Wednesday, April 16, 2008

father-daughter dance - advice

Dear Evolved Moms: What do we do when the annual father-daughter dance arrives - and there is no dad? Two moms :(

Dear Two concerned Moms.
This is a complicated one.

I would say the best place to start is a place of understanding
and a freaking big deep breath!

Fighting a school is hard
so if you are going to jump in
have your eyes open and be ready to go all the way.

My assumption, unless I am missing some facts in your situation
is that the father daughter dance is a tradition
brimming with good intentions,

Norman Rockwellian moments and yearbook photo ops
no intent to exclude,

no intent to make things harder for you, for us
for anyone different
but unfortunately, like many school events, like most life events
same-sex parented households, gay people, gay students, gay teachers
and yes, unfortunately, children of gay and lesbian parents
are and will be
constructively and automatically

excluded from many of these “traditional moments”
life milestones
at least until the world catches up

90% of the time
the exclusion exists with no intent on the part of the school
but also
with no forethought either (how hard would it have been to assume someone could be excluded really? Or to think ahead of potential impacts – surely they knew you were there? Hmmm)

Sadie Hawkin's dance, kissing booths, prom, sex ed, and yes,
the historic father-daughter dances too, are long standing traditional school events.

the purpose I suppose
- to celebrate the parent-child relationship
and the typical traditional father-daughter relationship

the events are
loved, planned, feverishly waited for
and yes – exclusive
As you know.
School administrators these days are playing a big game of catch up
And at the same time, also playing politics,
please the system,
please the parents,
please the teachers and
don’t step on any toes in the process
In the ever-changing America
The game gets pretty complicated
– I don’t envy the principals of today – but I also think they are often pretty wimpy where it counts and maybe it’s time they start hearing about it a bit, eh?

Certainly most are not spending their time
sitting around debating and wondering:
how does a gay student feel at our prom or will having a kissing booth make anyone feel uncomfortable or how would a gay family feel chaperoning at one of these dances? Or how does a lesbian teacher feels at part of my teaching team or what it is like to be a gay family in their school community?
Even the curriculum in most places is quite exclusive of diversity and gay families – luckily not in ours but in that regard I would bet we are an anomaly.

I would assume unfortunately
That your school never saw this conversation coming
After taking a BIG breath here is what I would do:
I would broach it peacefully
With an eye to awareness and education
Looking for common ground and common understanding
This dance does exclude lesbian-headed households - but many others as well.

I would start with normalizing:
If the intent is to celebrate the parent-child relationship, can we expand that definition a bit?
- Tell them the percentage of children in your area that are being raised by single moms,
- number of families that have 2 moms or 2 dads
- the percentage of kids living w/foster parents, grandparents or a sibling
- family w/no daughters who are simply excluded by birth alone
- all caring family who would love to participate...

Next I would:
Give them a copy of -Involved, Invisible, Ignored this can begin to help them understand what what it FEELS like to be a GLBT family in their community.

-Then I would ask about short term alternatives:
For this year, can we?
-Can we send a very important uncle?
-or can a mom go?
- Can we change the name to parent-child dance?

If the climate feels good to you. Feels safe to you, I would also:

. Reach out to: The PTA for support, and then

. Single moms at the school
· Reach out to other same-sex parents
· Look for all of our amazing allies in the non-gay community
· Sound infinitely reasonable in all of your conversations with the school (even though you know they are being short-sighted, imbecilic and archaic – which if you are hitting roadblocks you know they are)

Unfortunately, one of the components that goes hand-in-hand with being gay, and especially being a gay parent, is education
Acting in the realm of crisis
Will make it a crisis
And truthfully, once we throw out the gay card – people
As we have learned over time
Just simply become reactive
Even when we are not. There lies the rub.
Stay clear about your objectives
Try to be flexible
And be honest with your child about the goal
This sucks honey – lets see how we can make it fit for this dance and work on making it fabulous for next year. And truly – ask your child what they want.. If they even want to go, who they want to take them. If they want to go and they want you – why shouldn't you have the right to be there? Just make sure it is their fight.
Remember, this is your kid's community

you want to be reasonable first – you don’t want to have your kid go to school each day in a world that is full of chaos.
That said
When all else fails
If no one will listen and you really feel this is your fight and this is your time
When you have done everything reasonable, acted like a mature parent and concerned member of the community and feel that all roads have been blocked….
I would enlist some muscle.
Local media will scare the shit out of any red-blooded American principal
Gay media will certainly always have your back
Pflag and Family Equality have a well-respected, reasonable voice and presence

(great for bridge-building while still being scary!)
And any local lesbian biker club would surely be happy to offer you a dramatic
Ride to the event in question and I’m sure would be gallant escorts!

and if you're lucky to be able to pass, like me
you should adorn your most favorite coat and tie
and simply smile as you say
"hey, just trying to fit in"

Please let us know how it goes.

Here is your new mantra
Reasonable, respectable,
rejected, rebuffed,
react, radical,
rebel, rejoice

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At May 25, 2008 8:25 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

My daughters in kindergarten. I went to the father/ daughter breakfast with her.. although welcomed, I was uncomfortable. I realized then and there...I am not a dad and she doesn't have a dad and this is not something that I want to do for the next 13 years. If I thought she was missing out on life by not having a father, I never would have had children. The fact of the matter is ... my daughter doesn't have a father and I don't want her to. So, she gets double the action on mom events to make up for the missed dad ones. It is what it is.... if when she's older, she really wants to attend.. let her uncle take her, but by me taking her to a father/daughter breakfast, I have to make sure that I am not sending a subliminal message that not having a father is not okay.

At February 26, 2009 4:33 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am single "Choice Mother" of a 4 yr. old beautiful girl and twin boys who are 2 1/2 years old. I waited until I was financiall secure and then opted for raising children alone. Our preschool had its first annual father-daughter dance. I had the option of asking my brother or a good friend to escort my daughter; however, a thought came to me. I chose this, and I love being a single mom. Yeah, things get difficult, but there would be difficult moments regardless of my marital status. Anyhow, I chose to take my daughter to the dance myself. I had some statistics on the rise of middle-upper class single moms, divorce rates, etc.. When I spoke to our lovely director she was very positive about me attending with my daughter. I did, we had a love time. One of the fathers said, "I wish we knew you were going to come, my wife would loved to be here with our son."
I was told today, that the school will be changing the title of the dance to a Family Dance or Parent-Child dance. I was inspired by my belief in myself about how I love being a single mom. I have paid off a house and set up a college fund and yeah, I do a little bit of light plumbing and gardening too. This is about gender-roles and it's the year 2009. I am very proud of our school as they supported me when I needed them. I plan on being supportive with isssues important to them.

At October 05, 2009 4:10 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was planning a Father Daughter dance at a public school in California. The PTA was so cowed by the threat of a lawsuit that they said the event couldn't take place so a lot of children were screwed for political correctness. My child was "punished" because she has an intact family whose parents were married before they became parents. SHOCKING!
So because of the minority the majority gets punished - congratulations!!!!! If you single moms, lesbians want a dance why don't you organize your own instead of trampling the rights of others?


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