What does it mean to parent?
Can part of you exist when you no longer do?
These things rolled around in my head after a brief conversation I had with someone attending a presentation. We were just chatting after I'd signed a copy of my new book. She said, 'It's a pity that you were gay, you should have been a parent, it's sad that you have no children, nothing, to send into the future.' Believe me, I've worked very hard to get that statement absolutely right. It echoed in my mind and 'ping-ed' around in my heart for a while afterwards. She left, my book in hand, shaking her head sadly.
I guess I don't think of children in the way that she does. I don't think of 'my blood' or 'my genes' being sent into the future. It makes, of children, a commodity, things that exist for your purpose, not theirs. I don't see kids as a kind of odd photocopy of parents.
But I do wonder about the idea of leaving a mark. Leaving something behind. I hope I do. I hope that I am carried into the future in the hearts of those who love me. I hope I spend time with my friends, still, when they have tea, smell vanilla or hear that Wendy Matthews song. I hope I exist in moments when my hand is needed to hold, my voice is needed to comfort, my perspective is need in crisis. I hope, then, that I can call from the past into the present and be heard, and felt and known.
The other day I sat in a presentation by someone and listened to them present an idea that I had originated, that I had taught ... I knew this idea was now theirs, I knew that it informed their ideas ... and I knew that the idea had had it's birth in my mind, in my teaching, in my writing.
The other day I read someone who generously and precisely quoted my work and my words. They took what I had done and gave it a spin, made it fresh, made it new. It was exciting to see a glimmer of an idea become something bright in the eyes of another. It was gratifying.
The other day I saw someone reading one of my books during a lunch break. He was sitting by himself quietly eating a sandwich and turning pages. He didn't see me watch him, he didn't see me smile when I saw him nod his head, agreeing with something in the book. He didn't know what that slight nod meant to me.
The other day I heard Ruby say something that I had said, she said it with confidence as if she knew that she could trust the source, that she could trust me in the past with what she said in the present and what she will know in the future.
The other day I saw a child with a disability leave her school, get on her bus, and travel home. A little thing. I knew, really knew, then that there was once a little girl who was the first, who walked into the first hallway and integrated the first school. I know that she took steps that others now follow. She may not have had a child, I don't know, but certainly I know she parented. Didn't she? I think so.
I don't have children.
My blood will not course in the veins of another.
But my ideas may.
And, I guess, that's got to be good enough for me.
I have struggled with this same idea, although I am not gay nor am I disabled. I don't usually link to my blog because I don't want anyone to think that's why I'm commenting, but I would be honored if you would read this since I think I've tried to express exactly what you are talking about.
Hmmmm - one of those "I think that's supposed to be a compliment, but it's kind of missed the mark" comments. There are lots of them out there. P'raps she needs to read The Prophet...."your children are not your children..." or just consider the fact that any of our actions/deeds/words are reflected/acted upon/repeated by far more of "other people's children" than our own - unless of course you are as prolific as the russian peasant 1725 and 1765 who had 69 children - now there's a thought...
Oh Dave, you have influenced so many. You have made a difference to so many. You will be remembered by and have influenced so many people. You are sending so very much into the future.
I don't know what's happening with my comments at the moment - I am getting messages saying the comment has not been delivered or the password is incorrect or the security code isn't right so I re-do it and this happens - I don't know where the 8 copies came from - I only re-sent it 3 times anyway. my email is playing up too. Sorry again, people...any ideas?
You won't be forgotten, Dave. But - don't ever delete your blog, m'kay?
Heidi, I went ahead and removed the multiple copies of your comment, I have that happen to me sometimes ... sometimes technology thinks it knows best. Thanks for your comments and all comments this morning.
B, thanks for the links, I've read both but thought I'd comment here ... there are teachers I remember more fondly than family ... teachers who believed when others didn't, teachers who cared when others hadn't, the effect was profound ... deeply profound. I agree with what you say in your posts!
My mother once said something similar to me. She was convinced I'd be a good mother and that with all the bad parents out there if I had a child I'd somehow balance things out a little. I was not so certain about my potential parenting skills, to be honest and have remained childless by choice. So that lady's sentiment wasn't all that unusual I guess. However it's one thing to have that discussion with a person who loves you and quite another for a perfect stranger to tell you what you should have done.
