Gay Grandfathers Give New Gay Dads Their Best Advice

Some folks view being a grandparent as a second chance at parenting, but with only the fun stuff. Being an "out" granddad is a road (thus far) less travelled but the same rules apply. For many, it's a second chance to get it right, and for others, it's an opportunity to support their kids as they learn to parent. And ultimately, be the best granddads to their grandchildren.

We spoke to four gay grandfathers about what they've learned through their years as dads, their best advice to gay men just starting out as parents, and what they love most about being granddads.

"It's okay to struggle and not have all of the solutions," says gay Granddad, Matthew

When Matthew became a dad, he was a single 28 year old, working in social and community health. His son was in foster care at the time and on Matthew's caseload. When Matthew saw that the 8-year-old boy was placed up for adoption, he decided to adopt him. So at the age of 28, when most other 20-somethings were enjoying no responsibility, Matthew became a dad almost overnight. Today, he is a grandfather to two girls and couldn't be prouder of his son, Isaac.

What do you wish someone had told you when you were a new gay dad?

I was very fortunate to be surrounded by supportive family and friend, however, I wish I would have been told more that it was okay to struggle and not have all of the solutions, especially when it comes to dating as single dad at the time.

Looking back, what was the most important lesson you learned as a dad?

Being a parent has taught me how to really 'dig deep' and to be resilient and strong. It has made me a much better man.

What's the best thing about being a (gay) granddad?

Without a doubt, the BEST part of being a granddad for me so far is experiencing the expanding love of a growing family and the building of my legacy and helping shape something that will live beyond my years on this planet. My two precious granddaughters -18-month-old Thea and 3-month-old Athena – are very much motivators for me to be as healthy as possible! In fact, when we were expecting my first granddaughter, her birth inspired me to get serious about losing weight and getting into better shape so that I can be around as long as possible for her!

"Tell them you love them. No matter what. And when they say they hate you. They still love you. No matter what," says gay grandad, David

David was 35 when he became a gay dad. He and his then-husband adopted their two sons from the foster care system two years apart: their youngest in 1998 when he was 5 years old; and their second son in 2000 just before he turned 8. Both sons share the same last names as their dads.

When David and his husband divorced, they formed a co-parenting relationship for the sake of their kids. Sadly, David and his ex had to terminate their parental rights when their eldest was 16 years old. A decision and time in his life that haunts David still, but he's happy to report that his eldest has been working very hard and has begun to come back into their lives. "That took a lot of work and I am happy that he has worked as hard as he has," said David.

Today, his sons are 24 and 26 years old, and they have three children between them. David doesn't have any contact with his eldest son's two children as they are in different states and with different mothers, but he's very much involved in the life of his youngest grandson. On Saturdays and Sundays, one can typically find David fulfilling the role of babysitter to his grandson, and he loves every second of it!

What do you wish someone had told you when you were a new gay dad?

If you are going to adopt a child, interview others who have had good AND bad experiences, find out the questions you should ask on the initial meetings. Mental health questions, how many placements, are the parents still involved or any other member of the family, does your state offer a stipend, and if it does, make sure it is in place prior to your adoption.

Looking back, what was the most important lesson you learned as a dad?

Each day is a gift. Remember even after they break a window or worse. Tell them you love them. No matter what. And when they say they hate you. They still love you. No matter what.

What's the best thing about being a (gay) granddad?

I am not the one who says no anymore. That baby is pure joy and loves to smile when I walk in. I couldn't have asked for a better mother for my grandson. Best of all my sons thinks I am smart again. Lmao.

"Don't sweat the small stuff, enjoy, kids grow so fast!" say gay Granddads Dan and Joe

Joe Melton and Dan Clements have been together over 30 years and have one daughter and one grandson. Dan became a dad from a previous straight relationship and came out when his daughter, Jessica, was 4 years old. The men met through a job interview when Dan was interviewing for a chef at a supper club he was managing, and Joe, an out and proud gay man, applied for the job. The rest, as they say, is history. (Read their awesome family story here.)

Today, they have a grandson called Aiden whom they are very close to and see often. There is also a young man called Rafa whom they look upon like a son. Rafa was a Spanish exchange student they looked after during a school exchange and who now attends university in the California. They are a very close family of five.

What do you wish someone had told you when you were a new gay dad?

This is a hard one to answer as I was married when I became a father. Jessica was 4 years old when I finally came out. Fatherhood came naturally to me, and was also natural for my husband Joe. We both love children and are enjoying our grandson Aidan as much as we enjoyed our daughter. Don't sweat the small stuff, enjoy, kids grow so fast!

Looking back, what was the most important lesson you learned as a dad?

There were so many.... love and be loved, accept your child for who they are and they will always accept you. You will learn as much from them as they learn from you. It is hard to pick a most important lesson, there are so many...

What's the best thing about being a (gay) granddad?

Times have changed so much since Jessica, our daughter was born. Aidan and his friends have always known us as Grandpa Dan and Grandpa Joe, and are still known to all as such. Its most fun to spoil our grandson and then sending him home to his mother.... as I'm sure most grandparents do? We love having him around, he keeps us young and is always wanting hugs and love from his grandpas. Aidan is soon to be 14 and turning into a fine young man. With luck one day we will be fortunate to become great granddads.

"You have to protect and guide them," says gay granddad, Dan

Dan first became a father at the age of 16, then again when he was 19, via two straight relationships. After he came out and was in a relationship with a man, Dan became a father once more when they adopted a baby girl. Their relationship didn't last but the two worked out a co-parenting arrangement so they could continue to be part of their daughter's life.

Although Dan wasn't involved in either of his first two children's lives as they grew up, he is now back in touch with his youngest son. His eldest son is gay and they do not have a relationship.

Dan is a proud grandfather to five children; three from his daughter, and two from his son.

What do you wish had known when you were a new gay dad?

When I became a new gay dad it would've been helpful to know other fellow LGBT parents and get their advice. Gay parents were more often living in major cities although there were a few in Grand Rapids, Michigan, when we first brought our daughter home at 3 days old. Unfortunately, we were unprepared for people's response to seeing two dads, which was most negative.

Looking back, what was the most important lesson you learned as a dad?

First thing I learned with my daughter was to be careful as people in my area are suspicious of two men with a daughter. Child Protective Services came calling. The next thing I learned was she so special and how much you have to protect and guide them. And what truly unconditional love was.

What's the best thing about being a (gay) granddad?

Becoming a gay grandparent for the first time is so very special; the joy I felt, the excitement in the knowing that my grandchildren would grow up without all the bigotry of society. Without saying, the unconditional love that comes with grandchildren and children, I've never experiencing it that much in my years of life.

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