I have a teenage son. He turned 16 recently so we’re working on learning to drive. Raising a teenager presents a unique set of challenges no matter if you’re gay or straight. Raising children period is a challenge for any parent.
My son was 10 when his dad and I went our separate ways. I chose not to tell him why at first but, because I have a good relationship with his dad, it became harder to keep up the ruse that we split up because we just didn’t get along. I came out to him about 6 months after the divorce. It was hard at first but, as time has gone on, the kid has really been awesome about everything.
His dad is now engaged. “The Boy” as we all often refer to him, likes to say that he has three moms. I’m, of course, mom 1, my wife is mom 2, and his father’s fiance is mom 3. He often addresses us that way when he’s trying to get someones attention. We’re privileged that we live in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio, a fairly progressive city by most accounts. We don’t have to hide who we are here. At school, my son will tell his friends that he has three moms and they’ll at first say something like, “Wow, your dad has been married 3 times?” He’ll say, “No, just once.” Around here they usually immediately get it. They also typically think it’s cool or they just don’t care at all. It’s “not a big deal,” he tells me.
Regardless of the current level of acceptance here, having a set of lesbian parents isn’t easy on kid. I get that. It’s especially hard when we spend time where my wife grew up which is an hour or so and a world away from where we live. There, it’s not so “cool” and certainly rarely accepted that The Boy has a mixed family that includes gay parents and straight ones. The religious right and their rhetoric dominate in that area. There’s a lot of prejudice against anyone who is not white, Anglo-Saxton and protestant. At times, his own “cousins” are the hardest on him about it.
I wanted to put myself in my son’s shoes. I wanted to learn what he might be going through. I picked up Abigail Garner’s book Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell It Like It Is, and I read it from cover to cover. I learned quite a bit!
Let me start by saying that this is a well researched book that’s very well presented. That said, please understand that it is written from the perspective of a straight, adult child of gay parents. The “kids” that were interviewed for the book have great stories to tell that are still very relevent in many respects, but they’re also now in their 20s and 30s. Relationships like mine are a lot more accepted today than when they were growing up…in some places. In other places, not so much. For those areas, this book is an incredible help.
Families Like Mine, written in 2005, may not be very timely for you and your situation if you live in the average American city or its suburbs but, if you live in “the heartland”, you’ll find the book to be invaluable. It will help you see and hear what you’re child sees and hears. It will help you understand what he or she is experiencing. It will also help you to see that your child will come through it all just fine.