Parenting, for all parents, is full of little life lessons. Most of those are lessons that help our amazing children grow to become outstanding adults, but that's not where those lessons stop. Our children open our eyes to new and fresh perspectives on ideas that we thought we mastered years ago.
They provide many "wow" moments that most of the time go overlooked in the chaotic moments that we call life —especially these days. You can't predict when they will happen, but they are there if our eyes are open to seeing them. I have referred to these moments within our four walls here at home as "my Amber colored world" because my daughter, Amber, has taught me some powerful lessons without her even knowing it. Lessons that, I hope, make me a better person and a better dad.
For instance, four years ago we were sitting in our kitchen eating dinner and she asked, "Daddy, if my friend doesn't have two daddies, where did she come from?" That was an eye-opening moment for us as parents and made us realize that our daughter didn't see other families as symbols of what she didn't have, but rather wondering why they didn't have what she did. It was an answer to the question we all ask as same-sex parents — are we able to provide what our child needs given our family make up?
That is a tough question to really think about. I like to live life in the wonderful bliss of The Beatles song, “All You Need Is Love”. You can thank me for that ear worm later. Generally, I believe that, but then my daughter starts asking me about bras and my world is thrown for a loop. There is no “go ask your mother” response because even though my husband and I take on the role of mother and father, there is no mom – not really anyway.
So, what then?
This is when I take that life lesson my daughter taught me and use it. Don’t look at our lives as things we can’t give her, but instead look at all the things we can.
Amber has two loving parents, which, unfortunately, is something not all children have. My husband is Amber’s ear to talk to about any issue that is floating around in her head – even the really hard ones like talking about her bio family. They can spend hours shopping for new dresses and shoes and thanks to YouTube he has become a master at any hairstyle she wants. She is also daddy’s little girl who he can’t say “no” to – which is a different blog post entirely.
I, on the other hand, share moments of goofiness and horsing around in the living room – constantly hearing “you two are going to get hurt one day.” I am the tickle king in our house, and I am also the one Amber comes to get in the middle of the night when she can’t sleep and needs to snuggle. We all play dolls together and go for bike rides together. We are backstage parents at ballet recitals and supportive parent coaches during swim lessons.
We don’t take on child-care responsibilities due to gender roles — we just do what comes naturally to us when taking care of our daughter. For those moments when Amber may need the experience of a mom, we make her world a little larger, so she doesn’t feel like it is smaller. Grandma’s, aunts, cousins and our extended family of friends that consist of families of all types are part of Amber’s life. When they are needed, they will be there for her if she ever feels she can’t turn to us. We created a small community she can turn to and extended our love beyond our four walls.
Our family isn’t any different than other families and we are no different than other parents. As parents, you do what you can to make sure your child is safe, happy and healthy. We can’t prepare for all of life’s crossroads, but we can make sure our child is surrounded by unconditional love to help them grow into the amazing people they all have the potential to be. That is what we all do as parents. That is what we do as families.
So, I guess that really is all we need — love. It is universal for all families no matter what your family looks like. If you love your child, you will do whatever you need to do to make sure you child has what he or she needs in life. If you ever ask yourself “can I provide?” change the question to “can I love?” Then be the parent you are meant to be.