Article Title:Parenting - a grandmother's view
Category:True Stories
Author or Credit:Jay Bennie
Published on:17th August 2012 - 12:19 pm
Published by:GayNZ.com
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Story ID:12134
Text:Sally, Sue and George enjoy time together. (Pic: Mandy) Not far from downtown Queenstown and towered over by the snowy Remarkables is a pleasant family home occupied by a remarkably ordinary family. Two parents, one baby, one doting grandmother and two of the sweetest dogs you're likely to meet this side of Footrot Flats. In anticipation of my visit, which coincides with that of a young straight couple who are friends of the family, grandmother Sue Dyer has baked a chocolate cake. It's a quiet sunny afternoon gathering, quite unremarkable except that one of the parents, Sally Whitewoods, has shouldered the primary load of organising Gay Ski Week in Queenstown which kicks off on August 25th. To free up Sally's time her partner Mandy has taken over the running of their accommodation lodge and grandmother Sue has flown all the way from England to meet and help look after baby George, her sixth grandchild, and to help keep the homelife ticking over. In the debate over whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry and whether they are appropriate people to raise children, the voice of grandparents is rarely heard. But Sue is chatty and forthright between dishing out big slices of chocolate cake and coffee or wine. The special bond between grandparents and the offspring of their offspring is nearly always deep and super-protective, so how did Sue feel when she heard that Sally and Mandy were about to 'start a family?' "I always new that Sally wanted to have a family but would only do so if she was in the right relationship in which to bring up a child," says Sue. "Sally and Mandy are now married so they both feel secure and happy and are committed to a lifetime together. The news that she was going to have a baby only meant that their family would be complete, and I was very happy for both of them." Did she have any concerns for her future grandchild's wellbeing or future? "No," she says emphatically. "Sally and Mandy have talked about having a child for some time so I am absolutely sure that George will be their first priority. George will be included in everything that they do in their life. They will be a family in every way." She acknowledges that as George grows up there might be condemnation from some quarters that he has two lesbian mums for parents rather than the more common heterosexual mum and dad pairing. School kids in particular can seize on such a difference as the basis for bullying. "All children have to manage different situations that they encounter when they are growing up. Sally and Mandy will be talking to George about his family. He will know that he is very special and was wanted very much. He has two mummys who love him very much and who will always be there for him. I am sure they will help him with any difficulties he may encounter as all parents do with their children. I am sure George will be well equipped with answers for those who may question his family life." Might the lack of a male father figure in the family be a problem, as many of the critics of same-sex parenting claim? "I don't believe so, as long as there is love and support," she says. "As long as the child feels loved and is told the truth about their particular situation from the very beginning I believe that they will know that what they have is very special. Sue herself has four grown up children. Sally has a sister and two brothers. What has bringing up her own family taught Sue is good advice for young parents regardless of their sexuality? "In some ways they all have different qualities and in other ways they are very much the same. I always tell them I love them as much as often as I can. A child needs to know and feel that they are loved. Learning to love is the most important experience in the world. A parent needs to say 'I love you very much because you are so special.'" She follows the same approach with her grandchildren. "I have four granddaughters and two grandsons now and they are all very special and different. I love them all very much and tell them as often as I can." But there is more to it than expressing love and affection, she says, such as "doing things together, sharing, laughing, always being there for each other. As for growing up in the outside world, talking about anything is important. A child needs to feel able to ask questions and have honest answers. A parent can talk to their child about ways to handle any situation that they may encounter during their developmental years." Sue Dyer treasures the three months she has spent in New Zealand at the beginning of little George's life. "He is now only four months old and I know I already have a loving bond with George. He recognises me and knows my voice. Unfortunately I have to return to the UK at the beginning of September, so I am going to have to rely on a daily Skype to chat to George. I shall miss our cuddles very much but at least thank goodness for our new technology." Watching Sally and Mandy with their baby boy Sue sees a picture of happiness. "I can see that they are so happy to have George... he has brought immense happiness and laughter to their life. I can see a perfect little family." Do she have any response to those who stridently criticise gay people for having or adopting children, who say that the child will not have a good upbringing or that the parents are just bing 'fashionable' or 'selfish'? She sure does, and it draws on her own beginnings in life. "I was adopted when I was six months old after World War II. I always knew that I was adopted so I must have been told from the day I was adopted. I was wanted and loved and I loved my parents. Good parenting is about wanting to have children to share your love with them. Whether children are conceived or adopted is irrelevant as all they want is a loving, safe and secure home with parents that love them." 
     Jay Bennie - 17th August 2012
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