I’m smack dab in the middle of Texas at Dad 2.0, a conference organized by and for dad bloggers, who, while a relatively smaller posse compared to mom bloggers, enjoy the benefit right out of the gate of not suffering the diminutive “daddy.” So I was already in a good mood before I got here. Also lifting the mood is the fact that most dad bloggers are men who care a lot about pushing at the edges of modern fatherhood, making space in the discourses of parenthood for men as engaged caregivers rather than stoic providers or bumbling babysitters, thereby making more space for men who aspire to be engaged caregivers rather than stoic providers or bumbling babysitters. Implicit in this project, for many (though by no means all), is the work of expanding received understandings of masculinity.
In other words, a ton of these guys are up to the exact same things I’ve been up to here at LD for years. Though we’re chipping away from different positions, we’re still at work on the same monolith, trying to carve out a wider understanding of who parents are and can be. For their part, and despite their positions of seeming normativity (most in this community and at this conference are white;
haven’t met a gay dad yet psyche! Lazy Dad inna house!) they’re redefining fatherhood. For my part, I’m chipping away at a bit of fatherhood and a bit of motherhood, and in the process pointing out, through lived experience, the vast overlap to be found between the two when you’re bound by neither designation. Even if for many of these guys their paternity and legal legitimacy are unquestioned, their credibility as compassionate, even competent caregivers is often not a given. Dad bloggers are changing that, either implicitly or explicitly, and with each blog post and each new reader, most are elbowing out just a little bit more room for people in the next generation such as my full-spectrum boy child, should he chose to be a parent when he grows up, as well as for both of my kids, should they co-parent with a man.
I’ve been totally fascinated by the conversations in the panels I attended today (and hope against hope I will be able to wrestle the proper time to do a retrospective recap of the highlights). I am also extremely excited about the panel I have the honor of moderating tomorrow: First Rule of Communication: Know Your Audience (Gender Politics, Role Reversals, and What Men Read). The chaps who’ll be ruminating, freestyling, and holding forth on this topic will be A.J. Jacobs (A.J. Jacobs), Charlie Capen (How to Be a Dad), Mike Spohr (The Spohrs are Multiplying), and Paul Banas (Great Dad). We had a great conversation in preparation for the panel, and that was just five of us! Given the lively, hugely engaged conversations at the panels today, I have great expectations for our panel tomorrow.
One or two folks may be moseying over to this blog for the first time (not as many as would had I actually gotten my bio & photo in to the organizers in time! cough!), so I thought I might offer up a whistle-stop backstory. To get a sense of what I’ve been up to over the years, you can check out a Best Of page here, or noodle around by extremely obscurely titled category (see that pull-down menu, down there in the footer? I told you it they were obscure!). Meanwhile, I give you ten embroidered biographical factoids that may serve as introduction.
- I started this blog six years ago (last week!) because I was at the dawn of my parenthood, and felt that I needed to clear space for something other than motherhood or fatherhood, neither of which fit for different reasons. Thus this middle path.
- I began with a great deal of trepidation that men (or I should say, antifeminist men) would find my blog and be angry and defensive and accusatory about a woman sidling up and pulling up a chair in a space they figured they had all to themselves. You know, as if there wasn’t enough chairs to go around, or space in the room. Or as if I was trying to be a parent to their kids. You can’t really rationalize a fear.
- This hasn’t really happened yet, but perhaps mostly because it turns out that 95% of my readers (or those who’ve answered the occasional survey) are women and thus curious about this whole thing but from a different vantage point. Also, I vastly underestimated how many brothers I have out there and how much we’d have to offer one another.
- My kids, and for that matter most kids, in the 5-and-under range, read me as just the betwixt-gendered sort I am, and flip around with the “he” and “she” or “him” and “her” designators.
- My blog title tries to get at what kind of parent I am, socially (not really a mom; more a modified , tricked-out kind of dad, a hybrid model). My kids call me Baba, a name I plucked not exactly out of the ether (wrote about it here), and it works great. This way I can be what I feel, and what they experience, which is my own kind of parent, more both/and than either/or.
- I have two kids, a daughter, 7, and a son, 5. I love the both of them beyond belief, would lay down my life and more for them. Perhaps like many dads, I watched our first kid glom onto mama and break my heart (chopped liver!), and the second kid went: OK, that one’s clearly taken… BABA! You the man! He identifies massively with me. I find this a huge honor and an awesome responsibility.
- My own dad is a huge source of love and support for my parental journey, very much right on into the realm of the lesbian fatherhood part of it. (My mom died about a year before I met the mother of my children.) Once, after my dad gave me one of his regular batches of hand-me-down dress shirts, I said to him, “Pops, I’m the son you never had.” And he said, “Doll, you are the son I did have.”
- While he has lived his whole life as a heterosexual man, my dad has his own mixed relationship with traditional masculinity (he was on the school newspaper in high school, not the football team; loved to dance; can’t fix machines; probably has always felt less masculine than the guy sitting next to him; here’s a post that touches on a bit of that), and this has helped me understand that I am not the only one who might feel like an imposter. He has helped me see other men who have just as much personal stake as I do in illuminating and validating a full spectrum of masculinity.
- A friend, the now ex-husband of one of my oldest chums, was our (sperm!) donor, and my partner carried both kids. So I am a “non-biological” parent, legally recognized in my home state of CA through my marriage to my partner (hitched on our 11th anniversary during the summer of pre-Prop 8 love), but legally NOT recognized in any state with a DOMA or a Super-DOMA in effect. I’ve completed the second-parent adoption of my daughter (legally permissible in CA), and am in the (overdue!) process of doing so for my son. Meanwhile our family avoids travel to or even through the hate states (our family road trip map!), for obvious reasons.
- When I write this blog, I write to and for a huge range of people: women like me and women unlike me; men like me and men unlike me; also all people (rarer still) who feel neither “man” nor “woman” satisfactorily fits. I write about what interests me, mind you, and what I care about, but I try not to presume insider knowledge or lingo, and work hard to include, explain, and enable new connection. I want to learn from and keep company those who are parenting how I am, whether they are from a similarly gendered and partnered spot, or in solidarity. But at the same time I want to share my and my family’s story with others for whom just about all of this is brand-new. Parenting has opened my heart up in ways I’d have never imagined, and connected me in kinship with so very many people so very unlike me, for which I am infinitely appreciative. It has convinced me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that everything changes, always, and that we are truly all in this thing together.
The author with daughter, coupla years back, following tea at the Palace Hotel, San Francisco, CA.