You are absolutely right about the fact that you don't have to be a parent to have lasting effects on others and on subsequent generations. You have inspired me more than you know and, hopefully, the more people in the field I "introduce" to you the wider your impact. I'm currently teaching a three week class for folks supporting people with disabilities. Your books are neatly stacked on my table, your name and blog address are on the white board and I have an expandable file with blog posts to share when the discussions we have need some emphasis.
Thanks for the daily blog posts.
OK, who the hell is Wendy Matthews, I've never heard of her, sending you an email. I want to know who you listen to when you need music.
Her comment annoys me on several levels.
One is the assumption that being gay is automatically a reason, or *the* reason for not having biological children (I am assuming, though maybe I shouldn't, that she has biological children in mind). Granted, having biological children (or adopted children for that matter) among same sex couples is more common today than I think it was when you and Joe were a young(er) couple, but it's not unheard of.
And then there is her apparent assumption that having a biological child is the only way to send "something of yourself" into the future. If raising a child counts, what of your relationship with Ruby (and Sadie)? You don't have the primary day-to-day responsibility for their care, but you and Joe still feature in their lives in a pretty important way, and it sounds like you're having a strong impact on them. Then, of course, there are all the many other ways you can "send something of yourself" into the hearts of so many other people to be carried into the future--you listed some great examples.
I'm basically with Heidi on this one--it probably was meant to be a compliment but really missed the mark.
I assume she meant well but there are all sorts of ways of contributing to the future and your work, your kindness, your relationship with Ruby's family, all the people who read your books, go to your workshops seem to me to more than outweigh the possibility of contribution by reproduction. Not to mention that being gay doesn't automatically preclude parenting if one so chooses. good grief!
I'm here in the same hotel as you and I'm going to hear you speak today. I'm giddy with excitement. The hotel should have a 'Dave and Joe' slept here sign! How I do what I do is because of what I learned from you ... does that make you kind of like a mentor/daddy? She walked away with your book and asked about your impact on the future ... sometimes I think people measure others by the very small goals they set for themselves. Reproduction does not mean influence - sorry to burst the bubble of my heterosexual brethren.
You? Not leaving a mark? I disagree with the Lady, and agree with the rest of the post. You've written books, taught classes, you write a blog, and more than that, you got many, many people to think over their ideas and behavior. You helped some people gain self esteem, and other to realize the impact a thoughtless remark can have. You are definitely leaving a mark.
Andrea S.!! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! Gay does not automatically mean no kids. I am SO mad at that right now (I know thats not the point of what Dave's feeling here but I wish he would have educated her!) Even at that WHAT ABOUT ADOPTION? Gay parent here - 4 years ago I adopted! HETERO-ASSUMPTIONS!!! GRRRR
"Its a pity that you were straight, you shouldn't have been a parent, its sad that you have children, someone to send prejudice into the future."
I think it's a pity when people have such a close-minded point of view. People without children, in my opinion, are often able to make such important, crucial contributions to raising other people's children. The influence that you have in Ruby's life for instance. The influence you have on my children, who will never meet you, but have benefited from the things I have learned from you.
We've only met once, and I was so flustered I got Ruby's name wrong, but my children can quote you!
Silly woman. If you had children, you would probably never have had time for me! :)
And many others whom you have had a profound and lasting and living influence on. You have a legacy, all right, Dave. Right on.
Dave, I think the idea that childless people are less for not having children is a prejudice pervasive in many societies, we just don’t' recognize it as much as other prejudices.
Ideas take work, thought, tears, and sacrifice to send forth. You are sending many worthwhile ideas into the future. This is the only immortality anyone really has.
Just about anyone can have a child, many do by accident or for lack of thought and planning and after about 4 generations, the children are so different genetically, they might as well not be related to one anyway.
Ideas and concepts can last for centuries, change worlds, and affect peoples lives forever.
No doubt, your impact will ripple positively into the future. What I like is the positive impact you have on me in the present. I work in the disability field. Every day I read your blog and every day I gain something that helps me be more effective and more sensitive in what I do.
