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.

Posted by Jim Joseph

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