"We don't have a dad, Gabe!"
When our oldest son yelled these words across the family room to his younger brother, my partner Lori and I stopped in our tracks. Gabe had asked our youngest Olivia if she wanted "her daddy" and Nick had taken it upon himself to set him straight, so to speak.
Before I could put his statement in context, Nick launched into the speech he's heard many, many times in front of parents, classmates, and even the occasional stranger when they ask why our children have two moms. "Some families have a mom and dad. Some families have two dads. Some families only have one. We have a mommy and a nana."
Nick had coined the name "Nana" for me after neither Lori nor I could keep our own monikers consistent -- Mommy and Mama, Mommy and Mother, Mother 1 and Mother 2... Tired of the confusion, at age two he smashed my first name into Mama to create "Nana." It makes complete sense to us but baffles everyone else. ("Wait, is she your mom and your grandma? I don't get it.")
The world we have created for our children is no accident. We spend countless late-night hours poring over the latest books on child rearing and obsess to the point of madness over whether the kids are getting enough intellectual and cultural stimulation. We are as vigilant about the friends we let into our circle as we are about the organic foods we put into our mouths. And despite our desire to find everyone innocent until proven guilty, our ears are always perked for any hint of prejudice.
As the Afro-Caribbean and Asian lesbian parents of three adopted kids -- two African-American, and one Afro-Latino -- we have to be.
It's easy for us to "pass" -- we don't look like men (not that there's anything wrong with that!) and our perceived "Oreo" and "Twinkie" upbringings make other people feel so comfortable that they relax their guard. They'll call the low-riding pants popular in our diverse neighborhood, Yo-Yo pants "because the people wearing them say 'Yo Yo Yo' a lot" as they flash what they imagine to be gang symbols. Or perhaps they'll laugh when one of their kids will make a "slanty-eyed" joke. They may even ask us, in front of our children, "how much does one of them go for," as if we had gone to a used kid lot, kicked a few tires, and come back with the models standing before them.
But for every slight we suffer, we enjoy the benefits of living in the neighborhood that truly feels like home -- one that is gay-friendly, dog-friendly, and of course, kid-friendly -- like the teachers at our local daycare who ask if there is a special male that our children can make a Father's Day gift for. Or our parish priest who refuses to print a letter from the Archdiocese condemning our family composition. Or the random kid at the neighborhood playground who responds to Nick's opening statement of "I have two moms" with "I have a pet hamster -- want to see it?"
That's the beauty of kids -- they roll with the world as it is presented to them. As much as Lori and I try to create the best life for our children, we're still learning how much of that life is completely out of our control.
Isn't that the beauty of parenting -- the thing that makes this journey simultaneously terrifying and rewarding? We could not have designed more perfect children if we had tried. And we are humbled that from a myriad of possibilities, these amazing individuals chose us to be their parents.
We know that this family -- our family -- was meant to be.
And we think our kids know that too.
Follow Nadine C. Warner on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@nadinecwarner