School pickup hiccup!
(A guide to LGBTQ inclusive language in the playground)
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 body weight in coffee.
Those "morning fog" moments vary from the time I unknowingly wore my partner's t-shirt and my joggers back to front on a school run, only to be told by my 4-year-old (and her pals) that I resembled a clown. To the time when I confused the name of my daughter's new best friend and getting it wrong in front of everyone. 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, it’s always completely innocent - and it's OK. There's one little, but very important detail though - what seems innocent to you might not feel right to the person on the receiving end. If you're wondering why, I invite you to read on!
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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 Mummy, there never will be - and we're all fine with that. 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 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, it’s 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! I’d smile, and just walk off – it’s just easier that way.
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 forget those children placed with other carers too, whether that's temporary or permanent - it's always good to be mindful (and respectful) that not everyone's family is the same.
Language has a huge impact
I've made small changes to my own language. I use 'Grown Ups 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 strive for. Wouldn't you agree?
It's OK to be inquisitive
But being respectful is also key. 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’d be happy to help answer your questions. Not just LGBTQ+, but ALL parents quite often have a real journey to build their families, it’s not always straightforward. So, when we become parents - we too like to celebrate it, and quite often help and educate others on a 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 did it achieve? Nothing really - 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 the beautiful diverse world we live in.
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 campaigners and supports those struggling to conceive by understanding their options and pathways. He also writes about being a gay dad via his blog social media channels TwoDads.U.K.
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