Gay Dad Life

Music. Lyrics. Lessons. 10 Songs I Will Teach my Son

As I drove Max to school this morning, we discussed what garbage trucks smell like, why boogers taste salty and how wearing Superman pajamas enables you to fly in your dreams. Pretty standard stuff for a Tuesday morning. Then there was a moment of silence, except for the song playing in the background. Max asked — as he often does — “Dada, what is this song about?” It was Simon & Garfunkel’s masterful “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” I told him it’s about loving someone so much, that no matter what problems they’re going through, you’ll always be there for them. He said, “Like being my Dada?” I said, “Yes, just like being your Dada.”

After I walked him into school and hugged him goodbye, I went back into my jeep and replayed the song. As I processed the lyrics — words that have suddenly taken on a far more personal meaning — I realized that there are so many important things I want to teach Max now that he’s getting older … like introducing him to the great music that helped shape my life.

So that’s where we’ll begin.

10. R.E.S.P.E.C.T. – Aretha Franklin

Anyone who knows me knows I have a voracious musical appetite that spans rock, soul, R&B; and pop. My coming of age was driven and defined entirely by my musical obsessions. Music was and is my refuge. My happy place. It transcends time, color, language and culture. When words fail, music speaks. Whether it was 70s Stevie, late-80s Whitney or mid-90s Radiohead, song lyrics shouted from the transistor radio the words I was afraid to say.

In a world where we’re compartmentalized by labels that divide us, music is the one thing that unites us all. And so just as my parents introduced me to lifetime faves such as Billy Joel, Elton John, Hall & Oates, and Aretha Franklin — I plan to do the same for Max. And whether it’s the songs of Freddie Mercury, Luther Vandross, Annie Lennox, Lauren Hill or Adele – (stop judging me; you know you love her) — I’ll make sure he pays extra close attention to the lyrics. Because that’s where the healing powers reside.

Bob Marley once said, “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” That’s what I hope it turns out to be for Max. A pain reliever. A remedy. A therapist. A friend. A magic wand that turns his bad days to good and his good days to great… just as it has for me.

9. Hard To Say I’m Sorry – Chicago

Watch any of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” reunion specials and you’ll see how difficult it is to forgive someone who has wronged you. I want to teach Max that a big part of forgiveness is for his benefit, not his oppressor’s. I’ve seen it with some of friends and my family; when they can’t move past something they become prisoners of their negative experiences. That type of resentment isn’t healthy. If you’re bent on holding grudges, you can become so wrapped up in past wrongs that you can’t enjoy the present. By letting go of resentment, you’re able to achieve a sense of peace. It doesn’t make you a doormat; it’s more of a welcome mat towards a brighter future.

Equally important is learning to say you’re sorry. If you did or said something wrong to someone (Munchausen’s anyone?), take responsibility for it and say you’re sorry. While those three words can be hard to say, they’re very powerful because the longer you are silent, the longer you will stay silent. By admitting fault you’re able to repair damaged relationships by comforting the offended while relieving yourself of the guilt. I want Max to understand that nobody’s perfect. (We’ve all seen Adele’s pitchy Grammy performance.) We all will do something to hurt another person at some point in our lives. It’s okay — just own it. A genuine apology is an act of honesty and humility. It’s about being courageous, not weak.

8. Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon & Garfunkel

No one likes the friend who doesn’t share … or the friend who brags and only talks about himself, or the friend who laughs at your mistakes; who talks about you behind your back and secretly judges you. The “friend” who throws you under the bus, and when push comes to shove, doesn’t have your back. I need to teach Max never to become that type of person. I want him to treat others how he wants to be treated. To speak to others the way he wants to be spoken to or spoken of. And lastly, as difficult as it may be, I want Max always to make an effort to be respectful, even in the face of un-respectability. I want him to be open to hearing from and seeing the other side… because that’s when he can really learn (or teach) something.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that the people you surround yourself with are a reflection of you. I want Max always to surround himself with people he admires and respects. I’ll always remember this quote by motivational speaker Jim Rohn: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” One bad seed can ruin everything. (Two words: Yoko Ono.) I want Max to remember this as he forms social circles at school.

7.  Don’t Cry – Guns N’ Roses

When I was growing up, society told me that it wasn’t okay to cry. Only sissies did that. Being vulnerable was unacceptable, a sign of weakness and was considered un-masculine. So you can imagine what that was like for a super sensitive boy like me. I was a crier. Tears could have started from an especially emotional episode of “Highway To Heaven” or the time my brother put me in the dryer and then turned it on the tumble dry setting. Once, I went into hysterics when my other brother accidentally taped over my VHS copy of Beaches. Let’s just say he was no longer the wind beneath my wings.

