Good dad, bad dad
When I was a kid, barely older than Gus is now, I had this friend named Bobby. During fourth and fifth grades, we were pretty much inseparable.
Bobby lived in the Allen Street Apartments in Midvale with his mom and big sister. His father was stationed with the Air Force somewhere back east. Bobby’s family fascinated me: his mother because as a teenager she had defected from communist East Germany and his father because he was pretty much non-existent. Bobby was this first person I ever knew whose parents were divorced.
With his mom working all the time, and a father out of the picture, I suppose it made sense that Bobby liked to hang out at my house a lot – especially if it meant spending time with my dad, who always made Bobby feel welcome and a part of our family.
My dad is one of those guys who believed that for a boy growing up, someone else’s dad part of the time was better than no dad at all.
Kelly is a lot like my dad in that way. This summer he’s become a surrogate dad to a couple of Gus’ friends.
During the day, he’s always got an extra kid or two around. Yesterday, for example, Kelly brought flowers to my office for our 23rd anniversary. There he stood with our boys… and the neighbor kid. Tonight I came home to find one of Gus’ classmates ready to have dinner with us.
Don’t get me wrong, these boys are nice kids. I just never know what to expect or who’s going to be a part of my family for the next few hours. Kelly revels in that – me, not so much.
As my boss used to tell her kids growing up, “Home is where I go when I’m done being nice to people.”
I guess after a day working in public relations, I’m done being nice when I get home!
The time Kelly spends with these kids is important. As I’ve said in this column many times before: it’s important for us as a two-dad family to be open and active in our kids’ lives. Kelly isn’t just a father-figure to these kids, he’s a gay man being a father-figure to them.
Hopefully, he’ll influence the type of men these boys will become, and that will likely extend to their opinion and views about gay people. Because of their experiences with Kelly – with us – the boys I can’t seem to get rid of today, may one day be voting to overturn Utah’s ban on gay marriage, or demanding adoption rights for gay couples.
I guess the difference between us really boils down to philosophy about fatherhood: I love being a father to my two sons. Kelly just loves being a father.
And that makes me wonder about myself. I guess I heard so often how becoming a dad was going to change me so completely, that I figured my tolerance for kids in general would dramatically increase. Obviously, that hasn’t happened.
I remember when I was on a week-long paternity leave with Gus. On the morning of the third day, I was told in no uncertain terms by my “work wife,” Teresa, to quit calling the office. By that afternoon, I had called my mom, feeling like a schmuck because all I really wanted to do was go back to work.
To my surprise, she burst out laughing at the mere idea of me being a stay-at-home parent. “No one would ever expect you to stay home with kids,” she said.
Kelly, on the other hand, is freakishly suited for the job. That’s probably why he has no problem piling a bunch of prepubescent boys into the car and zooming off to the planetarium, swimming pool, park or a hike.
On one level, I’m very grateful that he’s the kind of parent who does that. I want the neighborhood kids to feel welcome and accepted at our house. And deep down I probably like the fact that Kelly’s the “cool” dad. On another level, I just wish he’d send them all home.
At the end of fifth grade, Bobby’s family moved to Bountiful and I never saw or heard from him again. Every now and then I think about him and the fun times we had had together. I wonder if he ever thinks of me. I wonder if he ever thinks about my dad.