Family / Family-building / Parenting

Where’s Daddy?

purchase prednisone for dogs Disturbing encounter #1: I am walking down our street in our new city, balancing a very cranky heavy little boy and pushing the container of flesh eating ants or so you’d think from his screams stroller with my remaining pinky finger.  An older couple is leaving their house.  I smile at them and say hi and they smile back and coo at the boy.  “He playing football?” asks the man, apropos of nothing.  “A little young for that” I say. “Bet Daddy’s at home watching the game” he says.


Most people correctly read Pepito as adopted – he looks nothing like me – nothing even like what might come of me and a latino sperm donor.   And while lots of straight folks have adopted kids, the obvious lack of resemblance does tend to reduce people’s attempts to assign responsibility for noses and eyebrows: I don’t hear a lot of “oh, so does his dad have jet black hair and chubby cheeks?”  And I have the dubious luxury of passing – that is to say – my personal appearence doesn’t trip off most straight people’s gaydar.

Lots of things run through my mind, this man is missing most of his teeth, as is his wife.  There is a big flag in their front window.  I am not sure that same-sex adoptive families are a part of their regular scheduled programming.  [Until we moved to our previous city, my experience of other gay and lesbian folk was pretty limited to people from the same middle-class, education is everything, socioeconomic bracket as my family.  I still tend to (incorrectly?) correlate higher socioeconomic status with higher likeliness to accept queers.] He is my neighbor, give or take a dozen houses.  I am carrying a very heavy child who may start screaming again, complete with huge fat heart breaking tears, at any moment.

I give a non-committal grunt, say nothing, and move on.

Disturbing Encounter #2: I have the boy nestled in the ergo, trying to convince him that naps are not for other babies.  I am trying to put up a clothesline in our back yard.  An older Caribbean man is working in our next door neighbors’ (very welcoming) yard.  He asks if I need help with the clothesline.  I politely decline.  He asks about the baby.  Ten months, blah blah blah.  He says: daddy oughta be puttin’ that line up for you.  Why can’t his daddy do that?  He doesn’t have a daddy.  He has two mommies.  Boy needs a daddy.  He’s got lots of uncles, and two moms who love him.  Hmmmp.  A boy needs a daddy.  He continues talking to me, explaining that my son needs a daddy until I excuse myself to put the boy down for a nap.  I leave feeling angry that I have, essentially, been driven out of my yard because I don’t want to continue this conversation and because I don’t want to fumble my way through putting up the clothesline in front of him.

I don’t know exactly why I share these encounters.  I wonder about my own assumptions about class and race and religion.  Why do I casually mention my partner and P’ito’s two mommy status freely to the white tatooed cashier at the supermarket checkout but not to the African-American woman on the bus who admires his yummy cheeks and brown eyes and asks me if he’s spanish?

I think of the security guard at my old job, who proudly told me about her niece’s wedding, and how she flummoxed my expectations.  Incidents like these make me wonder – how do I protect my son and yet not give in to my own prejudices?  And yet, how can I be a good parent to a child of color if I don’t confront my own assumptions?


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  1. People in the neighborhood know us really well now, and Malka has some friends at the playground, but when she was ‘fresh” at home with us? The most popular thing I would get is: “boy, her daddy, dark, huh?!” To the which, I’d snarkily reply – “not sure.” And leave it at that. And let them wonder and scratch their heads.

    When kids ask why we are two different colors, I lovingly explain adoption. At least THEY ask openly and honestly.

    I don’t think that my snarkiness can continue as Malka gets older, however. She’ll start to catch on.

    So I, too, look for the path of enlightenment, and until then, just do the best I can, and love my daughter and defend our family when I can.

  2. I dealt with the same issues, as a single mother in a deadbeat dad situation. Especially since my son is biracial and I am from Irish descent with reddish blonde hair and green eyes, not to mention fair skin. I still get questions, even now that he’s 15, but thankfully he is well-adjusted enough to answer them himself and just laugh at the people.

    Just wait until you start having ANY difficulties in school. You’ll get the blame for it ALL. If there was “a dad in the picture,” then this wouldn’t be happening. (I put that phrase in quotes because it’s so ridiculous.) I actually lost custody to the deadbeat dead in my situation because judges actually think this way, especially in southeast Texas.

    Good luck, sorry for writing a novel in your comments but I can totally relate to what you’re going through, even from a different perspective.

  3. You know, I think no matter how hard we try, we err. Little prejudices are going to slip, lazy stereotypes. The opportunity comes in teaching our kids that we can always learn, always improve, and always grow. The time I spent thinkng my mom was perfect was nothing short of torturous as it made me ashamed of the shortcomings I saw in myself. I think that when people raise the question, as you’ve done, it means they are on the right track.

  4. Thank you for sharing these encounters. I’m a hetero mom whose kids DO have a daddy, and I still cringe when people assume I’m married.
    Hopefully the assumed definition of what a family is will be more encompassing when its time for our kids to have families of their own. Again, thank you for the posts.

  5. I grew up the daughter of a single mom and can say that most of the resistance or struggles I dealt with were more a result of society’s expectations of what a family should be than the inherent parenting ability of my mother. I think single moms (and lesbian moms) are seriously undervalued because they are almost always the default caretaker. Thus, when men step up to the plate to take care of their children they are “admirable.” When women do, it is expected but never quite good enough for some people.

  6. I don’t have kids, yet.
    My partner and I discuss it sometimes – we’re not ready yet – but I’ve wondered about all of this. I think there is already quite a bit of enlightenment here already: with the not wanting to allow our prejudices come through to these children, or allow our neighbors to see how much they anger us, or even to tell the ‘right’ people about our lives. I don’t think that previous generations of mothers, fathers, parents were even remotely considerate about any of this! Being the daughter of a mother and a father who divorced I saw their prejudices and their parent’s prejudices – we all seem to be quite sensitive to our own prejudices and perhaps b/c of our experiences – but truly every great parent wants to protect their child and themselves – we do the best with what we’ve got.

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