I wanted to be tough like the other Blacker boys. I never saw my dad cry. My brothers only cried when the Eagles lost. I had zero exposure to boys like me: boys who felt things deeply. Then, when I was a teenager I watched a movie on cable. It was “Ordinary People,” a family drama about loss, guilt, shame, acceptance and forgiveness. In it, a teenage boy and his father struggle to get in touch with their feelings, but once they are finally able to open up their hearts and souls with the help of a great therapist, the emotions erupt from them like a volcano. The film showed me how dangerous it is for boys and men to shut down and keep their feelings bottled up inside.

I want Max to be comfortable expressing his feelings. I want him to understand that we’re all human and we all cry, it’s just a matter of having the balls to show it. Crying does not make you any less of a man, it just shows your friends and family that behind the strong, tough exterior lies a compassionate heart that genuinely cares despite what society, and perhaps, your pride may say.

6.  I Hope You Dance – Lee Ann Womack

When I was a kid I developed a love of storytelling. Writing allowed me to express myself creatively and I learned early on that being creative is one of the greatest joys and privileges we have as humans. I want to encourage Max to find his writing. It could be anything — sports, art, music, photography, dancing — whatever he’s passionate about. And once he finds it, I hope he makes the time to do it.

I want him to know that the best thing about having a hobby is you don’t have to stick with it if you get tired of it. You make the rules. At any point you can find a new passion. There’s a lot to be passionate about in life, so I want him to explore all the possibilities. At least the legal ones.

5.  Walking In My Shoes – Depeche Mode

I always observed my family when I was a kid. I’d watch them engage with each other. I’d watch them chat with neighbors. I’d listen to them talk on the phone. And sometimes, when they’d bring me to work, I’d get a chance to see them interact with colleagues. I saw my parents and my brothers fight, cry, laugh and argue. And what I learned by watching them all those years was that you should never judge people at their worst moments. You should judge them on their best moments.

Everyone has those moments we wish we could take back or do over. (Just ask Ben Affleck about his former nanny.) Everyone has bad days, and it is unfair to judge people based solely on their lows. Because you wouldn’t want them to form their opinion of you based only on your mistakes. I want to teach Max to judge people on the sum of their parts, so he’s able to see the best in people, not the worst.

4.  Get Up Stand Up – Bob Marley

Children can be *ssholes. And from my experience, it usually says more about their parents than it does about them. The point is — kids can be really mean. I want to teach Max to face mean kids with dignity and confidence. Instead of playing into their game, I’ll advise Max to be assertive and let people know if and when they’re being unkind. If that doesn’t work, walk away. (And if that doesn’t work, kick them in the balls as hard as you can — then run away as fast as you can.) I’m kidding. But not entirely. While I don’t condone violence, I do want Max to be confortable standing up for himself. By doing that, others will respect you and be less likely to push you around.

The one thing my husband and I have zero tolerance for is bullying. While I don’t think we’ll have to worry about Max being a bully — just this week he won an award at school for “most caring” — I want him to choose not to associate with bullies. You don’t gain anything from being in their presence and you’re not doing them any favors by putting up with their bullsh*t or rewarding them for bad behavior.

3. A Change is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke

This is the thing that took me the longest to learn. Despite how hard you try, and how much you want to help someone, you cannot in fact change them. People can change — but they need to change themselves.

Look, everyone wants to be loved, respected and accepted for who they are. But oftentimes we expect people to change their goals, habits and values to be better aligned with ours. The thing is, trying to mold people into the way you wish they were is inherently problematic on so many levels.

I want Max to understand the value in accepting people for who they are … especially regarding his future spouse. We all deserve to be happy with the people closest to us. And that begins with choosing to be with those you’re not looking to change.

2. It’s Not Right But It’s Okay – Whitney Houston

In preparation for Max’s teenage years (it’s never too soon to start preparing), it’s important for him to understand the simple reality that life is not fair. Some guys have six-packs while others have dad bods. Whitney and Prince are dead, but Ariana Grande and The Donald are alive and well. OJ was acquitted. You see where I’m going with this. Unfair sh*t happens all the time, which is why you must remain optimistic. When the unfairness of life knocks you down, instead of shouting “Why me?” to the sky – remember Nancy Kerrigan? – dust yourself off and try again. Play the cards you were dealt, and in the words of Tim Gunn, “Make it work.”

Thank you Mood.

