Our Five Grandpas
With a unique family that includes five grandpas and one gay relationship, we're teaching our kids there are no rules to love
Wedged somewhere between Stellaluna and Guess How Much I Love You? in my daughter’s bookshelf is an old photo album that was given to me as a baby shower gift years ago. “My Family,” it reads in pink puffy letters across the front of it, and inside are photo slots designated for all the people in a baby’s life—my mommy, my daddy, my grandpas, my grandmas, my aunts, my uncles, my siblings. It didn’t take but a minute after beginning to stuff photos in the sleeves to be reminded that our family’s a little different.
Today, my children have five grandpas—and that’s not counting the few neighbors and friends we’ve adopted as honorary ones along the way. With divorce and remarriage on both sides of our family and one gay relationship, it makes for five official grandpas—three more than the allotted space in our photo book.
“So, what are you going to tell the kids about your unique family?” friends have asked.
And my answer: “That we’re so very lucky that everyone is loved and has someone to love.”
There are two kinds of different in this world—the simple observation that two things are not the same, such as “that’s blue and that’s red,” and the different that’s weighed with stereotypes, society’s conditioning and things we’ve been told. I often wonder how accepting we’d be of all differences if we were, since childhood, given the freedom to make our own conclusions rather than having differences pointed out to us or subjectively explained. Maybe it’s one of those “If a tree fell in the forest and no one was there to hear it, would it still make a noise?” questions.
My oldest daughter is 6 years old, and she’s never asked me anything about my dad and his partner’s relationship being different because she doesn’t see it as such. As social worker Laura Betts explained, “Toddlers don’t comprehend the complexities of adult relationships, gay or straight. But they do understand affection and they know who is in their immediate family.”
We focus on relationships, on love, on what makes people the same. And if and when my children want to know more about relationships or the people in our family, I will answer them clearly and honestly but passionately expressing what’s so important for them to know: that everyone deserves to be loved, that life is enriched by loving someone and that we celebrate when love happens rather than making rules and judgments about how it’s supposed to happen.
I want my children to know that gay is not a word that should make someone uncomfortable. It’s not a funny word, it’s not a bad word. It is simply a term used to describe another kind of love. There are many kinds of love in our world, and there are many kinds of people. I want my children to celebrate those many kinds of people and their differences—skin color, relationships, talents and gifts, places we love, traditions, cultures, faiths, number of chromosomes. There are so many kinds of different from which to learn.
Another great little lesson from that photo book that has evolved is that more often than not, life is filled with things that don’t fit. Instead of buying the packaged album and tailoring life to fit it, perhaps a better option would be buy a blank book and create your own album. There’s far too many beautiful differences in this world and kinds of families for there to be a standard.
In our family, we have five grandpas. We’re so very lucky—that’s more people to love.
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