One Dad Two Dads and Other Fairy Tales

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For
parents thinking of introducing their kindergarten-aged children
to the topic of same sex families, a couple of book reviews might
be helpful.

Asha's
Mums
, One
Dad Two Dads Brown Dad Blue Dads
, and Daddy's
Roommate
," are unadulterated advocacy. Scant wonder
the books are turgid and cumbersome and cannot be pried from their
pitch i.e., that same-sex families are just groovy. What is unforgivable
about such pamphleteering is that it leaves children out in the
cold. The upbeat little tikes in the books are simply parroting
the say-so of the advocates.

Let
us begin with the silliest of the three: Asha's Mums tells
a completely contrived tale. The two authors must have racked their
unsupple minds to come up with a plot that would show the perils
from a hostile world to a child with two mums. Since these perils
are few, our authors concocted a story that doesn't gel.

Asha
is excited over an impending trip to the Science Center. But all
that changes when the u2018homophobic' teacher calls on the child to
explain why her permission-slip sports the signatures of two mothers.
You can, after all, only have one mother, reasons the teacher. The
poor child vows never to go back to school, so mum Alice materializes
in a flash to upbraid the oppressive pedagogue.

In
yet another scene designed to push buttons, Asha's sunny painting
of her family, two mums front and center, initiates a discussion
in class. And what would such a discussion be without the progeny
of the prototype bigoted parents piping up? "My mum and dad
said you can't have two mothers living together…it's bad."
No sooner do the cherubic kids silence the voice of the dissenting
rube kid than mummies Sara and Alice swoop down to ensure that opinion
about same sex parents remains monolithic. Yes, to sexual diversity,
no, to diversity – and freedom – of opinion.

With
teacher on the straight and narrow all are primed for one last lesson.

You
can have two mummies "just like you can have two aunts and
two daddies". It is seemingly never too late to start teaching
the lessons of moral and intellectual equivalence: everything is
the same, no one thing is better or preferable. Judgement must be
suspended at all times.

Essentially
this tale is a series of sensibility tweaks. Nothing in the permission-slips
my daughter brought home over the years ever said, "all sexual
partners in the household sign on the dotted line." What's
generally requested is a signature of a single parent or a guardian.
The authors decided to use the permission-slip ruse as part of their
coming-out project.

Further,
unless I don't get the birds and the bees, Asha was conceived with
the aid of a man. Whether Asha is a product of artificial insemination,
adoption or shotgun, somewhere a man exists with half of her DNA.
He might be a deadbeat dad or just a sperm donor. He may even be
a poor sod toiling to send the mums maintenance while they remain
mum about him. From this obfuscating tale he has, however, been
expunged.

Straining
at the seams with condescension, One Dad Two Dads Brown Dad Blue
Dads is dedicated to "Jacob, who has only one mom and one
dad" but doesn't need your sympathy "because they're both
pretty great parents". This bit of comedy lays bare just how
indifferent the story is to what children want. Can you honestly
imagine a child jumping up and down demanding an extra dad "just
like Lou has?" The story has been compared to Dr. Seuss. It
shouldn't. One Dad Two Dads lacks Dr. Seuss's delicious sense
of the absurd, the kind that tickles kids pink. And kids, in the
absence of indoctrination, will detect this imposter.

The
book starts with a little guy telling of the domestic bliss that
comes with having two blue dads. Code Blue is an unfortunate metaphor
for gay: the dads are said to be the same as every other non-hypothermic
dad except for their hue. How did they get this way? "They
were blue when I got them." And that's okay because it seems
reasonable to assume that people are born to their sexual orientation.
But then comes the clincher: "They are blue because… they
are blue. And I think they're wonders – don't you?" It
is one thing to suggest the dads were simply born blue but quite
another to declare them wonders by virtue of their tinge. Why impart
to children that the value of a person is a function of his sexual
orientation? People are wonderful because of their character, because
of what they do, not because of who they bed.

Towards
the end, the pigmentally checkered dads begin to multiply and some
green dads appear on the scene. Like Oscar Wilde's signature carnation,
green is a good deal more festive. However, I think that more than
anyone, Wilde, who is often appropriated by the gay community, would
have found the attempt to define the Self in terms of sexual preference
insulting. After all, the great wit's most favorite organ was still
his brain.

Belinda's
Bouquet
is more honest. One can sense some attempt at adopting
a child's perspective. The book does indeed speak to differences.
The only hint of the same-sex burden is that the two mothers are
the ones who strategically dispense the nuggets of wisdom. If I
wanted to be difficult I might ask why u2018mama' teaches poor chubby
Belinda to chant "My body belongs to me" every time someone
comments about her weight. Wouldn't "mind your own business,"
or "you're no oil painting" have been more effective?
But one can't hope to divine every bit of feminist affectation.

The
themes of adult selfishness, divorce and same sex union converge
in yet another children's storybook, the last on my list. Published
by Alyson Wonderland publications, Daddy's Roommate is a
particularly sad tale. The little narrator here has no name! This
isn't surprising when you realize the children in these books exist
to affirm their parents. What is alarming is that the educators,
who stand firm behind these books, and who routinely tout the self-esteem
catechism in schools – overlooked the sagging sense of self
exhibited by the tots in the books.

The
nameless narrator tells us his parents have just divorced. With
nary a reference
to the sadness of this event, he blurts out; "Now there's somebody
new
at Daddy's house. Daddy and his roommate Frank live together, work
together, eat together, sleep together." From here on in it's
pretty much Brown Dad Blue Dads all over again, detailing
the good times the dwarfed child spends with the two larger-than-life
men.

Mummy,
like the child, is a conduit in the service of the men's outing.
She tells no-name boy that Daddy and Frank are gay and that "being
gay is just another kind of love". "Daddy and his roommate
are very happy together," chants the child. "And I am
happy too!" So long as Dad has found his true self so will
the boy arrange his feelings accordingly. It is indeed a cruel farce
that has a child spouting homilies in the service of a parent's
project.

What
would I have considered an honest narrative?

"My
name is Ben. I am very sad. My mum and dad are divorcing. Frank
is my dad's new friend. My mum and dad held me tight. I told them
I wanted my old home back again, and I cried."

May
10, 2001

Ilana
Mercer [send her mail]
is a freelance editorial page writer.

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