With Mothers day and Fathers day having been celebrated recently there have been a lot of conversations happening in our household about what a family is. Living as a lesbian same-sex headed family has a couple interesting challenges when it comes to the topic of fathers. The greatest influence that triggers these conversations often comes from outside of the home, more specifically from the kids’ school.
Our twins go to an open-minded, child centered, Christianity based school. My wife is Christian and feels very strongly about including religion and spirituality in our kids’ lives. So before we sent the kids to school we interviewed a couple of schools with specific focus on how our unique family situation would be handled. The school we chose is very accepting and accommodating.
Part of the kids’ daily routine includes saying a prayer which includes giving thanks for having a mama and a papa. Monkey boy was the first to ask where his papa was. I was a little surprised to be having this conversation with two year olds, but with a bit of repetition the concept of a mama and a mommy has sunk in. We have used lots of discussion with the boys, pointing out various family types; the typical heterosexual couples we know who have a mama and a papa, single parent families, friends who are also same sex couples who have kids. The boys are starting to grasp rather big concepts about what a family is and that not all families are the same or are comprised of a stereotypical mom, dad and kids.
I don’t think that they have quite yet come to the boys and girls are different point yet (and hence mamas and papas are different) but gender is a whole other can of worms for a later stage. We have spent time with them naked and they have realised the mommy and mama have different bodies to them but they haven’t asked any whys or hows yet. I’m sure that time is coming sooner rather than later.
But back to fathers and Fathers day. Our kids’ teacher sent us a message and asked how we would like to deal with Fathers day. We didn’t want the boys to feel left out of the various craft fun and activities that were planned for the class so we asked the teacher to let them make cards for Oupa (DW’s dad) and Zaide (my dad). Both grandfathers loved being included in the boys Fathers day celebrations and the boys enjoyed giving their little gifts to their granddads. It was really quite sweet.
When it comes to Fathers day in a family who doesn’t have a father, it really works well if you use the holiday to celebrate the influential male presences in your kids’ lives. It doesn’t matter if it is an uncle, a grandparent, a close family friend… by refocusing on the love that the kids’ do have it turns an event that could feel exclusionary and makes it something that fosters strong bonds in the family that the kids do have. Hopefully these are the people that the boys will feel comfortable enough with to go to if they have issues that they would otherwise feel embarrassed to talk to us about. As the idiom goes, it takes a village to raise a child.