Larry Holme has written a powerful and meaningful memoir of his husband and his difficult journey through parenthood. Being a father is difficult enough, but in a society where parents are one husband, one wife, things for Larry just became much more difficult.

 

For you now, is a small excerpt from the beginning of Larry’s book:

 

Intro

 

This book is not a ‘how to’ or in any way a ‘guide to’ when it comes to single sex couples parenting. I don’t think I will ever really know how to be good parent. I’m bound to have a test creeping up round the corner on me that would prove I know absolutely nothing about what’s about to happen. It’s a learning curve that resembles more a frustrated child’s doodle than a curve. I’ve read dozens of parenting books, fostering books, therapeutic manuals, and mental health papers. These are compulsory reading lists, suggested reading lists, and those that just interested me. All of it was interesting, none of it prepared me completely for the challenges that lay ahead. None of them were a ‘how to’ or a ‘guide to’ either. Perhaps my opening disclaimer is also at the beginning of every other parenting book. I will need to look out for it. There are still a thousand unanswered questions that rely on my experience to tell me that truth, as you really don’t know until it happens. As I read these books, I couldn’t help but think how helpful they would be to any hopeful parent, professional or natural. A small government initiative that would see book tokens awarded to budding parents for them to get a selection of parenting books for free would certainly assist many challenges of the modern parent and child relationship. It would also help parents discuss the strategies they want to take as parents with each other. Most of our arguments with each other stem from the disagreements on how to handle a particular situation. The truth is that, in our disagreements, we end up with the very best solution for the child in question. It’s the process of putting across your point and explaining why you think you are right that creates an agreed outcome that is usually the best. The trick is not to do it in front of the child, we have learnt.

 

One of my favourite reads on the ‘suggested list’ for adoption was Becoming Dads by Pablo Fernandez, published by CoramBAAF Adoption and Fostering Academy. I found it incredibly helpful. He journalled his story in a diary format, from the inception of the idea to the completed mission. It is a detailed story about gay adoption in 2009, which I briefly experienced myself. I take a lot of inspiration from his book. It’s honest, heart-felt, revealing, and informative. My journey, although similar, ends up very differently despite the challenges along the way in the same category of two males fighting through the ‘system’. I saw a lot of their own emotional journey mirrored in my own and I guess that reading their journey compelled me to narrate my own because of the simple fact that, although in the same demographic of human, our journeys and paths differ in many ways following the same dream. I guess that, like so many other gay couples out there, my journey will differ from theirs but, by reading about ours, it will only give some form of comfort that it’s a journey shared by many. It may not be quite as special or pioneering as Pablo Fernandez and his Daily Mail front pager. It is, however, special to me and I hope that it relates to many other parents, single sex couples, single parents, non-binary or good old-fashioned man and woman.

 

This book is a chronicle of a journey documented for the benefit of others, or at the very least your enjoyment. It’s not intended to be funny, although sometimes might be. It’s also a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. Such is the rollercoaster of life, mine just happens to include single sex relationships and children. Many years ago, those two things were not permitted in the same sentence. To this day, it’s a little taboo for many. The names of those children and some adults within my story have been changed to protect their identity but they are all real people. The real lives described in these pages may help others to understand the process of applying to care for a child that is not biologically yours as a single sex couple. It describes some of the experiences you may go through – we certainly did. It doesn’t cover everything, how can it? Your journey, if you are embarking on one, will definitely have challenges, most definitely will be mentally exhausting, and may have some similarities to our own journey. I have tried to be as factually correct as possible but I’m pretty sure some of the quotations may not be perfect. It’s certainly difficult to get a Gloucester accent into some of the comments, but I have tried. The colloquial language of youth is also best left to them. My translations certainly make more sense to me and probably to you.

 

Our current rather unusual family is made up of misfits and strays and is just perfect in our eyes. From the deaf and blind rescue dog to the nominated and background-checked neighbours, everyone has a part to play in our crazy life looking after those in need. We wouldn’t change it for the world, the reward is ten times the pain. The cathartic process of writing down how we got here is enjoyable, emotional, and surprising in some moments too. The cathartic process of completing Form F (more on that later) was also enjoyable, emotional, and surprising. The views and opinions expressed in this book are solely mine and do not reflect the opinions of any governing body or charity. They probably don’t reflect the views of my husband either. We do have completely different parenting styles, that’s for sure. It’s probably what makes us better parents because of it. Some of those heated debates I mentioned earlier included things like the right language to use around removing the Xbox but, as with life, there are bigger things to worry about and we never go to bed in disagreement. Is it remove the Xbox, confiscate the Xbox, ban it, put it in timeout, or smash it with a hammer? Seriously, all of these crossed our minds. We continuously challenge each other’s decisions and question what’s right and wrong. Sometimes to the detriment of our sanity and, if it were not for our strength of relationship in the first place, I honestly believe that adding these little terrors to our life may well have put a bigger strain on our marriage than we could have possibly coped with. It didn’t and we haven’t.

