"So, which one of you is their REAL dad?"
My partner, Michael and I are blessed with two beautiful, precious, gregarious loving children. Neither of us imagined how fabulous daddyhood would be: Reading “The Cat in the Hat” 417 times; blowing bubbles on our patio on warm summer nights after devouring yummy treats at Liberty Custard; teaching our kids to read, to delight in their own imagination, to climb in our tree house and ride their bicycles; to watch them sleep, tender, gentle, and safe.
Who knew life could be so good?
As gay parents, we’ve become accustomed to questions about of how our family came to be. It makes logical sense: two men can’t reproduce, so how did you “get” those children?
We answer. We were blessed to find surrogates to carry our kids.
Do your children have a relationship with the surrogate?
Yes, we’re Facebook friends and we talk with them occasionally. We like them very much and are proud they are our children’s biological mothers.
Occasionally, we get questions which are amusing. At a barbeque recently, as Michael was cutting up a hot dog into small bites for our youngest and I was negotiating ketchup for our oldest, someone asked, “Which one of you is the real dad?”
“They’re both our dads,” our oldest states before either of us can reply. “This Michael is the Daddy and that Michael is the Dadda.” A long sigh. “Daddy, can I please have more ketchup?”
The kids finish eating in less than three minutes (how can they eat so quickly?) and the inquisitor, unsatisfied with the answer she received before, seeks to cross examine me. Raising her eyebrows and speaking in a low voice to make sure we know this is important, “So, which one of you is the real dad?”
I smile and take a bite of my watermelon. It is juicy, though has that “not quite ripe” tang.
“What do you mean?” I ask, as Michael hands me a napkin to wipe the watermelon juice now running down my beard. He’s a caring soul, though I secretly think he wonders if the real reason I wanted to parent was because I would be forever messy; with kids around, at least I had an excuse.
The prosecutor does not like me acting coy. She’s getting irritated. “Which one of you is the real father?” She asks, as guests around the table become increasingly uncomfortable. “You know, the biological one.”
Michael and I—battle-tested and survivors of these interrogations many times over—are non-plussed.
“We’re both the real dads,” I answer.
“Michael cooks more than I do, but we both make sure the kids eat healthy food before they get a treat.”
“We both read to them,” said Michael. “Beverly Cleary, Pinkalicious, Good Night Moon, anything with animals or Dr. Seuss.”
“Michael does more coloring. I did swimming lessons with them and cried when they both aged out of parent-child classes.”
“We both volunteer in their schools, arrange play dates, and shop for their clothes.
“We’ve both held them in the middle of the night, when they’ve had a fever or a ‘night mirror [mare].’”
“We’ve both cried with them at well-baby check-ups when they get shots.”
“We both tell them every day how much we love them.”
The interrogator looks embarrassed. “Oh,” she demurs.
“Sounds awfully radical to me,” quips one of our friends sarcastically.
“Revolutionary,” says another in between bites of potato salad.
“You guys are really shaking up the establishment laughs,” teases another.
We smile as the kids race back inside. “Daddy! Dadda!” They exclaim. “We ate all our lunch. We get dessert!”
“One brownie each,” says the real dad.
Very, very sweet! Thank you so much for writing this!
This post made me tear up. Lovely. And happy father’s day to both of you!
Walking around the lake almost 20 years ago, who would ever have guessed? Happy Father’s Day to two of my favorite daddies!!
I’m glad you stuck to your guns and didn’t answer a question you didn’t want to answer. It’s great that you both work together to take such great care of your kids.
Still, I find myself wishing, even though this woman continued to press you in public with her inappropriate question, that you had found some way to pull her aside privately to get your point across, without embarrassing her in front of others.
Of course, that’s easy for me to say, sitting here comfortably in the privacy of my own home. When faced with someone pressing me like that, I’m not at all convinced I would have handled it with as much grace as you did.
Great article Michael, tell the kids about the cook who put Mexican jumping beans in the flapjacks so that they flipped themselves!! And, Janel, thanks for sharing.
Happy Fathers day to both of you.
Susan–you make a very important point. Our intent is never to embarrass anyone; we simply point out all our parenthood is as radically normal as anyone elses (of course, normalcy is subjective!). Sometimes, the recognition on the part of the questioner becomes embarrassing for them as they become aware of the assumptions which frame their questions. And while I honor their need to “work out their ‘stuff,'” my priority is to my children & their needs for a parent who is present to nurture, protect, and love them.
this was such a lovely post! happy father’s day to both of you and indeed, there’s *nothing* like parenthood– 417 repetitions of cat in the hat, notwithstanding! lol every child deserves a family like yours– kid centered and unrelentingly immersed in love!
and then their was the mother who had 1 adopted child and 1 biological child- when asked which child was adopted- the mother answered- “I know one was adopted- I just never remember which one!”
Will we get to meet your wonderful and gregarious children and their other “real dad” at Pride this weekend? *Wonderful* article!
Wonderful article! Won’t it be nice when people just “get it” and we won’t have to be the educators quite so often? The woman was lucky you were kind and patient and willing to teach her. Thanks for all you are doing for our communities, and the world.
This is the most heartwarming and touching testament to being a “gay parent” that I’ve read.
The real mothers and fathers are the ones who love and nuture you, like my mom of blessed memory ( who was my stepmom if you need to be literal).
Such a hero. Don’t ever let those bigoted monsters hold down such strong gay energy. Gay power!