I used to think that there was a big difference between how straight couples raise children and how gay couples raise children. After all, if straight men are really from Mars, then gay men are from Pluto, a world with an unlikely barycentric orbit, studied by astronomers who don’t understand it and disrespect it so much that they use demeaning terms like “dwarf planet.”
And because gay men are different from straight men, I assumed that we would raise our children differently. Less football, more figure skating. Less R & B, more show tunes. Isn’t that what the religious right is really afraid of, that we will take their children and raise them all to be interior decorators?
All this led me to doubt myself. I never taught my boys how to cook or sew because I assumed that boys were not learning these skills in straight households. I wondered, At what age do straight dads stop kissing their son goodbye on the schoolyard?
But the great thing about making mistakes with your children is that it gives you something to talk about at work over the water cooler. The straight guys I worked with had questions just as I did: At what age does a child get a cell phone? How do you decide when to allow you children to date? Should I teach him the zone defense or the man-to-man defense? One of the tougher guys I work with, a straight lieutenant who is an amateur wrestler on the side, told me that his son was gay, and he said, “I don’t know any more about raising a gay son than you do raising a straight son. It’s like you and me are making mirror image mistakes.”
So then I asked myself WWTLD: What would the lesbians do? There is exactly one gay couple raising two fost-adopt children in the Crocker Amazon neighborhood of San Francisco (that’s us), and there is exactly one lesbian couple in the neighborhood doing the same. It makes for a statistical sampling size of one each.
We’ve lived up the block from them for 14 years, and I have noticed that there are differences in how gay parents raise children as opposed to lesbian parents. Again, this is a pretty unscientific article, as the statistical sample size is one of each couple.
Here are the differences I have seen in a decade and a half:
The gay dads cook Thanksgiving; the lesbian moms cook Christmas.
The gay dads shout about everything; the lesbian moms have intense conversations where everyone takes responsibility.
The gay dads take in every rescue dog that has a sob story; the lesbian moms maintain a very neat cat who spends most of his time grooming himself in the basement.
The gay dads coach soccer not out of any love of the game, but because their children demand it; the lesbian moms coach soccer, basketball, volleyball and baseball, and really like it.
And while the gay dads and the lesbian moms are cooking and coaching, the presumably straight tweenagers are hanging out in the park between our two houses, rolling their eyes and comparing notes with the sons and daughters of straight parents, all of them trying to come up with ways to convince their parents that they should be allowed to stay up till midnight, play on iPads and borrow the cars.
Last Sunday, one of the lesbian moms called me to ask for help. She had had an argument with her son and he took off on the skateboard. I got lucky, saw him as soon as I walked out the door and still had enough caffeine in me to chase him down. I walked him home, with him complaining the whole while about his Moms making him do homework. As we got to the door, he rolled his eyes and complained, “I wish I had a real dad.”
I nodded and said, “You could ask Zane for a trade. Whenever he’s mad at me he wants a real mom.”
The lesbian mom answered the door, and said, “I’m sorry for your trouble. Thank you.”
She did not expect my smile as I said, “No, thank you. I cannot tell you how grateful I am to know that every tweenager hates homework. And hates the parents who make him do it.”