least there will be donuts, and we will focus on those and not the hole.