Raising Them to Be Strong: A Gay Dad’s Reflections on Parenting Daughters

Photo of Lane and his family

To recognize Fathers’ Day, a long-time supporter of Family Equality, Lane Igoudin, shares his journey of fatherhood and his experience raising daughters.

Sixteen years ago, my husband Jonathan and I were filling out a Child Desired Worksheet. The lengthy form, which was covered in check boxes and numbers, was part of our foster-to-adoption certification by Los Angeles County.

It started with the prospective child age and number. Fairly quickly, we agreed on a “sibling set of 2” (so they’d always have each other), ages “0-5.” In other words, two kids—two very small kids.

“Now, gender,” I said. “Any thoughts?”

“I think girls – they would have an easier time with two Dads,” said Jon. “There’d be no masculinity questions, nor stigmas. One less thing to worry about.”

“I agree,” I replied. But I didn’t just agree with Jon, I loved his choice. Raising a girl was familiar to me: I’d helped to raise my younger sister, and we remained close our whole lives. So, we marked “2 females” and moved on.

At the end of a long, topsy-turvy foster-to-adopt process, we ended up with exactly what we’d wished for: two wonderful daughters, a one-year-old and her newborn sister.

Call it providence or coincidence. Either way, we’ve been blessed.

As I think back on these 16 years of being a dad, what comes to mind is not a singular experience, but an overwhelming mosaic of memories, spreading out into infinity.

Some are milestones, like our daughters’ first steps, loose teeth, tearful first days of preschool, joyful bat mitzvahs and middle school graduations. All those are captured in photos – facing cameras, the girls are in nice dresses and shoes, with their hair done and their jewelry matching. Jon and I stand on the sides, dressed up formally.

Then there’s the fun stuff, like the trips, birthday parties, beaches, concerts, and zoos – the kind I like to share on social media and keep on my work desk to glance at on a stressful day. Sometimes, there’s just a memory of reading a bedtime story with my daughter suckling on her pacifier. Her sleepy eyes are already closed, but her arms are raised, inviting the goodnight kiss.

But what really comes up for me as I reflect on my experience being a dad are the routines. These are unglamorous memories, but no less precious. I think of warming formula bottles to the right temperature; figuring out a trick to get the pink-eye cream into a very unwilling eye; compromising at the grocery store between what they like and what they should eat; practicing multiplication with the equation strips taped above their beds; de-licing for eight hours on Christmas Day (try that on thick tight curls); maintaining the middle ground when they get into trouble  by advocating in the principal’s office, while admonishing and withholding privileges at home; waiting anxiously in urgent care after one of them accidentally got hit on the nose with a baseball bat at school.

And then, of course, the Boy trouble. Yes, with a capital B.

A non-LGBTQ+ acquaintance who is a successful realtor and a father of four once told me, “I hand over the caring for the children to my wife. I earn us a good living, but she is in charge of the house. That’s her job.”

Even in this age, when some non-LGBTQ+ dads choose stay-at-home parenting over career success, these age-old gendered archetypes – the father is the provider, and the mother is the caretaker – are still widely accepted.

But what about for an LGBTQ+ family?

For a family with two dads, I am everything. I am the Sun and the Moon, and so is my husband. I care, dealing head-on and practically with any issue concerning my daughters.

If I lack knowledge, I reach out. I seek help. When we didn’t know, for instance, how to wash a newborn, a neighbor showed us the ‘from-clean-to-dirty’ technique. Twelve years later, when pads and tampons were added to the shopping list, I asked an associate at Target for tips on choosing the right supplies in an aisle I’d never set foot in before.

And, of course, we get them—we understand their struggles more than some other parents might.

Like when our daughter couldn’t heal her sixth-grade boy crush. “Talk to me,” my husband said. “I know how you’re feeling. I know what men are like.” He gave her a meaningful look. Of course, she rolled her eyes, but she always kept him in the loop.

Or, in the morning, when our daughter was getting ready and asked my advice. “Pappy, does it look good?” She knew the house rules: It doesn’t really matter what type of clothes wears, but colors have to match. No blues and greens together, thank you very much.

“This looks great,” I say. “You look great, so very, very pretty.”

“It’s that new foundation,” she says, opening her eyes wide to apply more mascara. “You helped me pick the right shade.”

At that moment, she stood in front of me and I see all the other moments that led up to this one. The special occasions, the fun trips, the unglamorous routines, the uncomfortable conversations, the moments of learning, all wrapped up in this healthy, smart, strong young woman.  I’ll take that compliment.

Lane Igoudin is a Los Angeles-based writer, blogger, and a 24-hour Dad to two amazing teens. An English professor at Los Angeles City College, he writes and blogs about gay fatherhood, foster and adoptive parenting, as well as mindfulness and spiritual growth. A dedicated supporter of Family Equality.org, Lane had previously written here about building an intersectional gay family on the strength of different cultures and traditions. See more at www.laneigoudin.com.