We recently received Niko’s birth certificate. Kelly noted with great amusement that I am listed as the “Mother/Parent.” He’s so used to people seeing his name and assuming he’s a woman, so this was a small victory.
It took almost a full year to reach us, arriving about a week before Niko’s third birthday. It was rather symbolic timing: My name appearing in place of the woman who gave birth to him.
I worry sometimes about our kids not having a mom in their lives. Don’t get me wrong: If I do say so myself, Kelly and I are pretty terrific parents. But there’s something about a mom.
Part of it stems from being tight with my own mom — hello! I’m gay and Greek. Of course I adore my mom! Part of it comes from seeing how the boys interact with women.
Take when we lived in L.A. Gus took on a completely different demeanor when he was with his best friend’s mom. Maybe it was the softness in her voice or her encouraging tone. Whatever it was, she brought out a tender, vulnerable side in him. I like that side; it’s an interesting juxtaposition to his usual rough-housing, boy’s boy persona.
Actually, the subject of a female role model was first broached by an unexpected source: our former neighbor Jim. Now, Jim’s a hell of a nice guy, albeit a bit wacky — he asked me to describe him as someone who has ridden his motorcycle across four continents, but I can’t get over the fact that he has photos of all the foosball tables he’s ever played.
In a moment many would view as completely void of boundaries, he told us it didn’t matter if Kelly was a stay-at-home parent — the mom, if you will — that Gus needed a constant, reliable female influence.
Jim spent the early part of his childhood without a father. It wasn’t until he was 14 and his uncle adopted him that he had a constant male influence in his life. He told us that having a dad made a world of difference.
He correctly recognized that if he had missed not having a dad, our kid would miss not having a mom.
Luckily, moving back to Utah opened the door to far more consistent feminine influences for the boys. My sister is a very proactive presence in their lives. And although we sometimes question whether she has the ability to say “no” to them, we cannot deny the amazing benefits they experience by having her in their lives.
Niko is still too young to really verbalize any feelings he may have about missing a mom. Mostly when he’s playing with his dinosaurs, trains or cars the smaller ones are the babies and the larger ones the daddies. Since he started preschool, however, babies and mommies have become more frequent.
But Gus does express his feelings on the subject. The other day he insisted he had already seen a movie that was on TV. When we asked him when he claimed he watched it with his mom. Then he added, “Before you two came along and stole me.”
What we did next may horrify you: We busted up laughing. And that made him laugh, too.
Then we gently, lovingly reminded him that neither he nor Niko had ever lived with their mom. And we reinforced that no matter what, she is the one who made our family.
What I’ve come to realize is that my boys simply need what every kid needs: a family. One comprised of men and women, old and young, gay and straight.
And really, isn’t creating family what gay and lesbian people do best?
My kids don’t just have two dads. They have dozens of dads. And dozens of moms. Sure, some of them go by “uncle” or “aunt,” and a lot of them aren’t related to us in any way, but they’re still our family.
Every year, when my sons’ birthdays roll around, I wonder if their mom is thinking about them. Does she picture a life for them with a mom and a dad, a white picket fence, the whole Norman Rockwell fantasy? Has the idea of them having two dads ever crossed her mind? Does she worry whether they’re happy? I’ll probably never know.
But every year on their birthdays, I send her a mental message: “Your sons are loved. By more people than you can imagine.”
One day when Niko’s grown up and has to have his birth certificate for some reason, I hope he’ll show it to Gus and they’ll get a good chuckle at seeing me listed as Mother/Parent.
I just pray if they ever say I was a bad mother, they’ll mean like Shaft!