In Defense of "Parent's Day"

Every year, as May approaches, many gay dads face a familiar worry: how do you celebrate a day that seems tailor made to remind your children they are different from other families?

Gays are nothing if not resourceful, so of course we make do; we celebrate the day in ways that work for our families. Some of us honor the women who helped make us dads. Others choose to celebrate strong female influences in our children’s life. Still others don’t recognize the holiday at all.

Regardless of how we choose to celebrate (or not) many gay dads will continue to worry about our kids as May rolls around each year---does a celebration of mothers, when our kids often lack a traditional one, make they feel ostracized? Different? Weird?

Gay dads, of course, aren’t the only ones who suffer from this Mother’s Day dread. Anyone who can't easily claim the mantle of "mom"---single dads, step moms, grandparents and caretakers of all varieties---also have reason to worry.

And then, just as Mother’s Day finally passes us by, we flip and reverse the problem the very next month. Lesbians, single moms, and other “non-dads” of the world take their turn wondering how to appropriately honor “Father’s Day” on the third Sunday in June each year.

In the grand scheme of things, anxiety around these holidays are obviously pretty low on the list of concerns facing LGBTQ parents and other nontraditional families. Still, reminders of Mother's and Father's Day are everywhere we turn; they're celebrated in ads on television, in the shops we frequent, and---most problematically for many of us---in our children’s schools.

In progressive enclaves across North America, some schools have already moved to eliminate this problem with an obvious solution: they have created a single day---a "Parent's Day"---to celebrate this year. That way, any and all caretakers in a child's life can be honored with some macaroni art or a popsicle picture frame, without regards to gender.

Of course, there will always be those who balk at measures to mess with tradition. And the idea of abandoning Mother's and Father's Day altogether seem pretty slim. Still, these holidays were created decades ago when the American family looked very different than it does today. In the 1970s, 76% of children in the United States lived in households with heterosexual parents still in their first marriage, according to Pew Research. Today? Fewer than half do.

Nontraditional families are quickly becoming more of the norm than the exception. Doesn't it make sense to re-imagine these celebrations so that they more fully match the needs of the modern family?

Interestingly enough: Parent's Day is already a federally recognized holiday in the United States. This seemingly perfect solution to our problem was brought to us, moreover, from a very unlikely source. In 1994, former Senator Trent Lott, a rightwing conservative, introduced a bill to create the holiday on the fourth Sunday of July each year as a way to emphasize the importance of “traditional” childrearing by both a mother and a father.

But the gender-neutral "Parent's Day" he created would be easy enough for nontraditional families to co-opt. And what a better way to stick it to Lott, a man who once said homosexuality was akin to alcoholism, kleptomania and sex addiction, than to steal the holiday he created to subjugate us?

Of course, it would be delusional to think American families will suddenly drop their favorite Hallmark holidays in favor of a single day to honor parents of any and all genders---We're unlike to see a "Parent's Day" sale at Macy's anytime soon. But with time, as nontraditional families continue to grow, maybe the gender-neutral holiday will gain in favor.

So what do you say...have you done your Parent's Day shopping this year?


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