Context: My personal journey to live an honest and authentic life was profiled in an article on Gays With Kids in August 2014. This article will make a little more sense if you stop by that interview first.
I’ll never forget the first time Jesse, my partner, met my son Henry.
My ex-wife Laura and I were in agreement that any new romantic interests in our lives would be waiting a while before they could meet the kids. Our first timeline was a year; but we only made it six months.
Jesse and I were running errands with his mother and I had to make a stop by Laura’s house for some reason or another on our way to the store. (In photo above, from left to right: Jesse brother, Jesse's mom, Jesse with Henry on his shoulders, Ian and Lucy.) Upon opening the door I was assaulted with the usual loving barrage of hugs and kisses and cries of “Daddy!” I had to explain that I was only stopping by on my way to the store. Henry looked up at his mother and me and asked if he could go, too.
Laura looked at him, looked at me, shrugged and said, “Okay.”
To which I replied in a voice far too high-pitched with excitement, “Really?!”
Jesse and I had been together six months by that point, and I had even moved in with him for a month while I found a place to live that I could afford on my own. By my count we still had six months to go before he was supposed to meet our kids. That’s not to say I didn’t look forward to bringing together these two disconnected parts of my life — the man I had come to love and my children, whom I loved more than anything else — but it was a shock to have it become an unexpected reality with just one word.
The shopping trip was uneventful, but I’ll always remember that simple “okay” that began the process of bringing my two worlds together.
But that was just the first step.
We began with a few play dates, and a shopping trip here and there to give Jesse plenty of chances to become better acquainted with both Henry and Laura. From the beginning Jesse, Laura and I have been in complete agreement: the kids come first.
Laura and I are committed to co-parenting and making sure that we both maintain an active role in raising our kids, so 100% confidence on both sides is necessary, especially in something as major as introducing a romantic partner. We figured that the best we could do was to try to minimize any sense of instability that came along with a situation like divorce. And from the beginning, Jesse has also understood that the kids always come first.
And then there are the growing pains...
I’ve explained our rapidly developing relationship with Jesse and his family to Henry and Lucy by saying that our family is simply growing. (In the accompanying photo, I'm all the way to the right, standing next to Jesse; also in the picture are my two kids and Jesse's mom and brother.) Grasping the roles that we all fill in our new family dynamic hasn’t been easy for the kids, nor does the explanation that the reason daddy doesn’t live at home anymore is because he likes boys. In the heteronormative world we live in there’s not a lot of programming on Netflix to introduce to a child the concept of a same-sex couple.
And of course the word “gay” doesn’t really mean anything to a 5-year-old; it underscores the fact that we all start with a blank slate. Discrimination is a learned behavior.
So while the kids accept the situation, and certainly love Jesse and his family, they haven’t yet been able to grok it to their satisfaction. It’s going to be an interesting journey as they grow in years and perception, slowly understanding how our family came to be. In the meantime, it’s the job of the three adults in their lives to show them that we are a family rooted in love, understanding, and honesty.
One last thing: we’re ordering a bunch of LGBT inclusive books to start reading to the kids, and I’ll provide an update next time with how that’s going! Any favorite books or movies in your family? Let me know!