I’d be curious to hear about your experiences navigating the parenting world as a father in a same-sex relationship… All-in-all, I’d be curious to know about your personal experiences (with the promise that I won’t generalize them to all same-sex parents), specifically those that come in relation to schools.
Well, first of all, my personal experiences should never be generalized to anyone, ever. Between the vagaries of my upbringing and the manifold quirks of my personality, it is horrifying to imagine drawing conclusions about anyone else based on my worldview. Ours would be a much weirder world if I were any kind of norm.
Anyhow, with that said I can move on to the question at hand — what’s my experience of being a same-sex dad, particularly vis-à-vis schools.
My experience with being a gay dad in relation to schools is a tidy example of why I can’t really speak for anyone else, in this case because I have it very, very good. The Better Half and I live in a deep blue part of a light blue state, and we send our nearly 3-year-old son to a Montessori school. There is another child with two fathers who had been going there before we arrived. While we were sure to raise the question about how they handle the topic of “non-traditional” families when we visited before enrolling our son, under the circumstances it seemed rather like asking if the building had functional plumbing. They fell all over themselves reassuring us that of course they welcome all kinds of families at their school. We knew we had nothing to worry about.
However, you’ll note that we felt compelled to ask. And perhaps that’s the only illustrative point to be found in my experience. We will always feel compelled to ask. We will never send our son to a new school without making sure in advance that our family will be respected, and that bullying will be taken seriously if it occurs. (I pity the child who bullies my kid because he has two dads. [Actually, I pity the child who bullies my kid for any reason.] I fear I will make Rebecca De Mornay in the playground scene from “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle” look like Donna Reed.) It will always be something about which we will be vigilant, at least for the foreseeable future.
In this way, I suspect we are like any other family that deviates from the norm in some way. I am sure members of minority religions have to ask similar questions in certain parts of the country, for example. I don’t feel victimized by this additional duty to my child, and consider it one of the responsibilities I agreed to face when I participated in the decision to adopt a child in the first place. Indeed, it is a smaller-scale, educationally-oriented version of larger decisions about where we would and would not live. I hope that this question will be rendered moot in the years to come, and am optimistic about those chances. But in the meantime, I will always have to be attentive about a detail that opposite-gendered parents don’t have to consider at all.