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There comes a time when our children's actions and achievements are a direct result of our work as parents, and for me, this time has probably yet to come, as Gabriel is only 17 months old and the only marks he has made in his world are in my heart.
However, and I should have known here, the time has come for his 'inaction' to become a result of my alleged ineptitude as a parent.
I had a recent conversation with my mum on the phone, she is very excited as both her and dad will spend three weeks with us here in London over the Xmas period.
Among all the niceties a question popped up for the hundredth time
"Is Gabriel walking yet?" she asked
"He is just started pulling himself up mum...." I answered casually
"Oh.... Don't you think he should be walking by now?" she went on
"No, I don't.... It doesn't say anything about it in the instruction manual mum..." I replied sarcastically
"But Marco, aren't you worried? I mean, down here all the other children his age are already walking.... Are you stimulating him?"
"Are you putting shoes on him? I mean proper shoes he can walk with?"
"You are not holding him all the time, are you?"
"Are you trying to stand him up?"
"Yes...Yes and a fucking million times YES!!!! WOMAN! WHAT DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND?"
I snapped
"Oh come on... Don't you shout at me.... I'm only trying to help....." she retorted
"How exactly? By doubting what I am doing? I'll have you know that I spend my days on the floor 'stimulating' and 'helping' and 'showing how is done' to my son..... Why is it so terrible if he takes his time a little?" I went on
"But... Marco... I'm only saying...... You know, we were talking about it the other day with the girls..." (she means the pack of little gossip bitches she has around... By all means, I love them to bits, but they could push mountains just with their tongues...) " we were talking about it with the girls the other day and, you know, they all have grandchildren now and they have lots of practice around kids, so they are quite experienced.... They seem to think that maybe you've held him too much.... Or that maybe you haven't used proper shoes.... Or maybe it's just lack of experience.... You know.... Being two men.... But I know it's not true... Every child is different.... Right?" she ended, as if trying to put a patch on what she had said
"I cannot believe what I am hearing.... Being two men as if being two complete idiots? Why am I surprised? I always knew any minor setback would have reverted onto me being a queer, probably only good enough to redecorate the house and pick an outfit...... Right?" I ranted on
"Marco, what on earth are you saying? You know it's not it.... Come on now..." she said calmly
"You know what mum? You make me laugh!
You call saying you want to help... So I tell you JUST SHUT UP! If you want to help, try not to make me feel like such a failure.... Don't you think I'd love to see Gabriel walk? I swore to myself I wouldn't get sucked into the pressure game with the other parents, and I haven't, but obviously YOU HAVE! I cannot accept to be considered a poor parent just because my son at 16 months is a bit lazy with his legs...." I concluded
"Oh... Ok then.... Forget what I said..." she said in a sheepish tone.
I felt bad speaking to my mum like this.
In retrospective though, I am so tired of having my son put up on a 'comparison website' to have all his boxes ticked by an almost total stranger that thinks she knows best simply because she has the privilege of being called "mum" and "grandma" by an army of little ones....
It's happened before, on occasion I had comments about his sleeping routine (yes, he is happy sleeping twice a day and 12 hours during the night...), his eating habits (no, I wont give him chocolate and I don't care if you are stuffing your grandchild's face with it), and so on..... There is not only one way of parenting for goodness sake! I even feel stupid stating it.
Isn't it obvious?
What's obvious, apparently, is the fact that being the son of a gay couple makes people feel like they have the right to intervene and spit out advice at you, like it's so badly needed..... I'm sorry if I sound like I am overreacting. Perhaps I am, but when you are already trying to do your best, criticism sounds always like nails on a chalkboard.... At least to me.
Mum meant no harm, I know of course, but she inadvertently confirmed what my suspicions have always suggested to me.
In the eyes of some women, actually a lot of them, men will always be a second class citizens within the realm of parenthood.
"They don't know! They're men!" or "What do they know? They don't know what it feels like carrying a baby inside them?" or even "There is only one mum, but many fathers" (this last one is an actual old italian saying, not sure what it truly means, but it sounds scary and terribly down-putting for us...)
Thanks to my blog, and since I went 'italian', I had the privilege of getting in touch with some heterosexual fathers that feel the same way I do.
Their approach to parenthood is "modern", as they call it, which means they actually take active roles in the upbringing of their little ones, but sometimes their roles are seen as "too maternal"...... Can you believe the bullshit?
It's almost as saying "you love your children too much"..... Is there such a thing as a gender-dictated limit to the love and care a parent has for his children?
And, furthermore, why a lot of women complain that their partners don't do enough and don't get more involved with their kids? I tell you why!
Because a lot of men end up feeling emasculated by showing their soft side, their caring side, and sometimes I feel as if it's you women that are performing the castration!
Ok, maybe not you, modern thinkers, but your mothers, your aunts and next door neighbours.
You know how it drives me mad being called "mammo" whenever I am out and about pushing the pram with my son in it?
"Awww, so are you the mum then?"
"Look at Mr Mum!"
"Do you like being a stay-at-home mum then?"
Isn't being a caring dad enough anymore? Where are the boundaries between what a dad should do and what a mum should do?
Isn't a parent.... Well.... A parent??
As a man, a father and a homosexual, I know that I am doing the very best I can and I know that what my son shows me every day it's constant proof that I'm doing great!
I'm sorry if some people will feel usurped of a role that is perceived as being designed only for their gender.
No, wait.... In fact, I don't give a shit....
I am not trying to be a mother to my son! You can keep your sore nipples, your stretch marks, and your hormonal imbalances, cause they don't make you more worthy of being called a parent than I am.
I am striving to be a great parent, a loving, caring father, a role model, an inspiration and an educator.
I am not interested in wearing someone else's badge. I am giving my son the love I was given by my parents.
As culture and society dictated thirty years ago, my mum took the starring role within the family as my dad was very happy playing the supporting actor to the parenting show.
He loves me dearly, but in the way and within the boundaries every heterosexual man has had drawn all around him by our culture. And it's all his loss unfortunately, and he knows it, that's why he is all over his grand child.
I guess seeing me and my partner so involved with bringing up our son has inspired him.
But it's my mum that made me what I am today and she did great!
Mind you, I don't believe for a second that this happened because she is a woman, but because she loved me!
Since I was born and for every second of my life. I know that, even if sometimes she pisses me off, she'll always be there to support me with her special brand of magic: unconditional love!
The rest is biology.



