Ahhh, Spring! Even the most ardent winter-lovers among us must be breathing a sigh of relief that the season of snow, snow and more snow has finally ended. Along with April showers and May flowers, this time of year brings several family-oriented holidays, and with them the opportunity to establish new traditions that celebrate the uniqueness of the gay family.
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can be particularly joyous for gay parents, many of whom grew up believing that accepting their homosexuality would mean forfeiting the chance to have children. But for children who are being raised by same sex parents, particularly those who do not have an opposite sex parent in their lives, these holidays may elicit feelings of confusion or exacerbate a sense of “otherness” among their classmates or other peers.
Although no loss has occurred, these feelings can be similar to those experienced by children who have lost a parent to death, divorce, active military service or another reason. Children in these situations often feel singled out or stigmatized because their parent is absent. Strategies employed to help these children cope with tragedy and loss can be adapted to help children of gay parents understand their unique and special families.
The Bigger Picture
While arts-and-craft time, school bulletin boards and other signs of the season are focusing on a family structure that may differ significantly from your child’s life, he or she need not feel left out. In many cases, family members or friends who serve as role models for the child are honored on Mother’s or Father’s Day, and the child makes cards and gifts for that person.
These relationships are very important and should be encouraged whenever possible. However, these special occasions may also be the perfect opportunity to honor the sperm donor father, surrogate mother or birth parents of your child by acknowledging his or her contribution to your family and giving thanks for that gift.
Creating New Traditions
Perhaps a new tradition of giving back can be established. A lesbian couple and their family may want to honor the child’s sperm donor by spending Father’s Day volunteering at a Veteran’s Home. A gay male couple and their children could spend Mother’s Day helping out at a community garden.
An adoptive family might adapt a practice often used to mark the anniversary of a loved one’s death by deciding to attach messages of gratitude addressed to their child’s birth parents to balloons and release them. This recognizes the fact that although the birth parents may be unknown to the family, they all live under the same blue sky.
Understanding the Message
What’s important here is to acknowledge the fact the children of gay parents often have a genetic link to a person who is not part of their lives and may never be known to them. Sperm and egg donors, surrogate mothers, selfless birth parents who make the heart-breaking decision to give their child up for adoption, all of these unsung heroes deserve to be recognized for the important parts they play in making the dream of parenthood a reality for so many gay parents.
Chris McNamee – has a B.S. in Family Services/Child Studies, a M.A. in Intersex Conditions and Gender Identity Disorders in Children and Adolescents and is the Former owner/operator of Kid ‘n Kaboodle Child Care as well as the Former Coordinator for Long Island Family Connections, Gay Parents Support Network.