A child seen with two adults of the same sex is likely to draw attention anywhere. I recall the first time this happened to us. We had just arrived in Frankfurt on our way home from India, where Sascha, our son, was born.
At the security check-point, the young lady making sure we were in the right queue blurted out, as if it was the most natural question: “Where’s his mother?” We were utterly unprepared for that question, and our honest response – that he doesn’t have one – left her standing puzzled.
Sascha is almost eighteen months old, and, still, to this day, the questions about his mother, or – more frequently – about who his “real” father is, baffle me. They get under my skin every time, and, though normally equipped with a sharp tongue, I fail to deliver the witty one-liner I would normally throw back.
First, Sascha doesn’t care. He has me, his daddy, and he has Alex, his pappa. He doesn’t grasp the concept of father and mother. When he says “ma-ma,” he means food (as I presume all kids do, hence the word for mother, as an early, natural, food source), but he addresses us as “dad-dy” and “ba-ba.” His enunciation still a bit wobbly. To Sascha, even the word “parent” is theoretical at best. He just knows us: We are the ones who feed him; we are the first faces he sees in the morning and the last one he sees before falling asleep; and it is our voices he hears in the dark when he wakes up at night. In short, we care for him, we comfort him, and we love him. To Sascha, that is all that matters, at least for now. The means of his conception, his DNA profile, are completely irrelevant at this stage in his life. When the time comes, we’ll have that conversation with him, of course.
Second, I don’t understand why people find it so important – why people have the need to ask the question. Why are we so obsessed with genes, with DNA? Why would an adopted child be any less “mine” than if he had come from my own spunk? Honestly, after having thought about this question for years and years, I still have no really satisfying answer. I understand that people feel it is critical, that they feel great pride in seeing themselves in their kids. But, oddly, both of our parents see us in Sascha, as biologically impossible as that is. Is it as simple as people preferring to believe in “nature” over “nurture?”
When we set out to become parents, Alex and I felt very strongly that we didn’t need to be a child’s biological parents. We were happy to adopt or even foster a child, true followers of the “nurture” over “nature” school of thought. Yet, after having been failed by a still inherently homophobic society and social service, we had no other choice, and medical science made a very clinical selection as to which of us would be the sperm donor. So yes, in that specific sense, one of us is Sascha’s father, but I cannot even fathom that I feel any different toward Sascha than Alex does. So why do people insist on knowing?
Why do people keep asking, “Where is he from?” (Certainly not Walmart, if that’s what they think…)
Why do you care? I have yet to understand or grasp that notion.
Yesterday, on my way to town to pick Sascha up from pre-school, I was once again confronted with the question. I couldn’t help but ask back, “Why do you care?” The answer was quite logical: “Well, biologically you can’t both be his father…”
“True enough,” I responded. “But we are both Sascha’s fathers, and which of us the sperm donor was is really none of your business, and I ask you to respect that.” I felt miserable for coming across a bit blunt, but on the other hand, I also felt good for finally having found a response that I can live with – a response that I will be using again, if asked.
Sascha is my and Alex’s son, and that is all people need to know.
How do you deal with this? I can imagine that families with mixed ethnic heritage get this question even more often than we do, even though we get a fair share of it as well. What’s the best and kindest way to deflect questions that constantly question our beautiful rainbow families? Do you, the biological father, deal differently with the question than the co-father? Is the question more hurtful to those who are not, in fact, the sperm donor?