Oh, and for the record, Gabriel now stands, climbs the stairs and gets up on his own. I guess we don't have long to go before I can teach him to go and kick in the shins whoever is disrespectful to his papa'.... ;o)


Detox said...

mmmm.... sorry to have to tell you, but yes, you probably overreacted a bit :D
I'm sure your mother didn't mean any disrecpect. It's just the way of the mothers :D
They want their sons and grandsons to be the best in everything and want to be helpfull, even when their help is not needed and not appreciated.
As for everything else on this post: i totally agree with you. If you let them, people will trap you in a role, and if you dare taking a step outside the boundaries, they will treat you like a kind of traitor. I approach the issue from a different direction ("why does it have to be the mother to quit working?" "why do a lot of men feel diminished by a woman that has a better job?") but the result is the same.
It's a role and if you don't play the part, they won't let you play anymore....
Well... to hell with them. I don't want prejudice to lead my life and I won't let other people decide what is "wrong" and what is "right"...
Sometimes it's a bit frustrating, but well... if you know you're doing your best, no-one has the right to tell you otherwise... :)

The Queen Father said...

Ciao Detox!

Thank you for your lovely comment! I could not find you among my followers, so I have to invite you to join the club! ;o)
If I can ask, how did you find my blog?
Spero di avere occasione di sentirci ancora!

Grazie di nuovo,


Mike and Mike said...

At first I thought it might be a little overreacting. But, as I read on, you only echoed many of the sentiments and ire both my husband and I often feel at the misguided perceptions of being a gay parent and a MALE parent. So I say rant on...kudos for voicing what I think many fathers, gay or straight, sometimes feel.

Detox said...

Uh, sorry, i wrote it in a different comment, but it was on an old post, so you probably didn't see it.
I found your post on Metilparaben's blog and came here to see the rest of the story :D
And i will surely become a follower 'cause i love what i found: a wonderfull family and... a different perspective.
By the way.. i appreciate the fact that you are translating the posts in italian. It seems that (FINALLY!!!) a tiny beginning of debate on gay families and gay parenting is starting even here. I won't tell you the main opinion of italians because you probably know it better than me and, anyway, it's quite depressing.
The most important fact is that everyone is voicing his opinion (often very LOUDLY) without knowing anything and without wondering for just a second if what they think MAY be wrong...
Well, if i ever had any doubt, i read your blog and KNOW for sure that they are wrong :D
Compared with what i see and hear and read around here, your posts are... how do you say "una boccata d'aria fresca" in english? :)

I'll be around here :)

PS: are you sure you want me among your followers? This one ^^^^^, for me, is "a brief comment"... *AHAHAHAHAH*

jon said...

Arghh... This sounds so familiar.. Women are the worst sometimes, especially family members so I know what you're feeling. The catty snide remarks implying we don't know what we're doing. Especially the other 30-something year old ***ts with kids they tend to be the absolute worst. But we usually just suck it up and ignore the comments. The older women come from a different generation; there isn't much that will change their way of thinking. The notion of men raising babies - straight or gay - is so alien to them it's unacceptable. That's one battle we don't even bother fighting...

On the other hand though, look sweetie Darling you have to see it from their feminine perspective as well. If you had to endure PMS for nine months, gained 40 lbs carrying some alien in your belly which realigned your spinal column and lower thoracic muskolo-skeletal system forever and then FINALLY - drum roll please - you had to endure anywhere from 2 hours to 24 hours of having something the size of a medium watermelon i-n-c-h-i-n-g along s-l-o-w as molasses a bodily orifice the size of a walnut - well honey you would claim the badge of righteousness as well! (playing Aretha Franklin's R-E-S-P-E-C-T in the background...) As if this isn't enough subsequently you assume the role of a heifer milking your baby cow for a whole year, losing your libido and then having your worthless husband complain that your hoo-hoo is no longer what it once once... well... you get the picture...




ps - i didn't walk till i was 19 months and LOOK how fabulous i turned out!

Unknown said...

Who cares if he doesn't walk yet; it's not like walking is directly connected to intelligence, ie. he won't be stupid if he doesn't walk by 15 months, is he? So what if it's even true that you held him 'too much'(how much is 'too much' by the way? who has the right to decide how you show your love to your kid and time it?); so, he might walk a bit later then others but might have the enormous advantage of having felt love whenever he needed it.
While other kids walk I'm sure he is doing other things that other kids don't necessarily do (remember he already has a huge advantage of having 2 main languages introduced from birth - note I didn't call them mother tongue - hahahahahah!)...
I also think you've overreacted a bit as many similar comments have nothing to do with you being a gay parent; many times I felt as 'bad mum' when you're unavoidably up to comparisons with other kids (and most of the times the things where your kid/s fall behind are highlighted not the ones where they're being in advantage!).
And we all feel bad and/or inadequate sometimes as you always strive to do what is best for them. It's normal.
So, could you please stop being so hard on yourself and please do enjoy this remaining weeks while G is not walking yet as there is a whole new chapter coming then! You're doing a fab job!
Big kiss