When the Reality of ADHD, Homophobia and Racism Sinks in

I have been naive. Naive to think that love could cure all.

It's not that I hadn't been warned. As part of the adoption process, the Children’s Aid Society required prospective parents to take a course to give an overview of some of the potential problems faced by children in care. I thought that any problems would be manageable with the love we’d have to offer. As it turns out, our son has ADHD (one of those potential problems). Because his brain works so differently than mine, I often don't understand him and get frustrated. More than just love, I need a great deal of patience, empathy and self-sacrifice, and I often find I don't have enough. The relentless lack of focus and judgment especially are draining. Don't get me wrong: He's a wonderfully smart, creative and talented kid, but one with a whirlwind manner; neither I nor he himself can keep up. I feel that I'm not parenting my child in any constructive way but merely supervising him and making sure he's safe, and not even doing that particularly well.

I was naive to think homophobia would dissipate.

My partner raised the issue as we were considering having a child: What issues will our children face because they have gay dads? But I chose to focus on the positive and said that any issues would dissipate shortly. After all, we live in Canada, where gay marriage has been legal for over 10 years! And we live in Canada’s largest, most diverse and accepting city!

But our son who is in second grade has already been picked on for having two dads. I know that having two dads marks him as different and any difference is a surefire target for teasing. And I know that homophobia has not disappeared, nor will it any time soon, whether the overt kind we hear about on the news or the subtle, insidious kind that still prevents full equality.

It pains me to talk to my son about street proofing, to have to explain that there are bad people out there who may do harm to him. When we first talked to him about stranger danger, he became scared and curled up in tears in my lap. I hated to bring his innocence, his lovely, innate innocence, and his good-natured belief in the world to an end. It pains me to tell him that people will call me and my partner names because we are gay and some people think that it's wrong.

John Hart with his son John Hart with his son

I was naive to assume black kids would be treated like everyone else.

The discussion of slavery and race has come up as well; how to tell a kid that people were – and still are – considered inferior simply because of their skin color? A skin color like his.

My son is half black and will be targeted for that as well. At school. On the street. And potentially by police. It pains me to see what is happening in North America, but I was naive again to think that skin color doesn’t matter and we can all get along. It pains me that my son, and other black youth and even adults, have to act differently, carefully, even obsequiously, towards the police who are charged with serving and protecting us all. But it's reality.

It’s naive to wish things weren’t this way. Naive to hope that reality will change and that for my son and for all society differences can be celebrated as what make us unique. Hate and discrimination exist, as much as they frustrate me and I don’t understand them. While they might lessen or become less apparent, hate and discrimination will always exist. And my son will experience them. I have to try to warn him, give him strategies to cope, comfort him and always stand with him in the fight for greater equality.

For no matter how much I might try to protect him, it is naive to think that my love will be enough.

Posted by John Hart

John is a writer who was born and bred in Toronto (a rarity, apparently). He met his partner in 2002 and they started the adoption journey together in 2007. He enjoys reading, traveling and sleeping – passions he's also trying to instil in the children.

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