I have, and will only have, just one child. And that child has Down syndrome and will likely not procreate. My family is small. I sometimes feel sad that my mark will not carry far into the future, but I feel certain that the mark that will be made by my daughter as an advocate for those graced with an extra chromosome will make the biggest mark of all.
Yeah, just in case anyone missed the memo, gay people have kids all the time. I think the numbers are that there are 10 million kids in the U.S. (where I live) with LGBT parents, and something like 20-30% of gay people raise kids. So I can't decide which is more ridiculous, her first statement, or her statement that you have "nothing to send into the future." Like, Dave Hingsburger is not going to leave a mark??? Please.
I assume this woman was a stranger to you. So I think that her comment was very inappropriate!
My first thought was - Ruby! Who you are will go on in many ways with many people - but Ruby will carry you on in the special way only a grandchild can, Dave.
My second thought was - I know hundreds of DSW students and grads who carry your ideas with them . Ruby and Sadie and other people who you love will carry on the essence of Dave - then there are lots of us who will carry on your ideas - also your essence but not the whole package.
BTW - let us hope that your legacy is not an issue for a good many years yet.
Somehow having children has come to be seen by many people as a great accomplishment. Let me tell you as the daughter of an abusive alcoholic that anyone can pass their genes onto another person without having any positive impact on the future.
But I have had teachers and extended family that have changed my life for the better. And I pray that through me, their influence will have a positive impact on many children in the future.
Last week when I was speaking with a woman, my response to something she said was,"oh, you can't really mean that." About 30 seconds later I realized how I had completely discounted her feelings and been disrespectful. I quickly interjected with "I am so sorry; I discounted your feelings and I should not have done that." She actually thanked me for apologizing. As a victim of childhood abuse, people had been riding roughshod over her feelings and opinions for years.
So yes, Dave, you are influencing people. For it was reading your blog that made me realize what a mistake I had made by not respecting her feelings in the first place. I hope not to make that same mistake again. Thanks for teaching so many of us.
I agree with all of you commenting on the fact that LGBT people can and do have children and can and do make wonderful parents. I was so taken aback at her comment that I didn't have the wit to come back with that ... sometimes the personal sting of a remark leaves me a bit senseless. Thanks for all the wonderful feedback here.
I haven't read through the comments, but Dave, you ARE leaving something to the future. You are vocal for the community, you are opening eyes that have been half closed too long.
I have an adult disabled daughter who has her ups and downs. She calls me at least once a week to describe an encounter...usually not a good one. :~(
And where does it say gays can't have children? I really hope my heart-son and his boyfriend bring me heart-grands some day!
I think she was commenting on the fact that your genes would not be passed on. But in my experience (just look at all the "non-traditional" families), the lessons you teach children and how you raise them has a far greater impact than your genes. And believe me, with your work, all the lectures, and books, you will surely leave a much bigger impression on the future generations than any housewife!
Thank you for sharing that Dave. My wife and I chose not to have children. It's not quite the same as the comments you described, but we deal with something similar. We are told that it is "too bad" and people make a sad face. Well, we made other choices. We invested in a lot of people's lives and they in return invested in ours.
One of the times this comment is the most challenging is when it is made by the parents of a person with a disability that Julie and I have supported. It could be right after we've worked with them for months to help their son or daughter to achieve something they wanted in life. Instead of feeling sad that we didn't have our own children, we'd just like them to be happy (as we are) that we contributed to the lives of others. Neither of us cares about making our mark through genetic continuance. It's too bad it seems so important to other people. We'd like them to share in our happiness for our choice.
I hope you saw us doing lots of head-nodding on the weekend.
I don't have children--it seems my work has always come first and I believe that is my legacy--to touch the lives of many people. To me, if you had put energies into raising a family, you might have created a legacy--but one focused in and very linear. Instead, your legacy affects millions I'm sure--more of a large web of influence. I think it was meant to be a compliment--but I think the person who made the statement was very uniformed.
I would like to point out that many of you are being quite negative.
We can all contribute to a discussion without slinging shit at people. Especially people who aren't even here to take part.
Two wrongs don't make a right.
Oh, and Dave: in case you weren't sure, this is one of those comments that I wouldn't normally leave.
For me Dave you have a legacy that is more than just flesh and blood, it's about changing ideas and practise, for me that is something to remember always
The wheeliecrone says -
The woman of whom you wrote has tunnel vision.