 

Robin, my husband, is definitely the rules guy. He sets the boundaries, protects them, and enforces them with strict enthusiasm. I play the fool, the joker, and the ‘fun one’. I kick around the football, play nerf wars, pretend to be in the secret service (this one is partly from my encouragement), you know, the usual stuff. It’s funny because we both thought that it would be the other way round. I’ve spent twelve years in the Army Cadet Force instilling military discipline into teenage girls and boys. Teaching them the values and standards of the military whilst maintaining strict respect and discipline.

 

As an officer, I would walk into a room and the room would need to come to attention. That certainly does not happen at home, I can assure you. Discussing parenting with some of my military friends, they too fail to maintain the standards of the military at home as well as at work. It should be natural for me to carry that over to my personal life, but the opposite happens. You would have thought that perhaps the roles were natural. My friends certainly expected me to the be grumpy Daddy and Robin to the big soft cuddly one. We didn’t aim for those roles or to shoehorn our personalities into them, they just manifested in them. I think that, because Robin is the stay-at-home dad, he has to deal with the tantrums, tiredness, hanger, and a plethora of other youth and growth mental developments so he has to lay on the rules thick. I, on the other hand, share pancake tossing competitions and good night stories – easy in comparison.

 

In our usual private daily lives, Robin is the crazy one, always the life of any gathering. The entertaining one with the anecdotes and stories to hold a room. He is naturally extroverted and has been his whole life. Even when he came down with a rather serious case of anxiety, he managed to hold onto his extroverted approach to making and keeping our circle of friends. I, on the other hand, am naturally introverted. An unusual but not unheard-of personality in my main chosen industry to pay the bills, which is hospitality. I have worked in restaurants, nightclubs, bars, pubs, and hotels my entire career. At work, I am a showman. I have to work hard on acting my extroverted approach to the guest experience. I happen to be very good at this and ensuring my guests get the very best welcome, experience, and therefore memory is my skill. Even when things are tough, I turn on the ‘plappy’ side (play happy). I can do it on a switch and, believe me, sometimes it’s hard but I do it, it’s my job. At home, I am opposite – I switch off my hospitality smile and turn to reading the news, cooking, or mowing the lawn. All blissful pastimes in comparison to the relative fast pace of a Sunday afternoon pub kitchen. We have morphed into opposite versions of ourselves when it comes to parenting. It’s all very confusing to us both still today. Should you be able to understand it, we will need you to write to us and explain it.

 

We have been through quite a few challenges, both mentally and physically. The emotional turmoil of mental health issues, the death of family and loved ones, the break ups, the job losses, and the financial crashes. All part of everyday life which many of you would have experienced yourself and, I’m sure, can empathise with. If, perhaps, you have been lucky enough to avoid any type of emotional or physical adversity, then becoming a parent to a non-biological child may not be the best introduction to the world of stress and challenge. Managing a team of room service waiters in a five-star hotel who only want to smoke, gossip, and flirt with pretty much everyone is the sort of training I’m talking about. It’s marginally similar to looking after teenagers and, without the former, the latter is going to be so much harder. No amount of experience can prepare you for your first placement of a child in your home, but herding drag queens on a Saturday night in Soho is still good practice.

 

When it comes to bringing children into the mix of your life whose backgrounds are so desperately troubled, much more so than our own, it puts our own lives in perspective. Especially in a single sex couple where we’re already on the back foot or defensive position. That new perspective helped us get over our own challenges and immerse ourselves in helping young people become better versions of themselves in a safe and happy environment. That’s all we wanted to do – help young people. We knew that was our calling in life. It wasn’t to procreate – our family genes would not continue with us. Surrogacy was beyond our financial means and felt all a little bit weird to us. Our paternal feelings have always superseded our maternal feelings. Our discussions about the subject were brief and in agreement. We decided to leave that to our brothers and sisters, who are all doing a fantastic job of creating life, plenty of it. We have seventeen nephews and nieces between us, two great nieces, and three godchildren. We believe our calling in life is to help at least one of the approximately one hundred thousand children in care currently in the United Kingdom.

 

Excerpt taken from Larry Holme’s Straight Dad, Gay Dad.

 

 

Straight Dad, Gay Dad is available in paperback and eBook format.