School pickup hiccup...
We’ve all been there, those awkward school gate moments, or ‘Monday Morning Fog’ as I like to call them. I’ve never been great on a morning, I just can’t seem to operate unless I’ve guzzled my new lockdown body weight in coffee.
My foggy moments vary, and whilst none of what I’m about to say comes from a malicious or unkind place it can only help all of us as realise the impact of our words (or our actions) – join me and let’s all own our Monday Fog together!
For me, my cringe moments have varied. From the parent/carer who’s name I always forget, despite always engaging in deep, wonderful and genuine conversation at 0825. Or the time I wore my partners t-shirt and my joggers back to front on a school run, (unknowingly) only to be told by my 4 year old (and her pals) I resembled a clown. Or maybe it’s when I confused the name of my daughters new best friend (several attempts too), and getting it wrong in-front of everyone and feeling a total fool. It’s OK though – we’ve all been there – haven’t we?
I’m sure parents or carers at my children’s school have tripped and tangled themselves up on their words too, its always completely innocent – and it’s OK. We’re curious humans, and if you’re like me, I’m inquisitive. Although if you speak to my husband, he’d call it ‘nosey!’
Celebrate the differences
You see, my family is different. My children have two Dads, we’re gay parents, and have a whole lot of love for our kids. There’s no Mommy, there never will be – and we’re all fine with that fact. We chose to build our family with the help of a Surrogate and an Egg Donor, and with a little help from science, we have a 4 year old and an 18 month year old who are our absolute everything.
So I wanted to share some tips with you today, to help you with you avoid your own school gate hiccups.
Mum’s not having a lie in today!
We get this one a lot. Eyes lock at the gates, its a parent you’ve not seen before – they smile at you. You know exactly what’s coming. ‘Oh aren’t you good – giving her Mummy a lie in this morning? What a good Daddy!
Not all children have a Mum and Dad
This follows on nicely. It’s easy to assume every family lives like yours or mine. Families are diverse. Families are changing, what was the norm 20 years ago, isn’t any more – so let’s all celebrate that. Some families have one Mummy, or one Daddy, some may have two Daddies, there are those with a Momma and a Mommy and then there’s those with Grandad and Grandma. Don’t also forgot those children placed with other carers too, whether that’s temporary or permanent – let’s be mindful (and respectful) not everyone’s family is the same.
Language has a huge impact
I’ve made small changes to my own language. I use ‘Grown Up’s and Carers’ or ‘Parents and Carers’ when talking about my children’s friends and their families (or home situations). I don’t ever assume all their friends have a Mummy and a Daddy, because the fact of the matter is – most don’t. The wonderful thing is, Talulah (my 4 year old) uses this new language beautifully. It sounds so inclusive, tolerant and kind. Qualities we all should work that little bit harder to strive for. Wouldn’t you agree?
It’s OK to be respectfully inquisitive
We may look a little different to you – and that’s fine. If you’re interested in learning more about gay parents and our family building options. Whether it’s Surrogacy for gay couples (or single people), or adoption, fostering or even fertility treatment – then it’s OK to say or to ask. I wouldn’t be offended and I feel many families like mine wouldn’t either. LGBTQ parents have quite often had a real journey to build their family, its not straightforward. So when we become parents – we too like to celebrate it, and quite often educate others on our journey to parenthood.
We’re both the real Dads
Finally, this is our most common one. We probably hear this on a monthly basis from new faces we meet when we’re out. We’ve had it asked in supermarkets, in hotel lifts, at the airport, and even whilst out shopping with the children holding our hands. ‘So, who’s the real Dad then? Followed by a wink. ‘We both are’ is always the reply – as that’s the truth – that’s fact. If you discovered who was the biological parent, what does it change for you? What did it achieve? Nothing right – so there’s no need to really ask it. It may only cause hurt, pain or embarrassment.
So join me, celebrate this new way to use inclusive language in some of my tips above to help make your little ones (and the grown ups too) more aware of all families and not just our own.
Michael Johnson-Ellis, (He/Him) Dad of two via UK Surrogacy. Michael is the co-founder of TwoDadsUK®, The Modern Family Show and My Surrogacy Journey®. He is a Fertility campaigner and supports those struggling to conceive by understanding their options and pathways.