I know that social media has gotten a lot of flak in the last couple of years, mostly because of its political tendencies and political, shall we say, drama. Sure, I'm acutely aware of that. But there's a part of social media that is still exceedingly fun and rewarding, and I've been enjoying it a lot lately.
It's been so much fun seeing all of my friends and colleagues with their families during this year's back-to-school and Halloween festivities. School uniforms, backpacks, bake sales, fundraisers, and, of course, Halloween costumes.
I'm getting the chance to relive the years when I did all of that when my kids were young (they are now well into their '20's now!). I miss it. A lot.
But I will say that there's one thing that I don't miss: Parent/Teacher Conferences. I've been seeing a lot of commentary about those too, and I have to be honest and say that those memories aren't nearly as pleasant.
At least not for me, not by a long shot.
You have to understand that I was a divorced, single, gay father back at a time when none of those things were acknowledged, accepted, or embraced. Today we have Facebook and Instagram to shine a festive light on all of our families during these universal moments, but back in my day I was completely in the dark. Not in the closet, but in the dark. All by myself. Cue the Celine Dion song.
So you can imagine, every new school year I would have to face a new teacher and, in some cases, a new batch of parents. I'd have to explain who I was and who we were, often multiple times with looks of disbelief all along the way.
I always made it a matter of course to let the teachers know the situation…I always assumed that if they "knew" me then they'd accept me, and they'd accept and protect my children. For the most part, I'm happy to say that it was true. It's harder to hate and ridicule someone when you really know them. I tried my best to make sure that the parents, administrators, and teachers "knew me." That way they'd accept and include my kids.
But I have to say it was hard. I'm not ashamed to say that it was hard. The hardest thing I've ever had to do…any day at work is a piece of cake compared to that. It's really hard when you're one of a kind, especially in that environment. Perhaps any environment, but when it's your kids' happiness (and emotional safety) at stake then the stakes get really high.
Every school year, without fail, the shocking truth would always come out at the dreaded Parent/Teacher Conference. Every single year. Ugh. That's when I'd have to address "it." Address me. Address our family. Yes, I'm divorced. Yes, I'm an active father. Yes, I'm gay. Yes, I know that's usual. Yes, all of the above. I get it. And every single year I still had to do it.
The kids were generally well-behaved and good students, so that wasn't a worry. Their social acceptance because of me was my worry. Imagine having to deal with that? I'm sure you can.
And many still do. Every single year, every single day. It hasn't ended, it's just that there are more of us around so that we don't quite feel in the dark so much anymore. We don't feel quite so alone anymore. And there are more of us around to share our stories and serve as role models. We can thank social media for that. We can thank Gays with Kids for that!
I wish I had that back in the day. I'm so glad that you all with small kids have that now. Good luck this school year!