Dad Life

A Gay Dad Reminisces About Back-to-School Season

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.


Not December, silly; I’m talking about back-to-school. That’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Back-to-school is the start of a new beginning, much more so than New Year’s Day in my opinion. Coming off a few months of summer and some free time, the kids are off on a new adventure with new teachers and new coursework to learn.

It’s so exciting.

The best part for me, without a doubt, was always the gigantic run to buy school supplies. New backpacks, lunch boxes, pencils, pens, rulers, and staplers were a given every year. The new school year warranted a new stock of tools, and I was happy to supply. I had a blast putting it all together with my kids. We’d dump out all the goods onto the living room floor and organize it all into the backpacks. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Getting the kids on the bus that first day of school was such a proud moment for me as a father. I always loved school and I just loved getting them ready for a year of more growth.

Oh, the memories.

But not all parts of back-to-school were so rosy. Not when you’re a gay father.

My kids are older now, into their twenties, so I don’t worry so much about back-to-school anymore. But back in the day when they were young, while I enjoyed the season immensely each year, it also came with great anxiety.

First of all, it wasn’t easy being an active father in the school system. Schools and teachers favored the mothers when my kids were that age. There weren’t many men in the parent/teacher conferences or at the school functions. When I did lunch duty, I was with all the mothers. Most didn’t really know how to deal with dads in the mix. Plus many of the schools’ policies were solely mom-oriented. I couldn’t have report cards mailed to my house and I couldn’t get the bus to stop at my house to pick up my kids. Those items were officially reserved for the moms.

I know, it makes no sense, and it certainly had me scratching my head back then.

Socially, it was just plain awkward. A gay dad at a school function? What?!?

Most of the time I stood quietly by myself, absorbing in the activities as best I could. I’m sure the other parents didn’t feel like they had a lot in common with me, being gay and all. Other than we were all just trying to raise healthy children. You would think that would have been enough.

Fortunately, times have changed in many places. Gay fathers and mothers are more common and more public, leaving us all more equal members of the school system. I know that’s not true in every place, but we are getting there in some.

My hope, one day, is for none of this to matter. Being a gay parent or a straight parent or a biological parent or an adoptive parent is all just being a parent. I long for that day. When I was raising my children, we weren’t there as a society, but we are getting there now.

I hope.

Good luck to all the parents and children this back-to-school season. Enjoy the adventure.

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With everything going on in our country, I think saying that it has been a crazy year is an understatement. It has been emotionally difficult and draining at times for many. This year brought so many new changes that it is hard to wrap our minds around some of them. The daunting feeling of uncertainty looms over our heads as we march forward into this unfamiliar territory led by someone we do not particularly trust.

With that said, one thing will not change- the holidays. For my family, this time of year brings cheer, joy, hope, and optimism for the new year to come.

I have always had one golden rule when it comes to decorating our home for the holidays: the current holiday must pass before decorating for another.

Recently, our two year old, Alli Mae, had started to develop an appreciation for all that Christmas brings. The way she lights up and gets excited when she sees Christmas decorations made me think for the first time in my life, what if I changed things up this year? Decorating earlier will also help attenuate the political frustration that this year brought. That coupled with the amazement that our little girl has for Christmas makes a strong case for decorating for Christmas early. Sure, there are diehard Thanksgiving fans that grumble at the thought of Christmas coming early and I am sure they will give this a healthy eye roll and, if so, that's ok. We are not replacing Thanksgiving... we are enhancing it.

We will most definitely continue to teach our children the meaning of Thanksgiving and to enjoy the symbolic feast that comes along with it. The white pumpkins I usually put out for Thanksgiving really made a statement when I mixed them with the Christmas attire. I was quite surprised and impressed by the final outcome!

These days, one of my primary goals in life is to create an environment for my family that is happy, healthy, and nurturing. I want them to get excited about Christmas, both the true meaning and the atmosphere that it brings. When my children walk into the house, I want them to be transported into a bright, cheerful place that they will always remember. Perhaps it will even inspire the way they celebrate the holidays with their families (and our future grandchildren) in the future. The world can be a harsh, cold and scary place, especially lately it seems. I would be lying if I said I didn't do this for myself, too. I am. For the first time in my life, I am worried for the future of our country. I am terrified of the direction we as Americans are taking and worry it is setting a precedent for what the future will be like for my family. Mass shootings seem to happen monthly now, yet there continues to be a lack of response by Congress to create solutions. Bigotry and racism, masked by patriotism, also plague our society. I know I am speaking of sore subjects, but all of these reasons give me the motivation for welcoming the Christmas season earlier.

I do have faith that in time, competent leaders will emerge and will steer us in a direction that will help fade our fear into the bold and lionhearted society that we are. We as LGBTQ families need to comfort one another. Lets extend our hands to each other. Let this holiday season not be about the "correct" time in which we decorate for Christmas, moreover lets make it about coming together as a community that lifts each other up. Lets protect each other. Lets embrace each other for all the we are, all that we bring and all that we stand for. Let us not be silenced- and pushed into a corner but let us lead by example- while showing our children who their parents are by being respectful and tolerant and warmhearted as we welcome this Christmas season.

Erik and Douglas' two daughters, Ella and Alli Mae, who recently turned 2

May you and your family have the most beautiful and happiest of holidays, regardless of when you choose to welcome Christmas. I pray that 2018 will bring each of you happiness, patience, resilience and with time, we will get there, together!

I would love for you to follow our family's journey on Instagram, Nolapapa.com and like us on Facebook.

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