1. I Will Always Love You – Dolly Parton / Whitney Houston

If you ignore numbers ten through two, I’ll still love you. If (well, when) you give me lice, I’ll still love you. If you fail trigonometry, I’ll still love you. If you ever eat bread during Passover, I’ll still love you. If you scratch my 70s vinyl, steal my car before you have a driver’s license, and/or ever question your sexuality, I’ll still love you. If you ever mess up, I’ll still love you. No matter what you do, no matter where you are, no matter what you say, I will never stop loving you, not even for a second.

That said, please don’t give me lice.

 

***

So there you have it. Ten songs and the important things they’ve taught me about life. And so now, I leave you with a few gems that didn’t make the cut:


  • Go easy on the cologne.
  • Bet on yourself or no one else will.
  • Tell women they’re beautiful.
  • Make fun of yourself. But not of others without their permission.
  • Never ask a woman if it’s her “time of the month.”
  • Never kiss and tell. Unless it’s a celebrity.
  • It’s not what you think or feel; it’s what you do that’s important.
  • Never show up empty-handed.
  • “Gay” is not a bad word. Or an insult.
  • Never stop asking “why.”
  • Make friends with the quiet ones. They have the best stories.
  • Be the designated driver. Or the guy at the party who takes all the keys.
  • Learn how to love and accept yourself so much that you no longer notice who doesn’t.
  • Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.
  • (Corny.com, I know; I just wanted to end with another Whitney reference).

    Show Comments ()
    Gay Dad Photo Essays

    How Single Dads Are Celebrating Valentine's Day This Year

    Valentine's Day is not just for lovers! We caught up with 8 single gay dads to see how they plan to celebrate Valentine's Day with this year.

    Valentine's Day is not just for lovers; it's also a day to celebrate our loved ones. And that's exactly what these single dads are doing.

    Within our community, GWK has a large group of admirable, active, and awesome (!) single dads and we want to honor them! On Valentine's Day, they and their kids celebrate their family unit in the sweetest possible ways. We asked the dads to share these moments with us, and, where possible, one of the most heartwarming things they've experienced with their kids on Valentine's Day to date.

    Hear their stories below.

    Keep reading...
    Gay Dad Photo Essays

    11 Gay Couples Share Secrets to Their Long-Term Relationships This Valentine's Day

    This Valentine's Day, we spoke with 11 gay dad couples who've been together for almost a decade or longer to learn what's made their relationships last

    You're the peanut butter to my jelly, the gin to my tonic, the strawberries to my cream, the Mr. to my Mr.!

    Happy Valentine's Day folks! We're excited to celebrate this day of lurrrrvvve by featuring a few dads in our community who've been together for almost a decade or more! And they're ready to share their secrets to a successful relationship and parenting partnership.

    Keep reading...
    Gay Dad Life

    "Worth Every Blood, Sweat, and Tear": Congrats to Gay Dads on Recent Births and Adoptions!

    Wishing all of these gay dads whose families expanded a lifetime of happiness! Congrats to everyone in our community on their recent births and adoptions!

    Gay men go through a lot of ups and downs on the path to parenthood. It can be one of the most emotionally draining times in our lives. But as each of these families who are celebrating births and adoptions this month agree: it's worth every hardship.

    Congrats to the dads whose families grew this month!

    Keep reading...
    News

    What's it Like to Be a Child of the 'Gayby Boom'?

    Tosca Langbert, who grew up with two dads, writes a piece for the Harvard Business Review about what it's like being among the first children of the "Gayby Boom" to come of age.

    We've previously written about the pressure on LGBTQ parents to appear perfect, given that so many in the United States still feel out families shouldn't exist in the first place. And we know this pressure trickles down to our kids. But In an article for the Harvard Business Review titled 'The Gayby Boom Is Here to Stay," author Tosca Langbert eloquently writes, from her perspective, about the experience of beingone of the first children to come of age during an era when LGBTQ parenthood is far more commonplace. She and her two siblings, she notes, "were raised in a family that was an impossibility only decades ago."

    In the article, Langbert said she knew from a young age that her family was different from those of most of her peers, who had one a father and a mother. But otherwise, she writes, she didn't feel like her family differed much. "Like any other parents, Dad sat in the carpool lane after school and taught us how to ride our bikes," she writes, "while Papa took us to the movies on the weekends and separated the whites from the colors."

    Despite this mundanity, her family remained something to marvel at for much of her youth. When the family moved into a new neighborhood in 2006, it made the local newspaper, with a headline titled, "Gay Father Tests Tolerance in the Park Cities."

