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Who's Your Daddy

Not your mother’s maiden name

A few weeks ago, Gus earned his learner’s permit. It’s more than a little disconcerting to see the person whom you taught to use a spoon sitting behind the wheel of an automobile. But at least Gus knows what he doing — my dad taught him to drive years ago, and my cousin’s husband taught him to drive a stick shift when we were in Greece. Of course, tooling around an abandoned parking lot — no matter in which country — is different than heading down U.S. highways.

The amusing twist is that Gus prefers to drive with me rather than Kelly. Apparently, Mr. Calm-and-Quiet Kelly stresses our kid out; ironically, I’ve never been known for my patience, but for some reason, I’m as cool as a cucumber when he drives.


So why am I sharing this milestone in a teenage boy’s life? Well, like so many other aspects of parenting, our experience is different from our peers’ simply because we’re a two-dad family. When Kelly and Gus were getting everything squared away at the DMV, the clerk asked Gus his mother’s maiden name. With the enthusiasm that can only be mustered by high school sophomores about to start driving, Gus confidently replied, “I don’t know.”

The frazzled DMV clerk must have thought the poor kid was a special kind of stupid. So, he repeated himself — twice. Kelly finally jumped in, trying to explain that there was no mother, so there was no maiden name. But in the type of customer service you only find at the DMV (and perhaps the post office), the guy insisted the mother’s maiden name was needed.

I wonder how he would have handled a two-mom family: “Mother’s maiden name?” “Which mother?”

The whole experience served as a reminder that my family is a little different than the so-called norm. And if I’m being honest, I rather dig that about us. Of course, no two families’ experiences are ever going to be the same, but with us — well, it’s always a little something more. It makes us view the world differently.

Sure, the DMV clerk didn’t consider that a kid might have two dads. But he also didn’t consider that using a mom’s premarital name is a pretty sexist concept either. More women are keeping their surnames than before. More kids are hyphenated, like ours. A growing number of kids are being given their mom’s surname. And I even knew a couple of guys who took their wife’s last name.

The point is that families and family dynamics are changing and evolving, and, personally, I think that’s good for society. What’s exciting to me is that I have a front row seat to that evolution because I’m part of that change.

Do I expect that the DMV is going to suddenly offer soon-to-be drivers an alternate unique identifier? Nope. In three years, I fully expect Niko to be asked his mother’s maiden name.  But I know eventually, as an increasing number of teenagers tell DMV clerks that there is no mother’s maiden name, alternatives will be offered.

Until that time, kids with two dads are going to excitedly grin at DMV clerks and admit they don’t know their mom’s maiden name. Guess what? They’ll still get a driver’s license.

About the author

Christopher Katis

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