There’s a lot of scary words flying around at the moment, isn’t there? If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard the word ‘unprecedented’ this year, I’d be richer than that Jeff Whatshisname what owns that Amazon thing. And there are plenty of others, too… pandemic, child poverty – I know, there’s a lot of Ps in there, eh?
Well, I think maybe it’s about time we add a positive one into the mix – although, dare I say it, the word positive itself has been turned on its head this year, hasn’t it? Talk about an oxymoron, eh? And yes, I absolutely did have to google what ‘oxymoron’ meant to make sure I was using it properly. And yes, I have an English degree and what of it?
Anyway, I digress. The word I’m gonna talk about today is something that I think has been a bit dismissed this year, with all the unprecedenting that 2020 is dumping upon us like so much dung.
The word is pride. In particular, parenting with pride. I know, there’s more Ps in this blog post than in that Peter Piper tongue twister. Him and his pesky pickled peppers.
As you probably know, this has been our first year as parents. And in a way, quarantine has been a gift to us. It has given us the time needed to lock ourselves away in a little bubble and knit together as a family. Now we’re comfortably woven into one, like the cosy woolly jumpers that we’re all dusting off at this time of year.
But there are certain things that we’ve not had a lot of – that nobody has had a lot of, as a matter of fact – and one of those is social interaction. And when you’re somebody who isn’t heterosexual, sometimes social interaction can be a bit like an obstacle course. You don’t just come out of the closet one time, do you? You come out again and again and again, just to different people. Honestly, somebody get some WD-40 because the hinges of all our closet doors are getting squeaky. No lubricant jokes, please and thank you.
And without the baby groups and the child parties that we should have been attending this year, I completely forgot – now that I’m a same-sex parent – that I’m going to be coming out a whole lot more.
The other day, for example, Pumpkin and I were out on a walk, taking full advantage of the fact that lockdown restrictions had eased (ah, those were the days, eh?) and we were allowed to go places again. So, we went for a walk around a local reservoir. The wind danced through our hair, the sun glinted off Pumpkin’s golden curls like spun sugar, and there were dog-walkers galore – including, but not limited to, two old ladies who seemed infinitely more fit than I am (I was practically wheezing by this point).
Few are resistant to the charms of a toddler who waddles like a penguin and speaks gibberish over his shoulder in a squeaky voice at you because he’s clearly very busy and has places to be, and these two old ladies were no different. They were immediately besotted with Pumpkin and kicked up a conversation with me in Welsh.
“Does his mammy speak Welsh?” one of them asked.
And in the moment that followed, about a million thoughts flashed through my mind. Should I lie, just to avoid any awkwardness? Should I pretend I was married to a woman? Should I reach down, scoop leaves into their faces and vanish in a cloud of rainbow fairy dust? Alright, maybe the last one is a bit dramatic, but I’ve never got the chance to do that before and I’m waiting for the right moment.
I mean, you just never know. We live in small-town Wales, which isn’t the most diverse of places. And I don’t know if you’ve seen the film Madagascar, but there’s an old lady in that who beats up a lion with all the might and agility of Xena the Warrior Princess and I didn’t want to be on the receiving end of an opened can of old lady whoop-ass. There were two of them, after all, and only one of me. I already told you they were more fit than me, remember?
But then I thought about Pumpkin, and how I never ever wanted him to recognise even the faintest glimmer of shame or embarrassment from his dads at being gay. I didn’t want him to ever see us hesitate or be anything other than our complete authentic selves.
So, I said: “Oh, he’s actually got two dads, but yes, his other dad speaks Welsh, too.”
And do you know what? The old ladies didn’t even wince or pause or anything. The world continued to turn on its axis. The whoop-ass remained firmly in the can, waiting to be unleashed on some other poor unsuspecting victim. They just carried on talking to me about Welsh schools and whatnot, and it was a completely painless, actually-quite-pleasant experience.
I know what a lot of people will be thinking: times have changed. And yes, times have changed. But there is still a lot of work to do. It is still illegal to be gay in over 70 countries across the world and punishable by death in 11. The western world is experiencing a period of political division that means a lot of marginalised communities are fearing for their safety. So yeah, there are still moments where you hesitate and think, what if?
It’s really important to us as dads that we are proud of who we are, so that we may instil the same pride in Pumpkin, no matter who he turns out to be. And that sort of teaching begins with ourselves. Do you know what? We are so blimmin’ proud to be who we are, and we can’t wait to take Pumpkin to his first Pride event one day in the hopeful future, when all of this madness is behind us and words like unprecedented and pandemic have faded into distant memory.
I can’t wait for that day. I can’t wait to proudly hold his little hand and show him that there are a million ways to love, a million ways for a family to be created, and all of those ways are the right way as long as they’re born from love.
Until then, we’re going to hold our heads up high in the little day-to-day moments.
Thanks for reading, everybody. Stay safe. Wear a mask. Support local businesses this winter. Remember – be proud as hell and ask yourself, what would Lizzo do?
Disclaimer: the letter P was used 99 times in this blog post. Do with this information what you will.