Let’s get this out of the way right up front. What do I think? There is one place to raise children, one right place — in a home filled with love and respect.
Now I’ll introduce a family living on a quiet street in Everett’s Claremont neighborhood.
Meet Ian Davis-Leonard, 3, and his 11-month-old brother, Sam. Meet them if you can, that is. Ian has run off to his room. Sam is making a beeline crawl toward a push toy.
Meet their mothers, Betsy Davis and Amy Leonard, both 37.
“I’m ‘Mama,’ she’s ‘Mommy,’ ” Leonard said.
I visited last week after Davis sent an e-mail March 15, the day after talk-show host Rosie O’Donnell discussed being a lesbian mother on ABC’s “Primetime Thursday.”
“I don’t think America knows what a gay parent looks like: I am the gay parent,” O’Donnell told interviewer Diane Sawyer. Seeing O’Donnell, Davis and Leonard opened their door.
“For me, the biggest thing is having people see that we’re normal,” Davis said the morning we met.
In her e-mail, she had written, “My partner and I have lived and worked in Everett and Snohomish County for many years. Several years ago, we decided to go down the path to have children. … We are a normal, middle-class family. We struggle with the same issues all parents struggle with, and then some.”
Both women are social workers with Compass Health in Everett. They take turns dropping the boys at a home day care. One handles recycling, the other trash. Who does the housework?
“I do it all,” Davis said in jest, to which Leonard deadpanned, “It’s your typical domestic sore spot.”
Sounds normal to me. But you have questions. I did. Like this one: Where did those babies come from?
Leonard gave birth to both boys, who were fathered by sperm donors through Swedish Medical Center’s Reproductive Technologies Program in Seattle.
When the babies were 3 months old, Davis legally adopted them. The women considered adopting from China, which allows singles to adopt, “but we would have had to pretend,” Leonard said. Gay adoption is banned there, as it is in some states in this country.
On ABC, O’Donnell said she wanted to shed light on a Florida law that prevents gay couples from adopting. In one Florida case, two gay men raising several HIV-positive children face having to give up a foster child they have had for 10 years.
The issue stirs emotions on both sides.
Responding to O’Donnell’s appearance, the Colorado-based Christian ministry Focus on Family released a statement by psychologist William Maier. “Two people may love a child very much, but decades of research confirm that children do best when there is a mother and father, married to one another, in the home,” Maier said.
Conversely, the American Academy of Pediatrics addressed the topic in its February issue of Pediatrics.
“Children who are born to or adopted by one member of a same-sex couple deserve the security of two legally recognized parents,” the doctors’ policy statement said. “The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes that a considerable body of professional literature provides evidence that children with parents who are homosexual can have the same advantages and the same expectations for health, adjustment and development as can children whose parents are heterosexual.”
Ian and Sam care nothing about any of this. Ian is into Rescue Heroes. For Sam, it’s climbing the couch.
Davis and Leonard know hard questions are coming.
Ian has already asked, “How come I don’t have a dad?” Leonard said. Their answer was that “we have other people in our lives” and “other kids don’t have two moms.”
Those questions aren’t unique to gay families. I have had to explain to my 3-year-old why he doesn’t have a dad and how he is blessed with a brother, a grandfather, a godfather and more uncles than he can count.
Sam and Ian, too, “have a lot of males in their lives,” Davis said. Ian already plays basketball at the YMCA. Their day-care provider’s husband hopes to coach the boys in Little League.
Davis admitted, “I’m more worried about the kids being embarrassed that I’m fat than that I’m gay.”
I’m worried about my child being embarrassed that I’m old. But it’s not the same. I never found a “die faggot” note on the windshield of my car. That happened to Leonard in Monroe.
Both women said being gay was never something they announced. “It’s not the first thing people know about us,” Leonard said. Since having children, they’ve been more open. “I don’t want our kids to be ashamed,” Davis said. “We’re just not that different.”
Here’s a tale that will sound familiar to all parents:
When Sam first came home, Ian awoke one night with wet pants. There was a scramble for a dry sleeping bag. The new baby needed feeding. It was 4 a.m. and the whole house was up.
Davis recalled Ian surveying the scene and shouting, “We’re a family now.”
What’s the saying? Out of the mouths of babes.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; email@example.com.