Ted Clark – Parenting

“If he hasn’t asked at this point, it doesn’t matter.”

[Being a gay parent isn’t] actually any different than being a straight parent. You do what you think is good for the kid. Fortunately my wife and I were, and remain, very good friends, very supportive of each other. We just shared the process of what needed to happen, the nurturing that he needed, and the time. It was probably a little difficult for [my son] when I moved back to Spokane from the Tri-Cities—but this is where my job was—because there was a little more distance. We made it a point of spending time together. Then when Gene came into the picture, the two of us would go back and forth. I would make plans to take him skiing or have an event or something like this.

I’ll share this story from my ex-wife, a story from her teaching friends. It was just off-hand one of these things talking about, “Oh, Patrick’s all hyper because dad’s coming and they’re going to . . .” I don’t even know what it was we were doing. I think I came down for the weekend. Maybe we were just going to take him fishing or something. Ann commented that it was fun to see him get excited about it. Another colleague said to her, “You don’t know how lucky you are, because my kids yearn for attention from their father. He may make a promise that he’ll come and do something, and at the last minute he doesn’t show up.” And she said, “I’ll bet the pain for those kids is terrible.” It was like, “Oh yeah.” You do deal with those issues.

Being a gay parent, you always wonder, “At what point is there going to be an issue about sexuality?” The agreement that my wife and I had is that whenever he asked a question, whether it was of her or of me, he got an honest, age-appropriate answer on the situation. We agreed to that earlier on. And waited for the question.

He never asked! So we got to the “he’s moving into junior high school situation.” She and I sat down again and said, “Well, do you think I need to sit down and talk with him, because he’s never asked?” And she said, “I don’t know!” We had a good friend here in Spokane who’s a counselor, so I asked her. I said, “Should I sit down and talk with him?” And she said, “No. Not now. If he hasn’t asked at this point, it doesn’t matter. The thing you don’t want to do when he’s just reaching puberty and starting to deal with his own issues, is muddy the water. Let it go. At some point it’ll come up.” So that’s what we did.

He was a sophomore in college, and home for the holidays, at the house, it was Gene and I. We were planning an after New Year’s party that he hadn’t planned to stay for, but we were talking about it. And he said, “You know, it may be fun. I think I’ll stay a couple of extra days so I can be at the party.” It was like, “Okay, that’s great.” That was a good opportunity. I said, “Okay, that’d be great. We’d love to have you. I guess you understand that there’ll be a lot of our gay friends here, if that doesn’t bother you?” And he looked at me and he says, “Oh dad. Just think of me as your liberal arts son.” He was a liberal arts major. That was it! You know, no other big thing, but it was all over for him. Then, several years later, I found out that in college he was quite an advocate of talking in support of having a gay parent.

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Sources: Interview with Susan Williams on 3 December 2006, held at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture; interviews with Laura S. Hodgman on 30 November 2012 and on 27 February 2014.