    She and her siblings have spent much of their lives, she explained further, having to respond to the question: what's it like having two gay dads? For Langbert, there is only one correct response, which is: Amazing! "Any other response, even if simply accounting for a family's nuanced experience, might as well be an outright admission of failure on behalf of the entire LGBTQ community," she wrote.

    Children of the 'Gayby Generation,' are also put in the position of having to come out on behalf of their parents, and "often with mixed results," she wrote. She gave the following anecdote as an example:

    "My father was asked to step down from his leadership position in my brother's Boy Scout troop on account of his sexuality. Even though my siblings and I were only fourth graders at the time, we understood that our family was under strict scrutiny, and that even the slightest misstep could beget severe consequences for how competent our fathers were perceived as being. In the face of this pressure, the first generation of 'gaybies' recognized the importance of presenting their families as perfect; doing otherwise would only present ammunition to those already dubious about the rights of LGBTQ parents to raise children."

    The entire article, which includes the perspectives of multiple now-grown kids that are part of the "Gayby generation," is well worth a read, which you can access here.


    Politics

    Utah Bill Would Allow Gay Men to Enter Surrogacy Contracts

    Rep. Patrice Arent of Utah is sponsoring a bill that will remove a provision that currently prohibits gay men from entering into commercial surrogacy contracts in the state.

    Though Utah is not one of the three states that currently prohibit commercial surrogacy contracts, the state's current policy does specifically exclude gay men from doing so. That may soon changed, however, thanks to a bill in the state's legislature that was unanimously voted out of a House Committee that would remove that restriction.

    The bill, sponsored by Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, a Democrat, was created in response to a ruling by the Utah Supreme Court this past August that found the ban on gay men unconstitutional.

    Gay men have been excluded from legally entering surrogacy contracts due to a provision in the current law that requires medical evidence "that the intended mother is unable to bear a child or is unable to do so without unreasonable risk to her physical or mental health or to the unborn child," Rep. Arent told the Salt Lake Tribune — a requirement that clearly excludes gay male couples.

    The state's original surrogacy law dates back to 2005, before same-sex marriage was legalized in the state, which accounts for the gendered language. Though the state's Supreme Court already ruled the provision unconstitutional, Rep Arent further told the Tribute that, "People do not look to Supreme Court opinions to figure out the law, they look to the code and the code should be constitutional."

    Politics

    Colorado Republicans Try and Fail to Outlaw LGBTQ Marriage and Adoption Rights

    A bill introduced by four Republican state legislators in Colorado that would outlaw same-sex marriage and adoption rights was voted down.

    The "Colorado Natural Marriage and Adoption Act," which would have outlawed gay marriage and adoption in the state of Colorado, was voted down in the state legislature this week. The bill was sponsored by Republican Rep. Stephen Humphrey and three of his conservative colleagues: Dave Williams, Shane Sandridge and Mark Baisley.

    If enacted, the bill would have enforced "state law that marriage is between one man and one woman" and restrict "adoption of children by spouses in a marriage ... that consist of one man and one woman."

    The bill, which had little chance of success, particularly in Colorado which has trended more progressive over the past several election cycles, was mostly symbolic, according to Sanridrge. "We all know this bill isn't gonna pass in this current left-wing environment," he told Colorado Public Radio. "It's to remind everyone, this is the ultimate way to conceive a child."

    In a sign of how far we've come on the issue of LGBTQ marriage and parenting rights, most Republican legislators in the state did not endorse the bill.

    Though the bill had little chance of passage, LGBTQ advocacy groups in the state are taking the threats seriously nonetheless. Daniel Ramos, director of the LGBTQ group One Colorado, told LGBTQ Nation that the bills were an attempt to return Colorado to its "hate status" of the 1990s, adding the aggressiveness of the measures were "a bit surprising."

    Surrogacy for Gay Men

    Dads Talk About Surrogacy Process in New Video for Northwest Surrogacy Center

    The Northwest Surrogacy Center interviewed some of their gay dad clients for a video to celebrate their 25th anniversary of creating families through surrogacy!

    Image: NWSC Clients

    Last year, Northwest Surrogacy Center celebrated 25 years of helping parents realize their dreams. And they celebrated in style by inviting the families they've worked with over the past two and a half decades to join them!

    At the party, they took the opportunity to film queer dads and dads-to-be, asking them a couple of questions: how did it feel holding your baby for the first time, and tell us about your relationship with your surrogate.

    Watch the video below and get ready for the water works!

    Keep reading...

    Fatherhood, the gay way

    Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

    Follow Gays With Kids

    Powered by RebelMouse