“Who pretended to be Eva’s dad today?”
This question was asked by my 6-year-old daughter’s best friend. While few things shock me these days, I was taken back by his question. Eva’s best friend is also 6 and has known her and our two-mom family for almost as long as he has been alive.
“Eva doesn’t have a dad. She has two moms. You know that.” Before I could process why he asked his question, I answered him a bit too bluntly. He wasn’t attacking me, but I felt under attack — and my initial response was not one that helped him process what he wanted to understand.
“I know,” he said. “But who came to school for Dads and Donuts?”
Father’s Day. I forgot that, much like for Mother’s Day, the schoolkids would be creating artwork and poems to send home. I forgot that some classrooms would be hosting breakfast for dads, roasting and honoring them at the same time. I forgot because I haven’t talked to my own father in nearly 20 years and Father’s Day is not on my radar. I forgot because I am up to my ears in end-of-the-school-year events and summer camp prep. I forgot because my kids don’t celebrate Father’s Day.
Shortly before our daughter turned 3, we began to talk to her about how she was created through love, her mama’s egg, and a sperm donor. She, and our 4-year-old twins, will proudly and correctly tell you they came from an egg and sperm. We don’t get into the logistics of how those two things met (doctor-assisted intrauterine insemination using frozen sperm for those of you who are curious). But we openly and honestly talk about how our family was made. Our kids will also tell you about their brother and sisters who live in another state; they are donor siblings who were born from the same anonymous sperm and whose parents we met through the cryobank’s sibling registry.
We know our kids feel loved, and that they are as proud of their family as any other children who are more focused on their own needs and wants than on the reflection of sacrifices made by their loving parents. Yet, as much as our kids are like any other kids, their normal is not “normal.” At least, not to some people. And when our kids meet new friends who are unaware that they have two moms, or when Father’s Day rolls around each year, they are not just reminded that they don’t have a dad — but that society expects them to have one.
Once I realized the motivation behind my daughter’s friend’s question, I softened. “Ah! Your dad came to school for Father’s Day donuts. Eva’s class didn’t host a breakfast. But she may have made something for her Pop-Pop.”
We have always told our kids’ teachers that when Father’s Day projects are being made that it’s okay to acknowledge that they will not be making one for a father of their own. They can make one for my partner’s father, their amazing Pop-Pop. Or they can make one for any one of a number of amazing friends and dads who are in our life. Just because they don’t have a father doesn’t mean we don’t have good men in our lives and great dads to celebrate.
And if Eva’s class had hosted a Father’s Day breakfast? We probably wouldn’t have been there. I am not a dad, and neither is my partner, Eva’s other mama. Eva knows this, and 99% of the time she is more than happy with this. At the beginning of the school year, she had issues with a little boy who didn’t believe she had two moms, because all kids have a mom and dad according to him. I made myself very present in the classroom shortly after that discussion to allow the kids to get to know me and to talk a little bit about our family. Eva was thrilled, and, even for a then 5-year-old, proud.
Several months later, however, she announced at dinner that she wished she had a mom and a dad like everyone else. She was quick to say that she still wanted us, but she didn’t want to be different. I couldn’t argue with her. Being made to feel different sucks. She rolled her eyes a bit when we reminded her that not everyone has a mom and dad. But the one who helped her feel better wasn’t me or my partner. It was her best friend — the same boy who would later ask me who pretended to be Eva’s dad.
He happened to be at our house for dinner that night while his parents were at a work function, and he chimed in with, “I think it’s better to have two moms. Moms say yes to more stuff than dads, so you are pretty lucky.”
My kids don’t have a dad. They have two moms and a sperm donor. We don’t go out of our way to make accommodations for this, we don’t claim to take on the roles of a father, nor do we apologize for it. My kids don’t need a dad. They need love, support, and respect from a society that is too caught up in the idea that every kid either has or should have a mom and a dad.
Heteronormative views have already been treated as the standard, and dads worth celebrating should absolutely be celebrated on Father’s Day. But don’t feel sorry for my kids. They are happy and so, so loved. Instead, do us a favor: help my kids’ normal lives feel normal by celebrating the people in their lives, rather than pointing out what you think is missing. Because no one should ever pretend to be something they are not.