I don’t feel like a dad. That might seem odd, when you consider I have two children. We adopted our eldest in 2008 and the second in 2011. I took nine months off work to be home with each of them when they came to us. I dress them and feed them, read stories and sing songs to them, pick them up from school and take them to regular and surprise doctor’s visits. We visit relatives, we have play dates, we take vacations together and sometimes stay home to build forts from couch cushions or tents from bed sheets. But I still don’t think of myself as a dad.
I’m not a reluctant dad or a dad by accident. It takes a lot of planning, paperwork and dedication to become a gay dad. There’s no doubt that I am a dad – but what kind of dad am I?
Perhaps I don’t think of myself as my dad, that he wasn’t a dad I model myself after. He and I didn’t have much in common. I didn’t like sports - neither to play nor to watch – or cars or electronic gadgets. I didn’t understand big band music and jazz. I didn’t have a head for business. I was mortified to be seen in our matching Hawaiian print shirts. And I’m not the kind of dad, like he was, one for whom one would buy ties, golf balls or a BBQ set as gifts for Father’s Day.
I’m sure my kids won’t understand me entirely either and I’ll embarrass them somehow. My son is in grade one and already he comes home from school talking about toys and games I’ve never heard of. He also has a cooler haircut than me.
And I am turning into a dad: I drive a minivan; I pay for babysitters and give them rides home (a kind of icky power imbalance that makes me uncomfortable – and also makes me realize the 22-year-olds are the generation between me and my children); I read the newspaper in the bathroom (blessed quiet until one of the kids barges in with “Daddy…!”); and already I worry that my 6-year-old son is hanging with the wrong crowd.
I know one day I won’t understand the music the kids listen to, I won’t understand what they’re saying and they’ll probably just roll their eyes at the old-fashioned expression I’ll be using in front of their friends and say “Oh dad!”.
My father was a pretty traditional dad. Subsequent generations have been redefining fatherhood – and the legions of gay men who are parenting are redefining it as well. So perhaps my definition of what it means to be a father is also stuck in the past and in what I know. Maybe I’m still struggling to create my own definition that suits me and looking for role models to inspire me.
There’s not much time to think, however, with all the stuff there is to do: drive the kids to gymnastics, kiss boo-boos, allay fears of ghosts, try to get them to sit at the table and eat their food. Dad stuff.