In my book "Out and About Dad," I talked about feeling relieved when my kids turned eighteen because I no longer had to fear them being taken away from me. Well, the truth is that I didn't really know what relief felt like until now, watching them successfully graduate from college and start their adult careers.
They made it. And I made it too.
I’m sure every parent feels this same sense of relief. It’s a universal emotion. But for a gay father, I believe it’s more intense. As gay fathers we face more societal pressures than our straight counterparts. We just do. My parenting skills were questioned on a regular basis just because I’m gay. My motivations were questioned just because I’m gay. And my children's future was questioned just because I’m gay.
“Those poor kids,” was a common statement said under their breaths and behind my back.
Sure, there were the occasional allies, especially the teachers, but I was left in parental isolation most of the time. I didn’t fit the norm and I didn’t fit in. The other parents didn’t really let me in. I was basically one of only a few active fathers, and pretty much the only gay one. At least the only public gay one that I knew.
“You people shouldn’t have kids,” was said to me more than once to my face and I’m sure more than a few times when I wasn’t around.
But I still felt it was important to let everyone know that I was gay as I was raising my kids. I didn’t keep it hidden, that’s for sure. I didn't hide my partner (now husband) either along the way. I just figured that no one could possibly be judgmental and prejudiced if they actually knew me. I was right some of the time. But I was wrong a lot of the time, too.
So, when I heard the Dean announce my son’s name at his college graduation, imagine the rush of emotions that rushed over me: pride, love, and relief. All at once.
It's a relief that only a gay father could possibly know. And while I know times have changed for those raising their young kids now, I also know that it’s still not easy. And for that we have each other.
For those of you thinking how lucky I am to have seen my kids make it and to not have to care for them anymore, you are perfectly right. But I do have to share that my son is now living with us in New York as he navigates his first job and budging his salary on a Manhattan budget.
Gay empty nest? Not quite yet.