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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Gay Parenting: Under the Spotlight

Sometimes I think there’s more pressure on gay couples to produce well-behaved, perfect children. Of course there are no perfect children, or parents. But in the back of my mind, I think people are taking a closer look at our family just to see if two men really can raise children together. I suppose my thought is that if my kids turn our horrible, people will be thinking, “See, that’s why a gay couple shouldn’t be raising kids.” Or maybe it’s just my own personal paranoia that makes me think this!

As parents, we don’t get a grade card every six months to rate our parenting skills. So when someone tells you you’re doing a great job, it’s a special moment. Last Saturday we were at a first birthday party when one of our neighbors told me that she couldn’t believe how big Dylan and Reid had become, and that she thought they were very well behaved. I could tell she was being genuine when she said, “No, really, you guys are doing a great job”. Just that one comment made me proud – proud of the boys, and proud of us, as a couple.

Last Fall I took a Love and Logic parenting class. One of the main things I took away from that class was to be consistent, and to never reward negative behavior. For instance, the other day at the park, Reid wanted a toy I had and he tried to grab it from me. Then he started whining and crying. For a split second, I thought about handing it to him just to stop the crying. But I didn’t, because as I’m sure any parent knows, that would teach him that whining and crying leads to him getting his way which in turn would lead to more whining and crying episodes. Giving in is the easy way out when parenting. I think it’s really about teaching them self control, and that we don’t always get what we want in life. The earlier they learn these two things, the easier life will be for the four of us further down the road. Of course there are many other aspects to good parenting, but I think we’ve been very consistent and it seems to be paying off.

I’m far from a perfect parent. Just this morning on the way to school, one of the boys yelled at a truck that passed us. He was copying my behavior from last week when I yelled at a truck that was in my way while we were in a hurry. Not a huge deal, but it made me realize how much they’re watching me, and how my behavior directly affects theirs. But at least I’m smart enough to recognize these things and I try to monitor my own behavior around them.

There seems to be little research done on the children of gay parents where a gay couple set out to become parents. Most research has focused on children where a parent came out later in life and their parents split up. A 2010 study by Nanette Gartrell, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, and Henry Bos, a behavioral scientist at the University of Amsterdam, focused on children born to lesbian couples. They had expected to find little difference in these children compared to those born to heterosexual couples. But they found that the children raised by lesbian couples scored higher on some levels of psychological competency and had lower levels of behavioral problems. The study suggested that in the children they followed, their lesbian mothers were very involved in their lives, very present, and had good communication with their children. This study is ongoing and will also present data on children raised by gay male couples as well. You can read the entire study here:

http://www.nllfs.org/images/uploads/pdf/NLLFS-adolescents-donor-2010.pdf

My guess is that most gay and lesbian couples are probably older when they have children, and probably more likely to be college educated. That’s only based on the gay and lesbian parents I personally know, but considering the expense, you probably won’t find many 20 year olds who can afford something like surrogacy. I’ve read studies that show children who are born to older parents tend to do better in life as well. My daily parenting goal is to just be the best parent I’m capable of being. I screw up from time to time, but every day is a new chance to do things better. I want my boys to grow up to be honest, strong, and well-adjusted men who are capable of greatness. The real pressure is my love for the boys, and my desire to see them succeed. But it was comforting to hear from someone else that overall, we’re doing a great job.

And for anyone who has read all the way back to my first post where I mentioned how much I hated cluttered refrigerators, here’s what our refrigerator looks like today. I guess I’ve just accepted it as looking “homey”!