Surprised by Parenting

Gay people are eagerly boarding the baby train, but some of us are still stuck at the station

by Will O'Bryan
Published on April 8, 2010, 12:01am | Comments

This weekend, I'm heading to my second baby shower -- my first for a gay family. This is not what I expected.

First, I'm old enough to have been raised in a generation where the menfolk steered clear of all showers -- baby, bridal or other -- in Harvest Home fashion, even if I would've been far more useful as a pre-teen by building baby-diaper pyramids rather than attempting to defend my school's honor on a wrestling mat.

Second, most of my socializing is with gay men, few of whom I ever reckoned would be hankering for babies. The lesbian friends I granted a little more leeway, what with all those intense female hormones.

Third, I'm just not the baby type. That need to procreate missed me entirely.

I imagined a future where the only cries I would hear would be on airplanes, the only diapers in my future the adult variety I'll be sporting in my dotage. Yet here we are. There is the weekend's shower for Isabel. A friend from college recently became one of two mommies to Baby Hugo.

It's not that I mind children. I don't. But they do put me on edge. Perhaps it was because I was the baby of the family. At least, I was until my father remarried and re-fathered. I was completely surprised to be become the big brother at 13. Probably not nearly as surprised as little sister Casey was when she met the marble-tiled floor forehead-first. That was on my watch. At the same age, my stepmother was terrified one morning believing that the baby was exhibiting symptoms of spinal meningitis. Nope, just a gas bubble from too much popcorn the night before -- when I'd been baby-sitting.

If you sense a theme, your insights are spot-on. If children aren't getting hurt around me, I'm getting ulcers waiting for them to cut themselves playing with broken glass, snapping a bone while attempting to skateboard down stairs, or jump off a pier into freezing water just because that's the sort of thing that young children do. Believe me: I pushed a 7-year-old classmate into a fountain in the dead of winter. It was an accident, yet more evidence that my life has been marked by children having "accidents," whether I'm in charge or simply nearby.

There was some news a few weeks ago of a study out of Canada's University of Lethbridge examining "kin selection hypothesis." Studying the social trappings of some effeminate Samoans knows as the fa'afafine, researchers found that these childless fellows went above and beyond to support their nieces and nephews, perhaps knowing that those nieces and nephews share some of their genes. Reading that, every gift I've ever given my sole niece or any of the six nephews, suddenly seemed a self-serving strategy to protect a measure of my fabulous genetic recipe. Ayn Rand: 1. Cool uncle: 0.

The cynic in me says, yes, maybe giving my niece a college credit card is the contemporary equivalent of impregnating the tribeswomen of your defeated enemy. But I'm just not that cynical.

The optimist in me says this is great news for my parenting pals. The baby thing might be alien to me, but if you are my friends, I must -- to a large degree -- share your values. And smug self-assuredness being what it is, I'm sure your values (and mine) are better values than the ones espoused by all those creepy strangers. That means that I will support your child-rearing in the same way I support the DNA of my niece and nephews. What a glorious future it will be, full of my DNA and values, and I don't even have to change a diaper.

In short, I want you pink parents to know I'm here for you. Just don't ask me to baby-sit unless your kids have stellar health insurance and you've no concern about me getting an ulcer.


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