Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Things I've Learned in the Decade Since Celebrating My First Father's Day

This year will be John Hart's 10th year celebrating Father's Day as a dad. Here's 15 things he's learned in that decade.

I celebrated my first Father's Day as a new father a decade ago. And while some sleepless nights, whining phases or the Gangnam Style-era seemed endless at the time, the years have gone by quickly.

Here are some of the things that I've learned about since 2009:

#1. Learning is Constant

I have discovered so much more about hockey, hip hop and slime than I ever knew before. And just because I love musicals, singing and Tiana (my favourite Disney princess), doesn't mean my kids have to enjoy the same. Plus my kids tell me that just because I can do the Floss and Orange Justice, doesn't mean I should, especially in public.

#2. When it's quiet...

Just because it's quiet doesn't mean everything is ok. I've let the two kids play on when it was quiet, only to realize later they were playing with postage stamps as if they were stickers or were unrolling condoms onto their fingers ("these balloons are kinda slimy...."). On the other hand, just because it's quiet doesn't mean everything is wrong: I once checked on them in the other room to find them counting each others' toes and in the car I turned around to see them looking out their own windows but holding hands in the middle.

#3. Speak Out When Necessary

I have advocated – sometimes wisely, sometimes passionately (read angrily) for my kids while trying to navigate the education, health, social services and adoption systems. I am much more outspoken on their behalf than mine. I will go all daddy bear on you if I must.

#4. New Perspectives

I have looked at life anew through my children's eyes, especially Christmas, theme parks and board games. Also, however, sexism, racism and homophobia – while I want to protect their innocence and curiosity as much as possible, I need to prepare them for the real world. I feel they need to know what might happen, how to respond and how irrational it all will be.

#5. Old Perspectives

There are times when "when I was a kid..." stories are fascinating to the two kids – landlines? Antenna tv? VHS? And there are times when "when I was a kid..." is just not relevant to how they live their lives today.

#6. Curiosity 

The kids have questions – so many questions – but they're not looking for overly complicated answers, simply something they understand and hopefully an analogy to their own experience or to a character they know.

#7. An Extensive Family

We have grown our family by multitudes with our children, their blood siblings and their blood siblings' adoptive families. It is amazing to celebrate special bonds with them all and have so many people we now consider family.

#8. Love and Pain


I find ways to let my children know that they're wanted and loved every day, while also acknowledging the trauma of the separation from their birth families. Sometimes my love isn't enough because they have questions I can't always answer. We talk to them about their adoption stories, and to ensure their sense of permanency, I had tattoos of their initials inked onto my arms.

#9. Learning From Mistakes

I try every day to provide the structure, security and safety my kids need, but also room to grow and to express themselves. They need to discover who they are, explore the world and make their own mistakes.

#10. Learning From Mistakes (Daddy Edition)

I have found myself failing as a father, yet I have never given up completely. These kids are mine and I'm responsible. I need to learn from my mistakes and do better. I also need to admit my mistakes, apologize and show that we can persist, forgive and move forward.

#11. The Importance of Saying Less

There are times when "you're having a hard day, let me give you a hug" is all I need to say and all they want to hear.

#12. Creating Community 

We have met and bonded with many gay dads, sharing similar experiences of adoption, confused or inquiring looks, and times we need to out ourselves yet again. We have also met and bonded with many parents of whatever sex and orientation as we share the same experiences of trying to do the best for our children (and retain some sense of sanity), trying to register for programs with waitlists and swap helpful hints of how to get the kids to sit down and eat their dinner.

#13. Sharing Our Story 

I've spoken with dozens of gay men, both individually and while on panels, about becoming parents, offering advice, wisdom and encouragement. There are usually so many questions – How? How long? How did you...? When did you...? But also sharing our photos and stories that show the results and rewards of pursuing parenthood.

#14. An Online Community 

I've written for Gays With Kids for five years, offering insights and a personal perspective. I enjoy hearing from other families too and seeing photos from around the world. It is so wonderful to find a small but growing international community to encourage, support and inspire each other.

#15. Pride for All

It is important for our family of four to attend Pride together. Sure they've seen some things that make them giggle or prompt conversation later, but they need to partake as well. They need to see others like them – and others not like them – and be seen; they need to feel that they belong; and that they are equally deserving to stand tall and proud too. They're part of the community too.

Change the World

"16 Hudson," a New Animated Show for Preschoolers, Features Two Gay Dads

16 Hudson, a new animated kids show, is the first show for preschoolers that features a main character with two gay dads.

16 Hudson is a new animated show for kids of pre-school age. It focuses on four kids who live in the apartment building at that address who range from ages four to seven: Lili (Iranian), Amala (half-Irish, half-East Indian), Sam (Chinese) and Luc (Haitian). Luc is also adopted by Paul and Bayani, making 16 Hudson the first preschool show to feature a main character with two dads.

Each of the 39 episodes is about 7 minutes long, featuring the adventures of the kids. The show balances the multicultural lives of the children and their families, highlighting specific holidays, festivals or traditions of the families, and the everyday adventures and antics of the pre-schoolers. Each of the short stories has a little lesson nestled within the plot, the colorful animation and the humor.

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

What One Gay Dad Learned After Marching in a Pride Parade With His Kids for the First Time

John Hart's son was excited to march in a parade in front of thousands. But what does it mean when he doesn't want his classmates to know?

At the beginning of June, my seven-year-old daughter said her class started learning about the Pride flag. They were going through the colors one by one to learn what each represented. She also brought home a permission form, saying that she wanted to be in the club that was building a float for the Pride parade.

Twice a week she stayed late after school to help work on the float. "I used a sander today!" she said on our way home after her second session. Already she has used a power tool more often than me! Later in the process, "we painted today!" A fact I could tell by the bright flecks on her shirt.

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As gay men, my partner and I talk about sex, we joke about sex, we enjoy sex (or did before having two high energy, high needs kids). We feel we're open-minded, honest, sometimes silly, sometimes raunchy, and recognize that sex is a healthy part of human nature and gay identity. So when our children ask us about sex, why are we suddenly so squeamish?

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Look your child in the eye. Start by telling your child you love him or her, that you're proud of who he or she is. Say, as you have many times, that he or she is special and has so much potential.

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I was putting on sunscreen the other morning while my daughter finished her breakfast. My son came into the kitchen and said, "it smells like sunscreen." Matter-of-factly my daughter told him, "daddy's putting it on because white people burn."

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"Let's skip," my daughter said on our way to school the other week. She took my hand and started skipping along, pulling me forward to urge me to do the same.

Wouldn't it look, well, gay, for me to skip down the street? In public? I wasn't willingly going to make myself look like a sissy.

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My daughter talks a lot. And by "a lot" I mean pretty much all the time.

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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