LGBT Etiquette


"How do we celebrate Fatherís Day when thereís no dad?"

Question: Our son, who has two moms and no dad, came home from school this week and said that his fourth-grade class will spend an hour making Father's Day cards. He didnít know what to say to the teacher. How can we help him here?

Answer: These days, most North American families donít conform to the classic model of the nuclear family, so not having a father at home is a pretty common scenario. When push comes to shove, it doesnít really matter whether itís a single mom raising her child alone, a mother whoís been widowed, or a pair of lesbian moms: a family is a family, with or without a dad around.

Fortunately, many school districts have reacted to changing circumstances by modernizing this little ritual (along with its counterpart, Motherís Day), either by changing its name to ďParentís DayĒ or simply by letting the kids make a card for any relative, teacher, or role model.

That said, I donít think this is a circumstance where you should make your child do the talking (not at his age). If you havenít spoken to the teacher previously about your two-mom family, use this as an opportunity to do so. (By the way, itís wisest to approach this topic much earlier in the year so you can develop a plan, not only for Fatherís Day, but for any circumstance where your son might be called out for being different.) Explain that your son is uncomfortable with the assignment, and suggest some options for doing things differently (if the teacher doesnít take the lead on that). In your case, that could be a Motherís Day card to both of you in May and a special card for a favorite uncle or godfather on Fatherís Day. Ideally, the teacher will agree to make sure that the assignment suits any family situation.

You might also want to have a private talk with your son to allow him to express his feelings about not having a father. Tell him again how much both of his moms love him and the family youíve formed; but also tell him that you understand how he might miss having a dad. Acknowledging his feelings (which may have something to do with why he told you about the card project in the first place) doesnít make your family any less valid or loving.

Itís also a good time to remind everyone — your son, his teacher, yourselves — to be on the lookout for any potential name-calling or bullying because of your sexual orientation. As an example, my niece, who has two moms, was confronted by an acquaintance at camp who told her it was "disgusting" that she didnít have a father. My niece stood her ground, but itís so important for kids in these situations to be supported by those in charge. You can also bet that the hostile young camper didnít have gay-friendly parents, which is no doubt where the problem started. By contrast, I just love what Gwyneth Paltrow wrote on her website "When my daughter came home from school one day saying that a classmate had two mommies, my response was, ĎTwo mommies? How lucky is she?!í"

Howís that for a role model! Happy Parentís Day to one and all!

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