Growing up in San Francisco as one of two children to a single, working mother, it didn’t occur to me that I was living any kind of alternative lifestyle. Sure, as I got older I noticed Mom tried too hard to introduce me to “strong male role models” and involved me in activities with a heavy focus on male camaraderie. But, it’s pretty obvious none of that stuff stuck. I’m still completely insane and without boundaries, an off-kilter male role model.
By the time I reached pre-adolescence, the specious garbage that politicians spewed finally slithered into my ears. Those jerk-sausages loved to rally against single mothers. The things they said laid me bare. After all we’d been through as a family, it still wasn’t good enough for them. They were compelled to wage war against the idea of single parenting.
So, imagine my surprise when I heard a story this week about single men deciding to have children on their own. Men of both sexual orientations, gay and straight, are raising children. In fact, more than one million never-married men, per The Williams Institute.
A natural followup here would be “Would I have had children on my own?” and while hindsight is 20/20, I had to take a long, forgive the pun, pregnant pause to come to a conclusion about it.
The boys of absent fathers I grew up with now fall into two distinct boxes as I look at them today. They either knew they were going to be the kind of fathers they didn’t have and work their collective panda eyes off to be great dads, or they got stuck in the quicksand, eternally trapped in a delayed-pubescence. The two sides are similar only in the starkness of contrast.
Though not an alternative lifestyle by my estimation, I truthfully felt the cliched pangs of sadness over missing my dad. I knew he existed, I saw him in between his itinerant life cycles, and he shaped me creatively. My mother did a great job showing me that a lot of different KINDS of men existed in this world. But with Papa absent there was a hole in my heart and mind. And that’s the truth.
So, I find myself a bit conflicted over the whole thing.
But what if the game had been strategized from the beginning to have no second partner? It would’ve been us against the world. In the metaphor of the Presidential Election of 2000 voting booths, no hanging dads.
But the answer, friends, is “yes” — I would’ve had children without a partner-in-grime.
I’ve known all along something that I could never escape as a kid: I wanted to be a father. I have a profound and fundamental impulse to have and raise children. And maybe hedgehogs.
I suppose there are a few of you who haven’t felt the beating of your heart or the wind in your lungs or the warmth of your own body. Those feelings are meager limits of being alive. The boundaries are yet pushed further by the arrival and tending to a child, whether you’ve created them or they’ve found you. They are great catalysts for improving the human condition, if we are attentive enough to grab hold of our aliveness while having them with us.
And I am happy to debit my time (and every other frigging thing, apparently) toward that journey.
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