A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti. – Hannibal Lector, survey enthusiast.
So this evening was something a little different. I participated in a focus group for a national study on parenting. My particular focus group was trying to get some GLBT representation into the study. And my personal presence was there to try to make sure the T in that equation wasn’t yet again a “silent T.”
There are those who believe GLB people have almost nothing in common with T people. I think the fact that we get beat up (sometimes only metaphorically) by the same people gives at least some indication that we’re facing some similar challenges. Parenting is definitely an area where I find a lot in common with GLB folks.
It was really only an LBT focus group, based on the survey teams’ inability to find male volunteers for the group. By my unofficial count there were 6 L’s, 1 B, and myself present. A bunch of women talking for an hour and a half about their families and kids and parenting.
I came away very impressed with the strength, resilience, and adaptability of our families. Unless the focus group was atypical, the closeness of GLBT families seems stronger than the norm. Unconditional love and acceptance coupled with a defiant resilience could be used to describe all of the families represented in the group. These are families forged in adversity but who refuse to let that fact define them. Proud while aware of their vulnerabilities. And, despite continual social castigation from some sectors, not remotely apologetic for their existence. Good company to be counted among, in my book.
We had a single mother, a couple of divorcees with children from previous relationships, multi-racial adoptions, anonymous sperm donors… really the diversity represented was pretty wide. But we had quite a lot in common. Many times one parent would offer something, and another would pick up on it and expand while all around the table everyone else knowingly nodded their familiarity. Other times we admired and complimented unique solutions some of the parents had devised to commonly felt problems.
This was a good but strange experience for me. I was brought up in such a different kind of family. We didn’t have the closeness or the unconditional love. We were not allowed to appear different from other families around us. E and I have been consciously raising our kids in a very different way, but without much of a model to go by. Tonight felt like affirmation that we’re on the right track and not alone. (For the record, I think E was already pretty confident about this.)
The downside to my participation in the focus group was that I missed my son’s big history presentation tonight. I really wanted to be there, but E tells me she took plenty of pictures. Oh the irony. Let me skip out on an actual parenting experience to talk about parenting, if you don’t mind. Yes, I do suck, now that you ask.
But you know, this is real parenting. Not the ideal kind you think you’ll be when you’re awaiting your first child. It’s all about trade offs, and trying to give them everything they need while accepting that you have your own needs. And sometimes it’s realizing you won’t be able to be two places at once. And that your relationship with your kids should withstand such things if it’s got a strong enough foundation. If you’re doing it right they’ll feel your love even without your physical presence. Learning to feel like a good parent at such moments may be a bit tougher.