There are so many ways that one person can leave a mark on the future - by inventing a machine, tool or process that future generations can use; by creating an artwork that future generations can enjoy or be moved by; by writing a book that future generations can read; by teaching people who teach people who teach people.
Dave, you have started processes which will help change the way that people with various forms of disability are treated in the future.
Do you want to leave a legacy?
Dave, you are building your legacy every day!
How absurd to think that you won't change anything in the world. Before I read your post every day, I might feel tired or distracted. Afterwards, I'm reminded of some of the important things I hope to do with my life. You change me all the time.
I just wanted you to know that your thoughts, ideas, teachings and musings are carried with me and passed on to those I work with every day.
I know I don't say it enough to my mom and I have never said directly to you.....but thanks Dave for the guidance and direction. You are more appreciated than you could ever know.
This is beautiful. I sometimes think that parenting must be a bit like teaching - helping the future by helping kids become empowered. I hope to begin to give the kinds of gifts to the future that you have.
Dave, You have made a huge impact on the person that I am today and the way that I live my life. Not to mention the way that I will be raising my children. Thank You so much for everything that you have taught and done for me thus far and will hopefully teach me in the future :)
To comment on what Ivanova said, they are definately right! As you know I am a dyke married to another woman and raising a wonderful family!
Dave, I could make this comment in response to about half your posts, but over and over again I am astounded by what people have the nerve to say to you. I agree that she probably meant well, but still. One of the golden rules of conversation: don't make judgments or inquire about someone's decision to have children, not have them, have a certain quantity of them, have them in a certain way, etc. ... or maybe you can ask if the person's a friend, but certainly not if they're a stranger. Sheesh.
I agree there are many other ways to leave a legacy, both in the workplace and among family and friends. And I am sure you will do so, have already done so.
Your ideas inspire a lot of people...I quoted you in a recent blog post (and should have let you know).
It's here: http://blogs.greatschools.org/greatschoolsblog/2010/10/in-the-beginning.html)
Keep on writing and influencing and making people think.
Such a narrow minded way to look at life itself, I think. If anyone had touched, enhanced, impacted, influenced etc peoples lives in many different capacities it is you Dave!!! She obviously just doesnt get it!!!!!
I must say that you have the right of it, in my opinion. As a parent, I've never thought of my children as sending a bit of myself into the future. I think my role as a parent is to prepare them to be their own selves in their futures. Parenting should be about the children; not the parent.
Lasting into the future, presumably after one's own death, is much the same, I think. I like it that the pleasure you expressed wasn't all about your work, but seemed to me to be about what others could do with that work. And that's you impacting the future by living the best life you can now.
As a parent, you can, perhaps, have a more pronounced impact on your children's future, by working in a way that they have something they can use and improve upon. But whether or not you are a parent, you have the opportunity to impact everyone you interact with. And you make the effort to do that. That's what counts: You share yourself with others.
I wonder if that lady would have thought that, because Henry David Thoreau had no children, he had "nothing to send into the future"? Though he wasn't gay, he was most likely Aspergers, and so he never "lay with a woman".
He had many progeny, though, including Gandhi and Martin Luther King, and all their followers. And his books will last forever, just as he wrote them.
That's a much better legacy than misremembered and soon-forgotten stories of "grandpa".
Dear Dave I have been thinking about this post since I read it on Tuesday. As a childless lesbian, it hurts. The assumptions that hurt are: that someone can comment on childlessness without checking if tact is appropriate (I suspect more tact would be evident if you were straight), that gay people don’t have kids when clearly they do, that childlessness is so stigmatised that all my other legacy style achievements are reduced to nothing if I’m not a parent, that my relationships with children to whom I am not a parent (but am a friend, auntie, someone who loves them) don’t count for sending something into the future. Straight couples who discover they are infertile seem to get space and sympathy. Gay couples who are infertile... seems to me it gets dealt with like we made a choice to find ourselves in this situation. And that we are lesser or limited people because we are infertile as a couple! Inadvertent homophobia???
And speaking just for myself, as a parent, what I sent into the future would be injury. (My children might send something different, but despite me, not because of me.) As a non-parent, I can send something better.
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