About six months after our first child was born, I felt like it was important for me to write about our experiences in a blog. Living in the South, I knew the way we live life would be completely different to gay parents in other parts of the country. My hope was that I could inspire other gay couples to create their own family, while also providing the crucial positive visibility that is so important when helping to melt away insecurities felt by straight parents, not only in our country, but around the world.
When you have a child, you want nothing more than to make sure they are safe, loved, and healthy. You do everything in your power to see that they are happy and thriving.
You want them to understand that their family loves them unconditionally, despite any differences they may start to recognize.
There are almost 8 billion people on our planet, and each one of us is part of a uniquely beautiful and different family all of its own. Having a ‘two dad’ family like we do, I knew we would have our work cut out for us. So I wanted to start out at a very early age reading children’s books that our babies can personally relate to.
Unfortunately, the more I looked, the more frustrated I got. Although there are some really great options out there which help represent same-sex families, they are definitely hard to come by, especially when looking for high-quality books with beautiful illustrations.
I remember getting angry at just how easy the traditional family had it when introducing materials to their children that they could relate to. It was unfair how with my own family, it wasn’t so easy. There are also topics which are highly sensitive and super-delicate. For example adoption, and the origins of how parents like us were able to find our children. Also, being someone who dealt with bullying growing up, I know first-hand how embarrassing and hurtful that topic can be. Unfortunately, there are not many children’s books which help with these topics when adding the ‘same sex’ component to the mix.
Representation is crucially important for anyone, but especially when you are a child. Positive visibility helps to break the taboo stereotypes, especially expanding a parent’s mind about accepting all loving families for who they are, despite any differences they may have.
Respect and tolerance are keys in paving the way for a well-rounded and loving heart.
As we had more kids, the frustration grew while looking for more options to help enlighten our babies through books, which are the gateways to unimaginably beautiful places our little one’s minds can go to with endless possibilities. Representation of how our families look helps allow it to happen, especially when there are illustrations they can relate to. The possibilities are endless when you help stimulate imaginations and curiosities.
Telling my kids about having two dads is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many situations and circumstances which are different when dealing with a family like mine. It can’t just be solved with a regular bedtime story. Sure, some bedtime stories are perfectly fine, and we definitely read those to them as well. But it’s the deep and impactful storylines I find hard to come by. That is when I had my “a-ha” moment.
I love writing. I love helping people. And I knew I needed to do something about the problem I was seeing about the availability of these sensitive children’s books. So almost five years ago, I set out on a mission to help normalize how people viewed same-sex parents and their families.
With a dream in my pocket and friends by my side, I was able to set the wheels in motion to create something which could last forever, and have potential to help families all over the world. I was beginning the process of writing my own children’s book! Having a multiracial family of my own, which is also raised by two dads, I felt strongly this was the perfect scenario which would help to not only captivate young imaginations, but also help heal insecurities felt by some parents.
Most of all, having 3 children of my own, I want them to have access to materials which will help them develop into loving and accepting young people. Of course, we teach them this through our words and our actions. But these beginning years are crucial for their comprehensive and emotional development. So I want them to see it first-hand, in a tangible object they can hold and use to visually stimulate their little minds and allow their imaginations to run wild.
I wanted a children’s book series which tackled the difficult questions in life, which hopefully create a much needed dialogue between parents and their children in a natural and tactful manner. By introducing adoption, skin color, loss of a family member, dealing with bullies and seeing the beauty of all families, we created the perfect opportunity to have such a delicate and serious conversation while keeping things light-hearted and fun.
My own babies can control the direction of the conversation. They can ask as many questions as they want, as each answer helps to build their character and tolerance without them even knowing. My children, and others too, need to see that although all families are different, they all love each other in the same way.
It is so important children learn at an early age how some families do not look like their own. This is especially true as they grow into their school age years. As my oldest gets closer to kindergarten, I wanted it to be super-easy to read and to understand for her, too. I thought it was also very important for beginner readers to have fun reading it. Children of all walks of life need to have access to books like these. Unfortunately, there are places around our country that still don’t accept differences in other families. There is a lasting, heartbreaking effect, because those feelings, emotions, and comments trickle down to the children in their own lives which carries on the cycle of intolerance.
It is my mission to broaden the one sided view of the stereotypical American family. We too, are living the American dream. We are the new normal, loving family that teaches our children acceptance of all walks of life, and the importance of being kind to one another. Our place in this world is earned, not owed.
When starting out writing my blog, I was lucky enough to find a platform specifically for gay dads and gay dads-to-be that welcomed my writings. I am eternally grateful to Brian, Ferd, Rosalind and David at GaysWithKids.com. They embraced my writings from the beginning and it means the world to me.
I have received countless messages from around the world filled with love and support. Every one that I get helps me remember why I started Nolapapa.com in the first place.
Although, as I continued to write, I could see that something else was needed.
I have made it my mission to bring my book to libraries across America in my own “inclusive family book drive.” Please go to Nolapapa.com to find out more information and to order your own copy of ‘The Adventures of Addie Underwater’.